Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

A Measure of College-Going Self-Efficacy for Middle School Students

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

A Measure of College-Going Self-Efficacy for Middle School Students

Article excerpt

Many career and educational plans are made well before high school graduation. School counselors' efforts to support these plans are limited by the lack of assessments of middle school students' college-going beliefs. Development of the College-Going Self-Efficacy Scale for middle school students is described in this article. Initial evidence of validity and reliability from three separate studies is reported, and suggestions for using this scale with students are provided.

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Middle school is a vital time in career and college planning, regardless of the type of post-secondary education that students intend to pursue. Career choices often are made long before high school and these selections tend to be stable over time (Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999). Similarly, most students make decisions regarding their educational future between 8th and 10th grade (Hossler et al.), and these academic decisions directly affect middle school students' college preparation and later attendance (Atanda, 1999). Hossler et al. recommended that college intervention programs be focused on middle school students in order to help them make informed decisions about their future. Indeed, evaluators of effective college preparation programs (e.g., Oesterreich, 2000; Tierney, Colyar, & Corwin, 2003) have found that successful programs start in middle school, include counseling, involve parents and peers, and provide concrete information about college. School counselors are at the center of this process, working with students both individually and in groups on academic and career planning.

Most early adolescents want and plan to attend college. Junior high students in one survey (Johnson, 2000) believed some college was necessary for success and most reported planning to obtain at least a 4-year college degree. Johnson found that 85% of African American and Hispanic high school students in one school district said they planned to pursue postsecondary education; the average college-going rate for the district, however, was stable at 37%. Similarly, in a study of career and college needs of ninth graders (Gibbons, Borders, Wiles, Stephan, & Davis, 2006), 73% reported they planned to attend a 4-year college, but the current college-going rate for the districts surveyed was only 48%. The national average of students continuing directly to any type of college for 2000 was 56.7% (National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, 2002), and, of those attending, only 57% actually persisted to complete a degree program (Horn, 2006). College-persistence rates for certain subgroups of the high school population are even lower, particularly first-generation students, students from low-income households, and certain ethnic minorities (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Horn).

Thus, although most early adolescents plan to attend college, their aspirations do not always result in goal attainment. Clearly, something occurs sometime between middle school and high school graduation that affects their intentions to pursue college, but the influencing factors are unclear. Efforts to determine why some students persist with their college plans while others do not are limited by a lack of assessments specific to college-going beliefs of early adolescents. Assessments that identify middle school students most at risk for non-attendance would help school counselors address the barriers facing these students proactively. The purpose of this study was to create a valid and reliable measure of self-efficacy beliefs related to both college-going attendance and persistence for early adolescents.

SELF-EFFICACY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS

Self-efficacy refers to one's belief in the ability to complete the tasks required for achieving a particular goal (Bandura, 1997). In fact, Bandura believed that self-efficacy beliefs were the most powerful influence on a person's decision to initiate and persist in a behavior. …

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