Inadequate Counsel: Too Many Urban and Rural High School Students Lack Access to the Counseling Necessary to Help Them Prepare and Plan for College

Article excerpt

In their well-researched book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life, Drs. Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford note that it will take significant investments of both resources and time to close the racial and socioeconomic academic achievement gaps. However, an immediate, affordable opportunity exists to improve the quality of academic preparation and postsecondary planning for all students, especially poor students and many students of color.

The need for improved college admission counseling is well documented. From the stands at the high school football game to the checkout line at the local supermarket, parents complain about a lack of access to and information from their child's school counselor on the steps needed to prepare, visit, apply and pay for college. Data to support these concerns were presented in Public Agenda study that found that a majority of young adults felt their school counselor was of little or no help in providing information about good college choices or applying to college.

What is not generally known is that a vast majority of school counselors, especially public school counselors, do not receive any meaningful training in college admission counseling. The American School Counseling Association identifies 466 college-based programs that offer graduate training in school counseling, but the National Association for College Admission Counseling lists only 42 degree-granting programs that offer a course in college admission counseling--and only one of them, the CW Post Campus of Long Island University, is known to require the course of all graduates.

This clearly disadvantages underserved students. Affluent private high schools often hire former admissions officers from well-known colleges to serve as their college admission counselors, giving students and families insight into the preparation, process and strategies needed to make the right college choices.

Similarly, public schools in communities where college attendance is an expectation--most often in the suburbs--devote substantial funds to training counselors to provide college admissions advise. Through professional workshops, conferences and visits to college campuses, these counselors develop an understanding of the need to tailor college choice to student's interests, abilities and needs and become familiar with a wide array of colleges--skills all counselors should have learned in graduate school.

Meanwhile, counselors in urban public schools typically have larger student bodies and smaller budgets. The same can be said of counselors in rural schools, who have the added limitation of being miles away from most higher education institutions. …

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