When It Comes to College, Only Half of America’s High Schoolers Say They Feel Prepared, Survey Finds
Recent survey data from the nonprofit YouthTruth reveals that only 50% of U.S. students believe their high schools have adequately prepared them with the knowledge and skills necessary for college. High schoolers express uncertainty regarding college and career readiness.
Although the survey did not require students to explain their feelings, anonymous comments shed light on their perspectives. One student wrote that schools prioritize high grades and that many students resort to cheating or intense studying rather than genuine learning. This student believes that the focus should be on true learning, not just grades. Another student expressed disappointment in their school’s lack of support services for college preparation. They expressed frustration at not receiving guidance in areas such as choosing a major, selecting a college, applying to schools, understanding requirements for their dream school, financing their education, and accessing scholarships.
The survey data showed slight variations in preparedness perceptions across demographics. Asian students had the highest percentage (56%) of feeling prepared, followed by black (53%), Hispanic (52%), white (50%), and multiracial (46%) students. Preparedness perceptions also varied significantly among schools, with scores ranging from 11% to 78%.
Despite 84% of students expressing a desire to attend college, only 68% believe they will actually do so. Additionally, a significant number of students admitted to not utilizing college prep resources, such as admissions exam preparation or college counseling. However, those who did use such resources found them beneficial.
Jen Vorse Wilka, executive director of YouthTruth, emphasizes that there is still much work to be done based on these findings. The survey involved over 55,000 high school students from 21 states and was conducted between September 2015 and December 2016. The students were primarily white (29%), Hispanic or Latino (28%), multiracial (13%), black (12.5%), and Asian (3.25%). It’s worth noting that the data is not nationally representative as it only includes schools that paid to participate in the YouthTruth programs and surveys.
Superintendent Brian Shumate of the Medford School District in Oregon describes the survey results as a reality check that challenges assumptions about what students truly think. He asserts that it’s crucial to trust students’ perceptions as they are the recipients of education. If students do not feel adequately prepared for college, measures must be taken to address this issue.
Quincy School District’s superintendent John Boyd echoes this sentiment and emphasizes the importance of making students feel prepared for college based on their perceptions. He believes that students’ self-awareness should be trusted as they know themselves best.
Assistant Superintendent Nikolas Bergman of Quincy highlights the abundance of college preparation programs available to districts. Comparing student perceptions with college-going rates helps navigate through these options. Quincy has observed increased feelings of preparedness since implementing AVID, a program focusing on college-readiness skills and behaviors since eighth grade. The district received an average preparedness score of 3.47 (out of 5) from students, ranking in the 41st percentile among similarly sized schools.
Medford School District’s preparedness score of 3.05 (out of 5) surprised Superintendent Shumate, prompting him to advocate for a career-academy model. The district currently allows freshmen to select subject pathways, resembling college majors, to explore specialized classes aligned with their interests. This change aims to create a more reflective environment of the world outside of school.
In a survey conducted by College Board in 2011, it was discovered that students who were interviewed one year after completing high school held more positive views regarding their preparation for college and college-level coursework. Approximately two-thirds of the students expressed satisfaction with their high schools’ efforts in readying them for higher education, while the remaining one-third felt that their schools could have done more to adequately prepare them.