By Greg Mellen
The first thing you might notice about Futureology, the Capistrano Unified School District’s College and Career Counseling Program, is the program’s spelling — but the “e” is intentional.
In 2016, students in the district voted for the name when the program was created.
“It’s memorable,” said Bea Nguyen, who is a counselor and longest tenured member of the Futureology staff.
The Capistrano Unified School District has 70 counselors throughout kindergarten to 12th grade. However, Futureology is a special subset concentrating on college and career counseling and consists of four counselors and a coordinator.
The Futurologists provide one-on-one counseling with parents and students, hold online workshops and webinars, group workshops and presentations. All are designed to help plot a course to be “agents of their own futures,” Futureology states.
“What we do is so unique in the realm of public education,” said Erika Gardner, Coordinator of College and Career Guidance.
“We were noticing a lot of students were going outside and paying quite a lot of money, sometimes thousands of dollars (for college guidance),” Nguyen said. “(The district) wanted something (in-house). We are a team of credentialed counselors.”
“I am so proud the district offers this,” Gardner said. “Our goal is not simply college, but to help students realize what they want to do after school and allow them to make informed choices.”
Each year, Futureology, CUSD and the Capistrano Unified Council of PTSAs (CUCPTSA) play host to the district’s annual College Fair.
This year, once again, the three-day CUSD College Fair will be held at San Juan Hills High, 29211 Stallion Ridge, in San Juan Capistrano. The event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, and includes online breakout sessions from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4 and Wednesday, Oct. 5. Reservations for both the in-person and virtual session can be made online and are highly recommended.
For the first time in two years, the district is staging a full-fledged in-person college fair and 114 colleges have signed on to be represented, plus a variety of vocational schools and programs. Also popular are the online breakout sessions, which took hold during the pandemic. Last year, more than 1,600 people registered for breakout sessions, and those sessions received a 92 percent positive feedback.
Although the Futureology team may be small, it is certainly mighty.
This year, they expect to meet with more than 1,000 students for one-on-one counseling. That is up from 968 a year ago, which was a 56 percent increase from the previous year. Overall, more than 2,400 students attended Futureology events in the previous school year.
In the one-on-one sessions, the staff is able to drill down to the students’ specific interests. From this they can help create tailored programs to assist students as they find the right schools or programs that fit their needs and goals.
The counseling team has also moved onto campus from an off-campus satellite office. Counselors are on campus full time at San Juan Hills High and Aliso Viejo, and they visit the remaining schools on a rotating basis. They also meet with students after school, in the evenings, and online.
The slew of presentations, workshops, and webinars range from creating resumes to athletic recruiting to career/technical education to college admissions and testing.
Reaching new populations
The Futureology team is particularly proud of the inroads it has made with underrepresented groups and first-generation students, whose parents did not have advanced educations.
Last year, Futureology conducted meetings with 259 first generation learners, comprising 26 percent of Futureology’s total appointments which mirrored the percentage of CUSD’s first generation population. This is a big shift, as that population has not historically sought out college and career guidance. The department is also expanding its Spanish Student Support and offering more material in translation.
While much of the focus of the program is on juniors and seniors plotting their immediate futures, in the Spring semester, counselors open up the program to younger students looking for longer term planning and guidance.
Word of the success of the Futureology program has gotten out as well. In April of 2022, the program was invited to present at the Western Association for College Admission Counseling Annual Conference before an audience of secondary school counselors, college admission professionals, district leaders, and independent educational consultants.
Summing up the program, Nguyen says, “There are not a lot (of districts) that provide (college counseling) at this scope and level.”
What: CUSD College Fair
When: 5 to 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3
Where: San Juan Hills High, 29211 Stallion Ridge, San Juan Capistrano.
Note: Online breakout sessions are scheduled 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Wednesday, Oct. 4 to 5.
Information/reservations: CUSD College Fair website