Lighting the Path to Education: How can guidance counselors better advise students to college in a time of limited resources?

In the current state of the economy, a bachelor’s degree is becoming increasingly more important. As college entry rates soar, they are not being met with an equal rise in the rate of college completion. This inequality gap between entry and completion is growing, disadvantaging low-income and minority students from America’s urban public high schools for whom higher education was not previously accessible.

Like many of the initiatives to get more students into college, I began by looking at the unique characteristics of the students who are new to the college entrant pool. These students have little-to-no help in their educational search (parents and high school guidance counselors are most important), and are being heavily recruited by some for-profit universities that have horrifically low graduation rates. With any more support than they’re already receiving, students could avoid going to a school where they are set up to fail.

Several databases and web applications exist to help students evaluate colleges and take control of their educational search. Unfortunately, many of these websites are fairly unknown to the users for which they would be most helpful. Prompted by the recent influx of information directed towards students, I began to look at the role high school guidance counselors play in helping students get to college. As most high school guidance counselors are tasked with advising hundreds of students, I speculated about and designed around how counselors could advise students quickly and efficiently. 

Competitive Analysis of Existing College Comparison Sites

Student Research

Counselor Research

Final Proposal

The system that I’ve proposed is one where students could “self-counsel” themselves to college in groups of five or six. The groups would be put together by the counselors based on similarities in students and various college predictors. The groups would also focus on online google drive and group applications that are free for the school district. guidance counselors would also have access to the drive and group forum to guide the conversation and provide any resources whenever necessary. Every two to three weeks, each group would meet with the counselor for about 20 minutes just to discuss things in person or learn more about the applications. The college search and application process would also be extended to take place during sophomore, junior and senior years, giving the students enough time to research schools and add more extracurricular activities or rigorous classes to put themselves at an advantage to going to the college of their choice.

I also presented the poster below at Meeting of the Minds, the Undergraduate Research Symposium at Carnegie Mellon, you can download it here (18.3MB).

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