As a high school college counselor, I should be enjoying a relaxing summer, but my work is far from over. My summer days are dedicated to making calls to every graduating senior to ensure deadlines are being met, deposits are being paid, and orientations are being attended. And that doesn’t end after the student starts college.
Today, graduates of KIPP high schools complete college at a rate of 45 percent, that is four times the national average of 11 percent for students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. We accomplish this through detailed check-ins with our college students and maintaining a lower student-to-counselor ratio (roughly 100-to-1 versus 482-to-1 nationwide).
Imagine if every student had access to this level of intensive college counseling, then our college completion rates would improve. Today only one out of 10 students from low-income families earn a bachelor’s degree. The KIPP Foundation is urging Congress to prioritize college counseling nationwide and make it a priority in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We recommend creating a federal grant program intended to increase the number of college counselors in public schools, adopt proven evidence-based counseling practices, and track results.
As a college advisor at City-As-School High School, one of the largest and oldest schools designed to re-engage students who choose to transfer high schools, this month’s college admission scandal came as no surprise.
It’s not breaking news to me that the college admission process tends to favor those already privileged in society. I watch it play out every day, as my colleagues and I fight to get our students into college — and to convince our students that they deserve that opportunity.
As we look for ways to improve the college admission process in the wake of the recent scandals, an important place to start is in our high schools. In my professional career of 26 years, I have served as a high school guidance counselor, a college admission representative, and an independent educational consultant. Having seen the process from all angles, I believe we must do a better job equipping students and their families with the knowledge and perspective to embark on a successful college admission journey.
The school counselor can and should play such a pivotal role in any student’s college search and application activities. But due to oversized caseloads and often inadequate professional training, even the best school counselors are unable to provide the support most kids need in identifying and applying to the colleges that are best suited to their interests and needs.
Michelle Obama’s Becoming proved to be the perfect launching off point for a robust discussion of college access and completion, ways to support first-generation and marginalized students, and a counselor’s role in these goals.
In a #NACACreads Twitter chat Tuesday night, Eric Waldo, the executive director of Reach Higher, shared his insights on these subjects and more. Reach Higher was founded by Mrs. Obama and Waldo has traveled with the former first lady during her recent Becoming book tour.
Using the most recent federal data, the ACLU compared the number of police in schools to the number of counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers on campus.
Their analysis found that 1.7 million students are in schools with a police presence but no counselors. Another 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker.
Our #nacacreads chat with Reach Higher on Michelle Obama’s Becoming is coming up in just under a month.
But in case you can’t wait that long, you can hear from the former first lady in her own words.
Obama recently talked with a group of young women convened by her publisher about “imposter syndrome,” the importance of education, and many other topics highlighted in her book.
“I had to contend with ‘how do I get my education when I’m surrounded by people who may have different expectations of me?’ And those weren’t just the kids in the neighborhood. There were teachers I had to confront, teachers who underestimated me… When I sat down with my high school counselor — somebody who didn’t know me but was assigned to work with students to help them apply to college — and I told them my intention was to apply to Princeton. That counselor told me, ‘I don’t think you’re Princeton material,’” Obama said in the interview.
“The person whose job it was to help young people reach their dreams when it came to college saw me and whatever she saw in me told her that my dreams were too high…Even though I continued on, I applied, and you know obviously I got in, but I still remember that story. I remember that feeling of doubt. Just another adult placing a barrier on me that I didn’t even have for myself. So then, to enter into an elite school when your high school counselor has told you you’re not good enough, when all of society looks at kids of color or kids from poor communities or rural communities as not belonging, I, like many others, walked into that school with a stigma in my own head.”
Watch the full video and make plans to join us next month for this important conversation. We will be discussing the former first lady’s own journey to college, her experience as a first-generation student, the importance of diversity on campus, and the role college counselors play.
The #nacacreads Twitter chat will kick off promptly at 9 p.m. ET on March 19.
Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at email@example.com.