How to Manage Your School Counseling Appointments 2.0

Without going completely crazy in the process.
Checkout the 1.0 Version

I’ve made some changes.

I have long been a proponent and avid user of online scheduling tools in my school counseling practice. For years, I’ve used ScheduleOnce as my go to scheduling tool. If you want to learn more about my experience with ScheduleOnce, please click here to read that blog post. I still love ScheduleOnce, but I have needed to make a few changes within the school counseling office (which I will explain below) that required me to consider other options.

“Don’t get me wrong – we do the stitching and saving – but that is not our primary role or responsibility.”

Why should this matter to me?

This conversation is important because school counselors are often pulled many different directions and busy beyond belief. If you function with an Emergency Room model – you are likely doing it wrong (my opinion here). We are school counselors for ALL students (both the emergent and non-emergent cases). In the past post – I mention the great book by Dr. Trish Hatch called The Use of Data in School Counseling that has a perfect example of this scenario. We are called to be the General Practitioner in our offices, but most school counselors I know are putting on casts, stitching up wounds and stabilizing patients instead of working to prevent these injuries from happening. The emergency room, while vital to our metaphorical hospital, is not where we work .

Don’t get me wrong – we do the stitching and saving – but that is not our primary role or responsibility. The GP in the doctors office will see patients who have severe wounds or illness, but those patients are referred out to the specialist who can best help them. This gives attention and support to those in crisis while also fulfilling our roles in systematic students support for all through a comprehensive school counseling program. You can take the metaphor any direction (or have fun with the firefighter metaphor), but the root is that we must be proactive and preventative, not reactive. This requires our time be planned, purposeful and accountable. This is why appointments are required in an effective school counseling office*.

*Note that I work in a high school and realize that there are differences between Elementary, Middle and High school students and what may be considered age appropriate. While students scheduling their appointments may not be developmentally appropriate at the K-6 range (7-8 could be done with modifications), parents and other stakeholders should be on an appointment system for all ages.

 

How Calendly Can Save You Time

Some School Counseling-centric Pro and Cons of Calendly

Pros:

  • Calendly provides a more visually appealing option of the two (in my opinion).
  • Time wise it does save some time not needing to confirm appointments*
  • It integrates with a lot of calendars (Google, Outlook, Office 365, and iCloud)
  • Cost for teams is cheaper than ScheduleOnce. ($72/user per year with education discount at Premium level vs $189/user per year on similar plan level with SO. $90 at basic level with SO)
  • Provides an easy way to embed into your websites.
  • Feels to have a greater support of more advanced scheduling tools (for example, I use Zapier to send a follow up survey to rate their visit. This is WAY more advanced than the average user, but it is available to set up).
  • You can create many different appointment types that you may need based on topic or time and set different availability for all.
  • You can create private event types to share with others who may be gatekeepers to book appointments with you (i.e. your registrar for new students or a translator).

Cons:

  • Some power taken away to balance schedules by not needing to confirm appointments. No option to choose the request to book with Calendly. ScheduleOnce lets them direct book (like Calendly) or request.
  • Appointments scheduled for wrong amounts of time or reasons can take longer to try to reschedule.
  • I do not love the calendar interface used to select times. Wish it gave us multiple ways to show our availability.
  • Neither program offers a way to set a time or day of the week and show the next available time slot (this would be great).
  • Rescheduling appointments is a challenge. You basically have to cancel the event and include a link to reschedule a new meeting with you. ScheduleOnce had a more seamless “request a reschedule” option that kept their original request details and simply asked for new times.

Take a Look at Calendly In Action

Additional features that rock!

There are also some additional features within Calendly that ROCK especially if you are a part of a school counseling team or department. Up until this year – I wasn’t. Now, through advocacy, I have a great co-counselor – all of the appointments do not go through me. There are team features (such as automatically assigning who the appointment goes to or other neat things in the advanced setup) that further streamline the process. Our counseling department has ONE stop to make an appointment with ANY of us and we have a consistent message to students and parents about the process.

Check out some more details about the team features of Calendly here.

SecheduleOnce also has some of these features, but it lives in the top tier subscription (which is in the the $390/user/year range). Calendly does seem to provide more (with a few sacrifices) for the money – plus a free option. Check out the pricing (as of this writing) below. Click through to see the current pricing. Be sure to ask for your education discount. I know that Calendly offers one.

ScheduleOnce Pricing

Final thoughts and a caution

I am so glad that I doubled down on appointments when I started my position here at NTHS. It set the boundaries needed to be proactive and get the things done I need to while still being accessible and professional. On days I do not have scheduled appointments (or just a few sprinkled throughout the day) – I carry on like any other school counselor. Call kids in, visit classrooms, prep lessons, etc. But I am often not always on edge wondering what problem or whom may be walking in. If someone does with an immediate need – I rearrange my schedule to accommodate the pressing matter and (usually) my scheduled appointments are understanding.

If you want to see it in action – you can visit our NTHS Counseling Website (read more tips on using Weebly to build your own website like ours) and make an appointment by clicking here. Please make one with a senior grade level and more than a week out. Also please cancel that appointment immediately (so my availability is not limited by the test appointment).

A word of caution though. Changing your access style can be somewhat difficult. People are used to the system as it stands. It can take some time and training. I promise that it is worth it, but there may be some push back. Stick with it.

You also need to be good at keeping an electronic calendar of availability. If you live on paper planners and do not keep an electronic calculator – this may not be a good option. Both systems pull availability from these calendars so it cannot do that from paper.

I hope that you give it a shot. I think you will enjoy it and the new found freedom it brings to be a general practitioner school counselor.

Do you have another tool you like for schedules? Share in the comments below! I would love to learn more about it and many of my readers will too.

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