Entries tagged with “college preparation”.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a change in their grant-making strategy, adding more resources toward two core tracks – College Readiness for High School Students and Life Beyond High School. Both programs serve to support all students’ college prep from middle school years to and through college. For more information, including Gates’ speeches, education plans, visit: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/united-states/Pages/united-states-education-strategy.aspx

North Carolina introduces virtual public schools that help students graduate early. The majority of America’s public schools have access to the internet and utilize technology in some meaningful way. Virtual education is become the fastest growing sector of education. North Carolina is recognizing the potential online learning has for its students and has announced the statewide North Carolina Virtual Public School program that allows students to take online courses allowing them to earn college credits and graduate early from high school. The online courses also promote college preparation and easier transition to higher education. To learn more visit http://www.ncvps.org/

A recent study by Helen Janc Malone examined the relationship between parental involvement and students’ plans to attend four-year college. The research question asked: What is the probability—controlling for parents’ income, level of education, and race/ethnicity—that a high school student whose parents are involved in his/her postsecondary preparation would plan to go to a four-year college? Using the Educational Longitudinal Study dataset (ELS:2002), a nationally representative sample of 9,121 students and parents from 752 schools across the country was analyzed. Applying a binary logistic regression analysis, the findings show the fitted odds that a student would plan to go to a four-year college (vs. not go) among students who planned to take the SAT/ACT were 4.42 times higher when parents were involved in a student’s academics and college preparation vs. when parents were not involved, on average, in the population. Further, the fitted odds a student would plan to go to a four-year college (vs. not go) among students who did not plan to take the SAT/ACT were 6.59 times higher when parents were involved in a student’s academics and college preparation vs. when the parents were not involved, on average, in the population. These findings support the current literature on the continued importance of parental involvement in their adolescents’ postsecondary preparation.

A research report on the role of parents in students’ college choice can be found on the ThroughCollege Educator Resources page.

Author: Helen Janc Malone

A recent Phi Delta Kappa Kappan magazine published an article entitled “From the Mouths of Middle-Schoolers: Important Changes for High School and College,” in which the author William J. Bushaw addresses an optimistic outlook that middleschoolers have when entering high school in terms of their college aspirations. According to the study findings, conducted by Harris Poll Online database, 92% of middleschoolers expect to go on to college but 68% of them feel that they do not have adequate information on what courses to take in high school to get ready for college. Additionally, majority of students polled feel that the cost of higher education might prevent them from accessing college even if they meet academic requirements.

Although 1.4 million students are taking AP exams according to the 2001 U.S. Department of Education data, majority of these students come from middle and upper socio-economic classes. This data closely relates to another DOE finding, which shows that only 28% of our poorest students attend four-year institutions versus 66% of our richest students. Further, according to the College Board 2005 report Trends in College Pricing, the net price for public four-year institutions is now around $10,000 and the net price tag for private four-year institutions is now hovering at $19,400. Yet, as College Board data show, Pell Grants and other financial aid sources have been on a steady decline since the late 1970s.

With these troubling findings, it is no wonder that low-income students find academic readiness, financial resources, and access to information as the core barriers to their college attainment. As school counselors, staff, and teachers, we have a responsibility to focus our attention on these core barriers by ensuring that all our incoming high school freshmen get access to college prep courses and information on how to look for colleges, aid with college application process, and hold informational sessions with both parents and students on financing higher education. Further, as higher education professionals, we have a responsibility to work with our high schools to ensure that our standards and expectations are aligned, thus, potentially reducing the ever so growing need for remedial education. Finally, we all need to press our policymakers to reform the higher education financial structure, because it has been proven to be inefficient and inadequate for the majority of students who need financial aid. As we look forward into the future of college access, we should be able to tell our 92% of middleschoolers with college aspirations that they can indeed reach their goal.

Author: Helen Janc Malone

I interviewed an old friend and a great education thinker, Helen Janc Malone who is a Doctoral Candidate in Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Helen and I were colleagues at the University of Maryland a handful of years ago. I knew she was knowledgeable and passionate about the issue of student pathways to college and asked her a few questions pertaining to college guidance counseling, our specific interest.

Darin: Do you think there is a need for better or more college guidance counseling for high school students?

Helen: The main problem is that the ratio is extremely large in most high schools, which means that counselors can’t effectively track individual student progress and really learn about their personal interests for college/career. Although some guidance counselors create school-wide college days, workshops, and small group counseling, it is often not enough. This posses a particularly big problem in large urban schools, where potentially future college kids might be overlooked. The “solution” really involves a culture change on the part of districts and principals. If they want to see more kids graduate and go on to college, they need to support their guidance counselor staff (hiring more staff, providing professional development opportunities, and integrating their programs into the curriculum). Parents also need to be involved through parent workshops on college access, which really ought to start in middle school, as it happens in affluent neighborhoods. Finally, students need to be given a better roadmap of what their responsibilities are to reaching college and more importantly, staying in college.

Darin: Do you feel there is a need for high school students to have a better personal development experience as a result of that application process, meaning they have a special opportunity for personal discovery, learning, and skill and identity development because of having to go through that significant college application process?

Helen: I think an application process is a great way for teens to gain fundamental writing and communications skills, learn how to market themselves, do some self reflection on who they are, where they are going, overarching goals, personal strengths/weaknesses. In that respect, you could benefit from developing a series of pre-application worksheets or  workshops to get students to think about those holistic issues, write them down, share in small group discussions, and talk to their families about. All this would open the door to richer discussion, reflection, feedback, that would lead to good application.  This is particularly an important exercise for kids who weren’t considering college but were doing well in school or had overall potential.

Darin: Do you feel that individuals other than guidance counselors (like teachers, mentors, parents, etc.) can provide a sort of pro-am guidance counseling if they had a system of activities to work with on students.

