Thursday, March 26, 2015

Conversations with Counselors Prompt Students to Plan for College

Students who speak with a counselor about life after high school are more likely to say they will attend college and that they plan to apply for federal financial aid, according to a new study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

Conversations with counselors also increase the likelihood that students will search for college options and visit college campuses by the spring of their junior year, data show.

The study —“A National Look at the High School Counseling Office: What Is It Doing and What Role Can It Play in Facilitating Students’ Paths to College?” — draws on recently released, nationally representative data.

Its findings underscore the critical role counselors play in helping high school students plan for the transition to college, noted Jeff Fuller, NACAC president and director of student recruitment at the University of Houston (TX). Overall, 63 percent of students in the study reported speaking to a school counselor about postsecondary plans.  

“NACAC continues to invest a great deal — including research, training and advocacy — into the development and support of college-readiness counseling,” Fuller said. “Our objectives are to ensure that counselors receive the recognition they deserve, and that policymakers and administrators understand the scope of work that is needed to adequately support students for equitable access to postsecondary education.”

Other key study findings show:

•  School leaders consider counseling crucial: More than half (55 percent) of principals identified “helping students prepare for postsecondary schooling” as their top priority.

• Counselors are stretched: Fifty-four percent of counselors reported that their counseling department spent less than 20 percent of its time on college readiness, selection and applications.

• Some services are underused: While 90 percent of counselors indicated that their schools offered college application assistance, the percentage of students who benefited from this assistance was far lower.

• Schools could do more to track graduates: Despite the fact that most states possess longitudinal databases and that data from the National Student Clearinghouse are available, more schools relied on student surveys (49 percent) than a state or national database (22 percent) to track student outcomes after high school.

The study is the second in a series of reports examining factors that influence college enrollment. The first segment analyzed the effects of early college counseling. NACAC will begin work in 2016 on the third installment, which will explore data on students who have gone through the college application process.

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