We’ve heard a lot in the news about expanding career training opportunities and rising participation rates in rigorous Advanced Placement courses. However, much of these celebrations (and sometimes lamentations) are often made by those people providing or supporting the service. Rarely, however, do advocates hear directly from students themselves about the supports they are receiving.
Rodel and our partners wanted to change that. When we began planning for the Supporting Postsecondary Success in Delaware: A Landscape Analysis of Opportunities we knew that reaching students would be critical.
This analysis reviews the characteristics, assets, and barriers of Delaware’s college and career preparation services. The non-scientific survey results include responses from 235 public school students in grades seven through 12. Student focus groups were also conducted, however results are not shown here. Although the student survey is not representative of the entire Delaware student population, results revealed that students surveyed might have different perceptions about existing college and career success supports and services than some might expect.
Students point to parents and family as the most helpful in preparing them for their future.
With a counselor-to-student ratio of 464 students to every one counselor, it should come as no surprise that Delaware students must seek others for post-high school advice. Students overwhelmingly rely on their family (87 percent) and teachers (64 percent) for help on their postsecondary future.
Students feel under-supported in planning for college and career after high school.
- On career advising: When asked if anyone had helped them to find a job related to their career interests, 52 percent said no, or that what help they did receive was not helpful.
- On choosing a college: More than one-third indicated receiving little help or unhelpful advising when deciding what college to attend based on their career interests.
- On finding the right fit: Forty-four percent said that they received no help or unhelpful guidance on the difference between admission requirements for community colleges and four-year colleges.
- On college affordability: While 82 percent said they received helpful advice on how much it will cost to attend college, 42 percent and 37 percent said they did not receive helpful advice on how to apply for financial aid or scholarships, respectively.
Despite available supports, students aren’t accessing programs and services that can help them with postsecondary planning.
- On college and career planning: While nearly 80 percent of students developed a Student Success Plan (SSP) using Career Cruising, only 40 percent found it somewhat or very helpful in planning for their future. Career Cruising is an online platform that students can use to explore careers and develop a SSP. Students are required to create an SSP in eighth and update it throughout high school.
- On existing supports: Eighty-one percent did not use or did not find it helpful to use SPARC (a web-based career exploration platform) to learn about careers. Sixty-nine percent have not used the State Scholarship Compendium.
- On services and programs: More than 40 percent have not participated in or found unhelpful a program in school that helped inform them about college or career options. Nearly half indicated the same about out-of-school programs.
The current college and career support landscape leaves many students wanting more.
Many students are looking for more support on finding scholarships and internships, not surprisingly. Despite existing resources for students to use to find scholarships and funding (e.g. Delaware Scholarship Compendium or $tand By Me), students are not accessing these supports.
The landscape analysis also shares the perceptions of advocates, educators, and other stakeholders. Overall, recommendations from the study called for better collaboration among providers, business community, and schools; stronger college and career preparation for under resourced students; more attention on student mental health and social and emotional supports; and a re-evaluation of what high quality college and career counseling looks like.
The good news is that while students may not realize how many programs and services are available for their success, they still have high hopes for their futures. Many intend on getting a two-year, four-year, or graduate degree after high school. Nearly 70 percent have received helpful guidance on job search techniques (such as resume writing and interview skills). And more than 60 percent have a been advised on the type of SAT scores needed to get into the colleges they want. Finally, 70 percent of students have visited a college campus.
Students are getting exposure to college and career supports. But, if we want to make sure students have everything they need for success, strong and decisive action must be taken to improve our current system of support.