We recently conducted surveys of our user community to better understand their career options and college decision making process. It became quite evident that a large percentage of students are not armed with the knowledge they need to pursue certain career paths or college opportunities. With all the advances in communication and education technology it’s surprising that more time, energy and resources aren’t being dedicated to providing high school students with the necessary career and educational choices.
Understanding the Barriers
Yes, many high schools are devoting more resources to improve student awareness of education and career options, but on a macro basis, there is a long way to go. I personally know of several capable, intelligent and motivated young men who graduated high school last year yet are not currently pursuing any career path or enrolled in any higher education program. Why? They simply did not have the guidance, education or awareness needed to take ownership of their post-high school path.
Our research shows that students simply don’t understand the college search process or the resources that are available to them to research the higher ed programs and career options that are available. With a huge counseling gap (the national average is 1 counselor to 495 students), it’s no wonder that a majority of the students are not able to navigate their way to success. And, with 65% of students attending rural and urban school districts, the problem may be even worse than we know.
Data Reveals Many Students Are Not Aware of Career and Educational Resources
Let’s start with College and Career Fairs, for example. Our surveys, which captured the responses of close to 400 high school students, show that 48% of students don’t plan on attending these types of fairs.
61% of respondents don’t know “off-campus information sessions” hosted by colleges and universities even exist. These sessions provide a valuable opportunity for students who can’t afford to travel to a college to meet with college representatives face to face. With 54% of respondents saying they would attend an off-campus session if available, that’s a sad testament to our failure to provide the proper education and awareness on the college search process.
Of course, there is the one big barrier that so many students fall victim to – the affordability of a college education. It seems so far out of reach for the average student who faces the grim realization that they can’t possibly afford to go to college or even get the right training to succeed in any career path they choose. Yet, those of us in the education space are well aware of the enormous volume of available funding from Pell Grants to Merit Scholarships. And, of course, affordable loans that can fill any remaining gaps and won’t saddle students with debt that they can’t possibly pay off.
How does the average student get the proper financial literacy education to make informed decisions? They don’t. And, many of these students don’t have the support at home or at school either. They may be the first one in their family to consider a career path or higher education.
Solving the Education Gap
The problem is big and can’t be corrected overnight. But there is hope. There is so much technology in the classroom used to teach core curriculum. It’s about time we apply similar technology to educate students to make smart life choices to advance their education and career path. With overburdened counselor caseloads and budget cuts in education across the board technology provides a solution and enables us to do more with less.
Three key benefits that can be gained by applying technology to the college search and counseling process include:
1. Supplement the College Advising Process
Today’s counselors don’t just have to worry about college applications, they are an integral part of a student’s education. They provide support for academic achievement, career options and social/emotional development. Providing the right tools to manage and supplement the advising process would allow counselors to better handle large caseloads and ensure no one slips through the cracks. For example, they could more easily monitor progress against goals, provide resources like checklists for college prep to dos, college search tools and financial information to educate and keep students on track.
2. Educate Students on the College Search Process Earlier
Students need to be exposed to higher ed and career opportunities earlier in their education to better prepare for what is required to achieve them. From the courses they take, the clubs they join inside and out of school, their summer break experiences, community involvement, and more. They need to start thinking about the future earlier to make academic decisions in line with their future aspirations, manage their time and stay on track. Technology can provide these tools and resources, ensuring that no student is left behind.
3. Provide Equal Access to College Search Tools & Resources
Many student resources are offered via online platforms. Unfortunately, not all students have access to computers on a regular basis to research colleges and the opportunities available to them outside of school. 95 percent of high school students have a smartphone and 88 percent reporting access to a laptop. However, teen computer access falls to 75 percent for families making less than $30,00 per year. Offering college counselling and prep resources via mobile apps ensures that more students have equal access to self-help tools that empower them to achieve their higher education goals.
The answer lies in investing in tools to better educate students and their families on all the options available to them after high school. In an age of there’s an app to do that – our students simply deserve better.
Learn about our free eAdvising solution that helps high school counselors manage their students’ path to their future.