Helen: Yes. I think teachers have a role in encouraging students to seek counselors for advice, read materials about colleges, work with parents and staff to develop workshops on getting into college. Teachers can also use their writing assignment to reflect application or college essays to prep students better. There is a lot of room for innovation, but to get there you need to address the pressures teachers have to “show performance” (NCLB stuff). Perhaps, creating an after-school program (e.g., GEAR UP) could help educate both parents and teens about the college access issue. This could be valuable for community members as well (perhaps, there are unutilized resources or some of them might want to reenter higher ed).

Darin: Finally, who do you think would want a system of activities for college application prep and self discovery? The school? Counselors? School district? Certain non profit orgs? Parents? Parent groups?

Helen: All of these groups could benefit from a comprehensive college access program that encourages collaboration across these stakeholders, provides input and opportunities for each group, and utilizes existing community and school resources to motivate students and provide them support as they think about college.

Authors: Helen Jance Malone & Darin Eich, Ph.D.

Bostonindicators.org reports “In 2003—the most recent available data—Boston had 94 guidance counselors, a ratio of 1 counselor to every 664 students.” In education the student to teacher ratio is an important one. 40 to 1 gets most people upset. What about 664 to 1? This is the ratio of students to guidance counselor in Boston and the data is similarly alarming elsewhere. College guidance counseling is important work. Good guidance counseling can help students identify and realize life goals, choices, and careers that fit with who they are as people and their own potential. But many students never get a chance to meet with a guidance counselor to start this process? This is significant problem. Because there are on average hundreds and hundreds of students for every one school counselor and counselors have many more responsibilities than meeting with students one on one to advise them on the college application and selection process, one cannot expect the school counselor to devote more time to this since they are extremely busy. The obvious solution would be for the school to add more school counselors and bring the ratio down with doubling their counselors. This is still a high ratio and it is widely known that schools don’t have a lot of money to bring new staff on. So ultimately there is a need for innovation of how college guidance counseling is happening in schools. We have been researching, thinking about, and generating ideas for solutions to this problem. Here are some innovations we are proposing based on insight, research, and experience.
1) Utilize a system that allows people that are interested in guiding, advising, or mentoring high school students to do guidance counseling. Consider them pro-am college guidance counselors. These could be teachers, coaches, and other staff at a school or mentors in the community or other organizations. They may have interest or expertise in working with students but not necessarily counseling or college application and selection strategies.
2) Provide a way for school counselors to counsel more students on the college application process through a group format rather than individual one on one sessions. For instance instead of meeting with one student they can meet with three to five during that hour. Over the course of the year many more students will get the chance to have at least one meeting with a school counselor. Having other students present will also allow for a different kind of learning and allowing the students to help each other as well. The challenge here is that this is a different kind of counseling requiring different kinds of activities.
3) Institute a formal program or course in the school that all students should participate in and they can receive college guidance counseling through this course or program. Many pre-college programs provide guidance counseling through this strategy. Again, it is a new departure for schools requiring a curriculum, teacher knowledgeable in this, and formal time in the school day.
4) Provide a series of activities for students and parents to do the guidance counseling themselves. It is a do-it-yourself strategy. It is like going to a cafeteria where you do everything yourself including selecting the food, filling your own drink, bussing your own table vs. being waited on at a restaurant. This will require a series of activities that is effective in simplifying the process and engaging the students.

We have created the ThroughCollege system to help solve the problem of too many students, too few school counselors, and too important a process for one’s life. The system is designed to be used in these alternative ways to innovate the experience students’ have in preparing for college applications.

Author: Darin Eich, Ph.D.

By eliminating early admission programs in 2006, Harvard and Princeton took an important step in making college admissions more equitable, but much more needs to be done in order to ensure low-income students are able to make an effective transition from high school to college. Before moving to Madison, I worked for three years as a college counselor at Eastside College Preparatory School, a school in East Palo Alto, Calif. Eastside serves low-income students aiming to become the first in their families to attend college. Like many high-schoolers across the country, these indefatigable students took challenging academic courses, participated in extracurricular activities, and completed three to four hours of homework each night. Unlike many of their peers, however, these students had no idea how to apply to college. No one in their families had gone to college. The students and their parents did not know the gauntlet of college admissions consisted of essay writing, teacher recommendations, and financial aid forms. During my first day on the job, one of the parents off-handedly asked me, “What’s a college counselor?”

Every student should have access to guidance throughout the college application process, but that ideal lies far from the current reality. In most public high schools one counselor serves 490 students. And this counselor’s main role is organizing a student’s schedule, not providing college application advice. Expensive private college counselors have filled this void for those students whose families can afford to pay for them, but low-income students working to become the first in their families to attend college get left behind.

I’ll never forget the first College Night I held at Eastside — the intent gazes of the students and their parents and the nervous energy in the room. As they sat there listening to me, soaking up the information on college selection, I realized I would need to guide them through each and every step of the process. Fortunately, the class size of 13 students was extremely small, so I was able to provide each student with individualized attention.

This level of attention is what it took in order to help these students navigate the process and break their family’s cycle of not earning a college degree.

While Harvard and Princeton have done an admirable thing by eliminating early admission, they and other institutions of higher learning could use their political clout and financial resources to motivate public high schools to ensure each and every student receives ample college guidance. In addition, colleges and universities should expand and enhance outreach programs like the PEOPLE program run here at the UW-Madison. PEOPLE exposes low-income, minority students to college and instills in them the belief they can start a new family tradition of earning a college degree.

Low-income students deserve the same quality of college admissions guidance as received by their more affluent peers. As for those students who sat in that College Night? Last spring they graduated from colleges like Columbia, Stanford, and Harvard.

Author: Matt Messinger