Correcting Students’ Misconceptions About College

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Early college counseling—as early as middle school—is essential to students’ aspirations for attending college, according to new study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

The study, “Preparing Students for College: What High Schools Are Doing and How Their Actions Influence Ninth-Graders’ College Attitudes, Aspirations and Plans,” found that instilling positive attitudes about post-secondary education is critical to increasing college and career readiness at the high school level. From the association’s website:
“The report finds that among ninth graders whose parents have not earned a bachelor’s degree:

• The amount of time counselors spent on college readiness activities was positively related to students’ belief that their families could afford college.

• A family member’s talking to a counselor about college was positively related to students’ plans to enroll in college.

• A student’s talking to a counselor about college was positively related to students’ plans to enroll in college and take an admission exam, such as the ACT or SAT.

The report was written for NACAC by Alexandria Walton Radford and Nicole Ifill of RTI International. Walton noted that, despite the benefits of early contact, only 18 percent of all ninth-grade students have spoken with a school counselor about college. Forty-eight percent of high school counselors indicated that the first priority for their counseling program was preparing students for postsecondary education,
while 13 percent indicated that they felt some counselors at their school had ‘given up on some students.’ Eight percent of high schools required that students develop a college or career plan.” (Read more here.)

Now, you may think that the National Association for College Admission Counseling has a vested interest in promoting college counseling starting at early ages—but academic research backs up the notion that many would-be university aspirants are woefully uninformed on the subject of college.

Here’s a particularly interesting insight—a list of “the top ten student misconceptions about college,” from Stanford University’s Bridge Project: 

1. I can’t afford college (most students regularly overestimated the actual cost to attend).

2. I have to be a stellar athlete or student to get financial aid (most students do receive some form of financial aid).

3. Meeting high school graduation requirements will prepare me for college (adequate preparation generally requires going beyond the minimum high school requirements).

4. Getting into college is the hardest part (for most students, completing college is the hardest part).

5. Community colleges don’t have academic standards (students usually must take and pass placement tests to qualify for college-level work).

6. It’s better to take easier classes in high school and get better grades (getting good grades in lower-level courses is not as beneficial as taking a rigorous preparatory core).

7. My senior year in high school doesn’t matter (senior year classes often determine which college classes a student is prepared to enter and succeed in when they arrive at college).

8. I don’t have to worry about my grades or the kind of classes I take until my sophomore year (a well-thought out series of courses needs to be planned and taken beginning with the early semesters in high school).

9. I can’t start thinking about financial aid until I know where I’m going to college (students need to file federal aid forms prior to when most colleges send out acceptance letters).

10. I can take whatever classes I want when I get to college (courses available may be limited by a student’s level of preparation as demonstrated by passing placement tests.)

You can read the rest of the authors’ findings by clicking on the link on this page to get the PDF.

What’s been your (or your children’s) experience with college counseling? Did it start early enough, and was it as accurate and thorough as it should have been?

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