A college degree is necessary today for a good job and a good future, and yet the college application process is becoming more competitive and more complicated. How, then, can students who have fewer advantages and who come from lower income homes get the college counseling that private high school students and kids from affluent neighborhoods get? Their schools are understaffed, and they cannot afford to pay for private college counseling. Can students from poorer areas of our country get a fair chance to attend college?
It’s more and more likely that students coming from the right zip code will have an advantage in getting to college and having better futures. Students coming from poor urban and rural areas will not apply in the same numbers or have the same opportunities for college admission. In these poor zip code areas there are lower incomes, racial minorities, and more students who will be first in their families to go to college.
The average public high school has 450+ students per college counselor. This far outnumbers the recommended 250 students per high school guidance/college counselor. Compare this number, also, with the average private high school that has 5 times fewer students per college counselor.
How do we make getting into college more equitable for all students nationally? One thing is to have better training for public high school guidance counselors. Counselors in private high schools and college counseling businesses trail students who procrastinate and help them time manage, make calls to admissions officers, sponsor financial aid nights, have access to and know how to use college application software, and make sure to use their time to get to know their students personally in order to write better school recommendations for students. All high school counselors should be trained and know how to accomplish these assisting services.
Here are some other ideas for improving college counseling services for all students:
- Encourage states to sponsor policies to improve college counseling resources for all secondary schools.
- Find private funding in communities to create a volunteer corps of college coaches.
- Ask businesses to fund college visits for students who will be the first in their families to go to college.
The White House is also weighing in. Michelle Obama has started the Reach Higher Program that is sponsoring the Harvard Graduate School of Education to devise ways to improve college counseling.