Every year, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) surveys thousands of admissions professionals to produce their State of College Admissions report.
From Deans of Admissions to High School Guidance counselors and everyone in between, NACAC studies the changing trends in all aspects of college admissions: acceptance rates, what colleges deem most important, the use of waitlists, college preparedness and more. And every year, we dig into the report to see what we can learn and, more importantly, what parents need to learn to help better prepare their students for this process.
As always, the 2015 report was full important information, but there was one piece of data that stood out for me among the rest. Not because it was more important than anything else, nor because it was particularly surprising. Rather, because the people who need to know about it the most – parents! – aren’t in the viewing audience of this report. And this one piece of data affects them more than anyone else.
So, to spare you the time of reading that very long report, I’m bringing the info to you (and I encourage you to share this with your friends/neighbors/family/anyone with a student in high school, or starting high school in the near future):
On average, public school counselors spent 22 percent of their time on postsecondary counseling in 2014, while their private school counterparts spent 55 percent of their time on college counseling.
Why is this important?
It’s not because private school students get better support in the college admissions process. That shouldn’t be surprising; that very fact alone is why many parents opt to send their students to private schools. (If anything, the surprise is that private school guidance counselors only spend 55% of their time focused on college counseling!)
It’s important because 22% is not a lot of time! And 22% is what most students can count on. And even worse, in my experience of talking to parents every single day, many public school parents assume that it is much, much higher.
When it comes to preparing students for college, this assumption can be dangerous. It means that parents don’t take charge of college prep until something happens that forces their hand. Something like missing a deadline (it happens more than you can imagine!), or trying to get an appointment with a guidance counselor in 12th grade and being unable to. And oftentimes, that happens very late in the process, meaning their student is behind.
The scary truth is that most guidance counselors do not have the capacity to provide individualized college counseling to every student. With an average ratio of 476 students to every guidance counselor (a ratio that is getting worse every year), it is physically impossible, despite their best efforts and intentions, to provide individualized college guidance to students.
And that means that parents must take things into their own hands. And do so early.
So here’s the big takeaway I hope all parents, well, take away from this report:
Do not wait to be contacted by the school about college preparation.
And do not assume that your student is getting guidance in school, especially in 9th and 10th grade when, yes, this process should begin!
If you want your student to maximize his or her opportunities for college, you must advocate for him or her and forge your own path: talk to other parents, talk to experts, start researching colleges and get an understanding of their process, read books… Whatever your process, just arm yourself with as much information as you can (again, early!) so you can guide your student and yourself, and ensure they are making the best decisions for their future college applications.
There are support options out there (private counselors like us, college counselors in school, friends, family, etc.) and you should absolutely lean on them! But you should be at the center of this process with your students, and bring in those other resources once you know they are needed.
Need some help getting started? Check out these resources:
- 4 Questions To Determine If Your Student’s Needs Are Being Met By Their High School Guidance Counselor
- 3 College App Tips To Help Students Overcome Competitive Acceptance Rates
- College Applications: “Too Many Cooks” In Your Child’s Kitchen
- College Application Planning Tips For High School Freshmen
- College Application Planning Tips For High School Sophomores
- College Application Planning Tips For High School Juniors
- College Application Planning Tips For High School Seniors