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Effective College Advising in High School Tied to Time and Attitude

Since school counselors are pivotal players in the quest to increase college access, the Education Commission of the States has released a review of college counseling practices in high school to advise state policymakers on those that are most effective.

Online tools, individual learning plans, and requiring students to fill out college applications are all approaches with merit, but there are also pitfalls, such as lack of access and inconsistency in implementation, according to the Boulder-based nonprofit research organzation.

ECS highlights research from the National Association for College Admission Counseling that shows merely allowing counselors to spend the majority of their time college advising is correlated with higher college-going rates.


And counselor attitudes matter.

While 72 percent of counselors in high schools with high college-going rates said their number one goal is to assist students in preparing for postsecondary school, only 32 percent made it a priority at schools with low college-going rates, NACAC reveals.

Counselors with lower caseloads and those that required parents to sign off on students' college/career plans also are linked with higher success in enrolling students in college, according to the ECS review.

Other promising approaches that ECS encourages states to consider include:

• Showing students a three-minute video about college costs and financial eligibility;

• Adding college coaches to help guide underserved students through the college process;

• Texting college-bound students the summer after graduation to encourage them to matriculate in the fall;

• Increasing the number of school counselors and professional development in college advising.

ECS notes that many state approaches to college counseling appear to assume students need little individualized guidance. However, recent research points to the need for appropriate supports to enter college and persist once enrolled, especially for low-income students.

As states push their college-completion agendas, many are considering ways to get more school counselors trained in outreach to help disadvantaged students in the college-application process.

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