College Counseling’s transition to Post Secondary Exploration Counseling


Photo by Tessa Guthrie

College flags hanging from balcony of the PSEC offices, this fall.

Starting in the 2020-21 school year, the well known Aspen High School College Counseling department will now be called the Post Secondary Exploration Counseling department, or PSEC. Also, the former Discovery class, hosted by the former College Counseling and taught to juniors, will now be called PSEC class. The name change also comes with many new changes to the PSEC course curriculum and the methods used for PSEC counseling.
AHS PSEC counselor, Karen Hawkes, was an essential decision-maker in the discussion considering changing the program to PSEC.
“Our goal with the name change, and the changes made to the former Discovery Class, was to ensure that all students feel like our office and services are accessible to them, and support their various post-secondary goals — whether that be attending a four-year college, two-year college, technical/trade program, or entering the workforce or military,” Hawkes said.
Some of the significant changes the program will feature are an increase in what the department offers. The PSEC department will still provide lots of resources and guidance when it comes to the college process; however, the department will also have services that will better serve the students of AHS and their diverse future plans. “We plan to work closely with Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Department of Labor, GlenX, and other local partner organizations to help our students access their services and opportunities for resources for career development,” according to the PSEC department’s official statement.
The PSEC class will now be a .25, pass/fail quarter course, rather than a .5 credit graded semester course to ensure that every student can take the course. Previously, there were problems with scheduling conflicts that made the Discovery class inaccessible to some students. In the new PSEC course, “Students will be walked through the entire post-secondary planning process, including self-exploration, college and certification exploration, Aptitude and Interest Inventories, Career Exploration, Common Application/Essays, Application Strategy, Test Prep, and Affording College/certification programs,” according to the PSEC department’s official statement.
Mia Iocono, a junior at AHS who has plans to attend college in the future, appreciates the change to PSEC.
“I honestly think it’s amazing. AHS in the past has had an overly competitive environment around college. Making a change to help kid’s plans feel more accepted is amazing,”
James Kelly, a senior at AHS who is beginning the college application process, also thinks that the switch to PSEC will benefit students at AHS.
“I do think it’s valuable to help students explore different paths because college isn’t always the best option for people. Sometimes going into the workforce or attending community college is the most realistic because a college degree isn’t necessary for the field of work they want to pursue,” Kelly said.