The link between counselors and kids going to college
According to a new survey:
High school counselors are overworked! Too many aren’t well trained! Lots of kids think their counselors don’t really know them! Seniors are left alone to navigate the college admissions process! Something must be done yesterday!
Those were key conclusions of the study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (what doesn’t that foundation fund?) and conducted by the nonpartisan, nonprofit research group Public Agenda. [Disclosure: Melinda Gates is a member of the Washington Post Company's Board of Directors.]
The report, entitled “Can I Get A Little Advice Here: How an Overstretched High School Guidance System Is Undermining Students’ College Aspirations,” is the second in a Public Agenda series on college completion.
Good research on all aspects of education is vital to understanding what works and doesn’t work for different populations of students, and how systems need to be changed to meet the needs of young people. It is one of the great laments in the education world that a good deal of its research is problematic--the samples are too small to have any broad application, the methodology is questionable, the folks doing the research have a stake in its outcome, etc.
There are times, too, when you wonder why some research studies were untaken in the first place when the conclusions are as plain as day. I would put this study in that category.
We learn, in Finding 1 of the study, that: “Most students, even those who successfully complete college, give their high school guidance counselors fair or poor ratings.”
Sixty-seven percent of respondents (614 people aged 22 to 30) gave their high school counselors fair or poor ratings for helping to decide which school was right for them. Fifty four percent gave them poor or fair ratings for explaining and helping with the application process. And 48 percent reported that in regard to their experiences with high school counselors, the student “usually felt I was just another face in the crowd.”
Well, they WERE just another face in the crowd, through no fault of their counselor's.
According to the 2009 State of College Admissions report issued last year by the non-profit National Association for College Admission Counseling, 45 percent of public school counselors and 17 percent of private school counselors indicated that the student-to-counselor ratios at their schools increased for this school year.
That ratio already was high when the year started. According to the association’s 2008 Counseling Trends Survey, the average high school student-to counselor ratio--including part-time staff, was 246 to 1.
The 2009 admissions report said that public school counselors reported, on average, an increase of 53 more students each for the 2009-10 year. Private school counselors reported, on average, an increase of 16 students.
That’s a lot of kids for one person to shepherd through the college admissions process, which includes making sure they write essays, fill out all the forms, solicit teacher recommendations, take admissions tests, learn about financial aid, etc.
Counselors also send transcripts for each student to multiple schools, chase teachers to complete grade changes when required, and on and on. College admissions isn’t the only thing they have to do. There is, for example, the little job of helping kids decide what courses to take during high school, partly so they can get into college.
The new study also reports this: Nearly 1 in 5 young adults who believe they were badly counseled delay going to college.
There’s no reason to think that isn’t true. There is a big question, though, about cause and effect. Do we know whether bad counseling was the reason? No.
The study does point out, once again, a truism about education that policymakers tragically seem to forget: Students whose parents have four-year degrees are more likely to themselves be successful in a four-year college or university.
Indeed, the best indicator of student success is the home they came from. If policymakers really understood that, school reform efforts wouldn’t be focused on standardized tests.
The new study on counselors concludes that the whole system of counseling should be improved, and notes that many counselors need training. While teachers are required to take professional development courses to stay abreast of new trends in their fields, most states and districts do not require the same of guidance counselors, the study reports.
But is this news?
Yes, it is long past time that those people in education who have the power to beef up the guidance systems in schools paid attention to these issues. Writing reports does help raise public awareness, but in this case, the public that matters already knows the problems.
Perhaps it would be better at this point to use the money that might be spent on more studies to instead hire and train more counselors.
Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!
| March 6, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: College Admissions, High School | Tags: high school counselors
Save & Share: Previous: ‘Safe Students Act’ doesn’t keep kids safe: Paddling still allowed
Next: College admissions strategies: Don't listen to friends, and more
Posted by: sideswiththekids | March 6, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: leuchars | March 6, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Nymous | March 6, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: collegedirection | March 6, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sheilahgill | March 7, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: maus92 | March 7, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: amy3e | March 7, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Cal_Lanier | March 7, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.