Preparing More Students for Success in College
According to Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce, nearly all of the jobs created since 2010 have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind, illustrating that postsecondary choices are as important as completing high school. Yet there are deep gaps in college-going patterns across Massachusetts. As shown in DESE’s Success after High School District Analysis Review Tools, of the state’s 2008 high school graduates, 36% earned a postsecondary degree within six years; this falls to 18% for African-American students, 12% for Hispanic/Latino students and 15% for low income students. How can we prepare more students for success in college?
One strategy is supporting students in the transition to college. Students transitioning to college may require intensive and ongoing support from a knowledgeable relative, teacher, or community member. While all students benefit from these supports, the coaching relationships can be essential for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. A coach provides personal guidance throughout the year and prepares the student to navigate, increasingly independently, through to college graduation. They provide support in life skills, study skills, help-seeking strategies and academic skills to connect students to campus resources, navigate the financial aid process and guide students in setting goals. These components of college transition coaching are available through Success Boston, open to students from Boston Public Schools.
Another strategy is navigating the college search with high school students. Schools and community organizations offer resources on finding a good college fit and completing an application, filling out the FAFSA and writing a college essay. There are college fairs, college visiting days, Accuplacer field trips and other events throughout the year. And mentors can encourage students to take the most challenging courses they can in high school: refer to MassCore, the state-recommended program of study, for more.
Last, mentors can build a college-going foundation over many years, starting in middle school and even elementary school. Many schools teach college readiness across all grades and offer college awareness events for families. Most importantly, mentors hold high expectations for students, let them know when they’re doing well, and talk about how to be even more successful next time.
Organizations across the state offer innovative programs that help prepare students for college. Some services even meet a student’s unique situation: students whose first language is not English; first-generation college-going students; undocumented students; and students in racial or ethnic minority groups.
· Gear Up Massachusetts works to increase the number of low-income students succeeding in postsecondary education from the Commonwealth’s most impoverished areas.
· American Student Assistance College Planning Services provides personal guidance for students and adults planning to attend college, and searching and applying for scholarships and financial aid.
· MetroWest College Planning Center provides outreach, training, mentoring and advising to connect with youth and non-traditional adult learners in the region and guide them to higher education.
· 100 Males to College: Brotherhood for College Success works to increase college access, enrollment, retention, and success for low-income males and males of color (and particularly young, low-income Latino and African American men) so that their prospects for success in college and career are more attainable.
· Commonwealth Commitment helps students save about 40 percent of the cost of a traditional bachelor’s degree if they attend college full time and graduate within four and a half years.
Together we can support Massachusetts students to reach higher for college success – for their benefit and for the future of the Commonwealth.