News | March 10, 2010

High School Counselors Get Low Marks From Students On College Advice

National survey from Public Agenda finds six in ten who go on to further education give high school counselors low grades; nearly half say they were just "a face in the crowd"

New York, NY /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Most young adults who go on to college believe that the advice they got from their high school guidance counselors was poor or fair at best, according to a recent survey by Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Asked about their experiences with their counselors in high school, nearly half (48%) say that they felt like "just another face in the crowd."

The national study, "Can I Get A Little Advice Here?" compared the responses of 614 individuals aged 22 through 30 who completed at least some college; the survey also included focus groups in five cities. It is the second in a series of reports underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation describing young Americans' views on college selection, higher education and college completion.

In the eyes of the students themselves, 48% said they felt like "just another face in the crowd" in dealing with their guidance counselor, with 62% rating their guidance counselors as fair or poor with helping them find ways to pay for college (e.g. financial aid and scholarship programs). Over two-thirds give them fair or poor ratings for helping them decide which school to go to, and 60% give their high school guidance counselors fair or poor ratings for helping them think about different careers.

"We've set up a system that is simply not giving most students the help and attention they deserve. The counselors are often over-worked, and many are under-prepared when it comes to helping students think through the wide variety of college and career choices open to them," said Jean Johnson, Executive Director of Education Insights at Public Agenda.

Young people who characterized their interactions with guidance counselors as impersonal were more likely to delay college by a year or more and were less likely to say that they had chosen their college or university based on specific criteria such as its academic reputation, the availability of financial aid or because it would help them get a good job after graduation. More than 4 in 10 young adults who believe that they were poorly counseled in high school say that they would have attended a different school if money were not an issue (compared with 35% of those who said that their counselors really made an effort to get to know them).

While "Can I Get A Little Advice Here?" found that advisers at higher education institutions get better ratings, there's still room for improvement: 59% of those surveyed gave their college advisers good or excellent ratings for helping them decide what classes to take and half of the respondents gave their counselors good or excellent ratings for helping them understand how to get loans and scholarships. Previous research by Public Agenda suggests that 78% of young adults say that they had a teacher or mentor who really took an interest in them personally and encouraged them to go to college.

About the survey:
"Can I Get A Little Advice Here?" is based on a survey including a nationally representative sample of 614 22- to 30-year-olds who have at least some postsecondary education, including 200 who did not finish their degree. Interviews were conducted via landline and cellular telephone from May 7 to June 24, 2009, and respondents had the choice of completing the interview in English or Spanish. The margin of error for the report is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. The survey was preceded by five focus groups conducted in St. Louis, Seattle, Erie, New York and Phoenix.

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Public Agenda
For over 30 years, Public Agenda has been providing research that bridges the gap between American leaders and what the public really thinks about issues ranging from education to foreign policy to immigration to religion and civility in American life. Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that was founded by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

SOURCE Public Agenda

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