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Preparing Students for College: What High Schools are Doing and How their Actions Influence Ninth Graders' College Attitudes, Aspirations, and Plans

By Alexandria Walton Radford & Nicole Ilfill

Preparing Students for College

A nationally representative survey highlights the ways in which high school counselors’ attitudes and interactions with students influence ninth graders’ college aspirations and plans. Results indicate access to a counselor can particularly affect the higher education plans of first-generation students. Controlling statistically for a variety of other student characteristics that might affect outcomes, the study found that: 

  • the percentage of time that counselors spent on college readiness activities was positively related to first-generation college students’ beliefs about college affordability
  • first-generation college students’ who have spoken with a counselor about college are more likely to report intentions of enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program and taking or planning to take the SAT or ACT

Despite these clear advantages, only 48 percent of counselors could report that their counseling department’s primary goas is to help students prepare for postsecondary education.

The US Department of Education's High School Longitudinal Study (HSLS) is following more than 23,000 students from 944 high schools who were ninth graders in 2009 to better understand their pathways to postsecondary education and the workforce.

Download the report and view the presentation to learn more. 

NACAC published two follow up reports based on the HSLS study, which examined student college plans earlier in high school and counselor impact on postsecondary attendance.

  1. 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?

  2. How Can High School Counseling Shape Students' Postseconday Attendance?

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