Today’s high school counselors are very much under-resourced, creating a situation of enormous proportions for college bound students. The average counselor to student ratio at public high schools is 482-to-1, nearly double the 250-to-1 ratio recommended by The American School Counselor Association. Shockingly, close to 1 million US students have no counselors at all at their high school.
And on average, college counseling accounts for less than 30% of time spent with students with all the other services they are asked to provide to students. As a result, there is an enormous gap in the ability for counselors to provide students and their families with the level of guidance needed to achieve education literacy and college placement success.
The college planning process is a long and complex road, with many hurdles and choices to be made. The opportunities for students are wide and varied and navigating the complex process can be overwhelming. It can be a big challenge for those of us who have gone through it before, and surprisingly even for people who have an enrollment management background. If it can be challenging for a higher ed professional, then how is the average family expected to navigate the process on their own?
Navigating the College Search, Application and Financial Aid Maze
Considering there are dozens of steps to go from A to Z in the college planning and application process it is no wonder some simply take the easiest path and forego so many potentially amazing opportunities simply because they don’t have the proper assistance or the tools. This is exacerbated by the limited resources in many school districts.
In under resourced school districts students and their families are often left to fend for themselves when it comes to exploring college choices, applying, and learning about the various options for financing an education. The unfortunate reality is that there are thousands of highly qualified high school students who just don’t have the tools or resources to succeed. Another growing pain point is that 34% of undergraduates are first-generation college students – meaning their parents never attended college. It is even more critical to provide these students the right tools for success.
There is also the affordability piece. Financial preparation and financial literacy are lacking, especially for students who are on their own attempting to pay for college. Many students lack the guidance or the family assistance to navigate the FAFSA process. They don’t know about the various financial resources and products that are available to them. For example, students who meet certain eligibility requirements for financial aid and scholarships may not be exposed to schools outside of their region. Often, they have a much better chance of securing financial assistance at these colleges than if they were competing for the same dollars with other students within their region.
Leveraging technology to close the high school counseling gap
The career opportunities for today’s students continue to expand into new areas that didn’t exist just a few years ago. How can we make students aware of these new opportunities? How can we educate them, early on, that there is a great career and educational opportunity waiting for them? And how can we guide them along when there is no one dedicated to helping them? And how can counselors effectively engage with a new generation of digital aged kids buried in their phones and on social media?
There are many possible solutions, and technology is on our side. Counselors need tools and assistance to succeed in a ‘do more with less’ reality. Tools that will facilitate better connections to students, allow counselors to better understand their interests and assess where they are in their prep process. And students need the right tools to help them manage the prep process and explore both education and financial aid opportunities on their own.
An App that provides counselors and students with the tools for the college prep journey
Making a connection with teens is a challenge unto itself. Attempting to communicate and build a relationship with them has become more difficult as today’s teens have become engrossed in a digital, mobile driven world. This is why we created the CiCompass college advising platform to directly link counselors with their students, provide full visibility to every student’s progress, and bring the entire process into one comprehensive experience.
CiCompass’ mobile app-based checklists, college search tools, messaging and chat, automated reminders and resources like Common App and FAFSA, put counselors in the back pocket of every student in their caseload. Best of all – there is no cost to high schools, students or their parents.
Students and their families need easier ways to navigate the college prep and selection process, gain exposure to educational opportunities, and connect with these opportunities. CiCompass makes this all possible and at the same time streamlines the work for school counselors. Colleges can also access students through this new portal. Better tools and better communication – it’s a perfect way help to help under-resourced counselors do more with less and guide students to successful outcomes after high school.