DARIEN — College applications aren’t as simple as they used to be. Mix that with the ambition of students in Darien and applying college can be a strenuous event.

The guidance department at Darien High School is taking steps to avoid the college application process from becoming too stressful, particularly by ensuring students develop a relationship with their counselors and learn to go to them as a resource.

With budget season, the high school is asking for an additional part-time guidance counselor, at a cost of $34,000, to help keep up with student demands and the quality of their services.

According to Paul Ribeiro, director of guidance at Darien High School, the term “guidance counselor” really doesn’t apply anymore, as it doesn’t encompass everything his department does.

“Fifteen years ago, they started to change the profession to the point where our professional names changed,” he said. “Technically, we’re not supposed be called guidance counselors anymore. Our official term is school counselors. Looking back at the high school experience, you met once or twice a year for scheduling and college. It’s evolved now where counselors should have a role in a student’s high school life for all four years.”

Today’s guidance counselors help a student with their academic development, such as picking their appropriate courses. They also help students set and reach post-secondary goals while helping them manage stress and personal issues that may come up along the way.

A few years ago, the high school set up a plan where students meet with their counselor once every eight days for a quarter of the school year. These “seminar sessions” allow students to meet with their counselors each year and get to know them better. Underclassmen session focus more on honing in on their interests, while upperclassmen focus on the college search.

“When we initially started, we thought if we built in time for them to meet with counselor, the counselors wouldn't have to answer same questions 50 different times and they can build that information into seminars,” Ribeiro said.”What’s happening is students are becoming more comfortable with guidance. They’re coming more. That’s been a really great product, but it’s another piece of our time.”

The counselors also meet once a week to stay up-to-date on college news and set aside time to meet with colleges to get to know the schools for the sake of the students. The counselors also have a “Say Something” program for students, so they can have the resources to talk to someone if they need something. The counselors also meet with the family of every junior to talk college plans.

“We’re here to meet whatever they need,” Ribeiro said. “Some students are in the office with their laptop, working on the Common App with their counselor which doesn’t happen in other schools. We value that and we’re lucky the community supported us to give us the average caseload we have now. We want to make that even better.”