Post-high school planning

McGowan takes on new College and Career Advisor position at WHS


Rachel Derner

McGowan discusses college applications during a student meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28. “My goal is that I do a minimum of two individual appointments with every senior in our building,” McGowan said. She has worked as a guidance counselor for 18 years.

This school year, former WHS guidance counselor Theresa McGowan is taking on the newly created position of college and career advisor. Throughout the year, McGowan will meet with seniors to discuss career, college, and financial plans for after high school. After recognizing the need for greater post-secondary support, the School District of Washington applied for and received a grant from an organization called rootED, which funds the placement of college and career advising professionals in rural Missouri school districts. 

“If I could describe my role in a nutshell, it would be [ensuring] that, by graduation day, every senior leaves with a plan for after high school,” McGowan said. 

To do this, McGowan meets individually with each senior multiple times throughout the school year to discuss postsecondary education, future careers, and financial planning. 

“A lot of the seniors are still kind of trying to figure out what they want to study in college, so a lot of it is talking and kind of figuring out what the right next step is,” McGowan said. 

McGowan helps to coordinate visits from college representatives, as well as group visits to college fairs and campuses. While college-bound students often need support navigating applications, scholarships, and financial aid; the position provides assistance for students with all different types of post-high school plans. 

“One thing I want to point out like this isn’t [just] for our college-bound kids, but also…our kids that are entering the workforce or the military or technical college,” McGowan said. “Regardless of whether [students] are going to college or the workforce…finding a path where they can eventually become financially independent and stable [is important].” 

Having a college and career advisor not only supports future graduates but also helps the guidance department to better accommodate the needs of all students. 

“Prior to this…all of [the counselors] wanted to be able to dedicate more time to the seniors to help them with their planning for after high school, [but] the time that was needed just wasn’t there,” McGowan said. “Now I’m able to just focus 100% of my time on supporting the seniors and making sure they have a good solid plan when they leave Washington High School.”

This added support can give students greater preparation to transition into life after high school. 

“I think that being able to put a post-secondary counselor here at Washington High School is…a great benefit for our students,” McGowan said.