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Students Report Weak Support Systems for College, Career Preparation

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Most students want to go to college, but few have adequate guidance or counseling support to help them turn those goals into reality.

That's the message of a new poll released Thursday by YouthTruth, a nonprofit that conducts student surveys. A survey of 165,000 students across the country this month produced a less-than-shining portrait of high schools' work to get students ready for their next steps.

Only 44.8 percent of the students reported positive feelings about their level of college- and career-readiness, according to the poll.

Of the two, college readiness got higher marks; more students said they felt ready for college than those who said they felt well prepared for careers. Take a look:

  • 59.6 percent said their school has helped them develop the skills or knowledge they'll need for college-level classes.
  • 55.5 percent said their school has helped them understand the college-application process.
  • 45.7 percent said their school has helped them identify careers that match their interests and abilities.
  • 48.7 percent said their school has helped them understand the steps they need to take to have the career they want.

Nearly 87 percent of students reported wanting to go to college. Fewer than half used key supports to help them get there, however, and more than a few of those who did use them didn't give them glowing marks. Average ratings, on a "helpfulness" scale of 1-5, were less than 4.

  • 41.7 percent used preparation programs for college-entrance exams.
  • 35.5 percent took advantage of career counseling.
  • 33.7 percent used college admissions counseling.
  • 32.4 percent used counseling about how to apply for college.
  • 23 percent used guidance about how to pay for college.

It's interesting, and especially troubling, that fewer than one-quarter of students in this study took advantage of—or had access to—advice about how to finance their college educations. We know that the cost of college is a key stumbling block for high school students, especially those from families who are unaware of the many scholarship and grant opportunities available for low-income students.

We also know that the kinds of support services students were being asked about here are notoriously weak in middle and high schools. While a small number have fabulous counseling programs that cover all the bases, most have student-counselor ratios that make deep, individualized planning a pipe dream. Additionally, the way counselors are trained, and how they're typically deployed in schools, tilts heavily toward handling misbehavior and class scheduling, with only a small slice of time available for career and college guidance. 


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