Earning a high school diploma is cconsidered one of life’s great milestones and certainly something to celebrate. It is the end of one academic chapter and for some the beginning of another. The thought of having a child continue on to college breathes new life into parents’ dreams for their son or daughter. Many high-school graduates plan to pursue a higher education, and most do. Unfortunately, however, the majority will not earn a degree. This is oftentimes due to the lack of information needed for students to successfully plan their future endeavors (Rosenbaum, Stephan & Rosenbaum, 2010).
The responsibility for providing pertinent information for graduating teens and their families falls squarely on the shoulders of high-school counselors, who are all-too-often overwhelmed with their caseloads, which typically consist of hundreds of students. Rosenbaum, Stephan and Rosenbaum (2010) reported some counselors as having an unimaginable 700 students to guide and serve. Due to this egregious ratio, students are not provided information that will help them make sound decisions about furthering their academic future.
It is important for high-school seniors to be made aware of information regarding expectations and pre-requisites of the collegiate environment. Students need to be taught the value of and understand the importance of maintaining good grades. For example, when the system works as intended, parents, teachers and/or counselors are there to relay important information about acceptable versus unacceptable grade point averages, before it is too late. Sadly, students transitioning for life after high school are often uninformed and ill prepared not giving a second thought to what is expected at the next level. Generally, they are oblivious to the fact that their educational future hinges on that all-important, high-school transcript. Although some schools accept any and all applicants, enrollees with a history of below-average grades are often forced to take remedial courses not earning even one college credit (Rosenbaum, Stephan and Rosenbaum, 2010).
Most of these degree plans do not make allowances for the remedial courses, requiring students to take summer classes. If students do not make up this time during the summer, their four-year degree plan can quickly turn into a five or six year plan. Another issue for students taking remedial classes is they may also have difficulty taking more than 12 hours at a time. The vast majority of students, eighty-six percent, have the right plan in place, but do not have the credential or skills needed. While their classmates may take upwards to 16.5 or 18 hours a semester, students in remedial courses tend to struggle with a 12-hour course load. The only way to make-up hours is by attending summer school, which more often than not, can lead to student burn-out (Lindberg, 2016).
Rosenbaum, et al. (2010), showed only 20% of students who enter community colleges, which are less expensive and have lower entrance standards, go on to finish a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA). Interestingly enough, students who attend vocational schools, and receive a certificate in a specific area of training are more likely to finish their program and have a way of making a living. Several certificate programs have higher income payoffs than those graduating from a traditional four-year college. Unfortunately, what research is showing is that we now have students with some college, no certificate or degree, and ultimately wind-up with no-payoff.
High school students who have an interest in furthering their education should also be made aware of the educational options available to them. Despite the fact that four-year college degrees are the most popular, they are not always the best option for every student seeking higher education. Research now shows that two-year degrees, vocational or certificate programs, can be just as lucrative with certificate programs increasing 22% of earnings (Rosenbaum, Stephan and Rosenbaum, 2010). In order to make an informed decision, students should be provided with information about the similarities and differences between certificate programs, associate degrees, and bachelor of art degrees and the advantages and disadvantages of all. They should also have access to any and all information that would allow them to realistically evaluate potential future outcomes of each option.
Choosing a career is a decision that will have great impact on a young person’s life. Even though money is a proven motivator when selecting a vocation, a good advisor should encourage young students to follow their hearts into the field of their choice. The key to choosing wisely is being provided with good, helpful and reliable information. Information is knowledge. Knowledge is power. The power to choose will ultimately rest in the hands of emerging young men and women who desire to make for themselves a life and a future.
Lindberg, E. (2016). How to advise high school seniors to promote successful transition. LDA Today, Vol. 3(3).
Rosenbaum, James E., Stephan, Jennifer L. & Rosenbaum, Janet E. (2010). Beyond one-size-fits-all college dreams. American Educator. Volume 34, 2-13.
About the Authors
Dr. Evie Lindberg is an Associate Professor at Oral Roberts University who trains teacher candidates to be Special Education teachers. Currently, she is the President of the Learning Disabilities Association of Oklahoma, and serves on the Board of Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of America.
Dr. Holly Rice is an Assistant Professor in Education at Cameron University. She holds a teaching certificate in the state of Oklahoma for Early Childhood PK-3, Mild-Moderate PK-12 and in the District of Columbia for Non-Categorical Special Education K-12.
Kendra Miles is a special education teacher in Oklahoma and currently in the Master Special Education program at Oral Roberts University.