Helping Students Make Informed Choices About College

Celeste Carruthers | University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Oded Gurantz | University of Missouri
Lindsay Page | Brown University

Breaking Down the Issue

  • On average, a college education translates into higher earnings and nonmonetary benefits that recover the upfront investment of time and money, but the pandemic has disrupted many students’ plans for college.
  • The cost of college rose steeply for decades but is currently holding steady or declining.
  • Students who want to go to college often fall behind in completing the necessary steps for applications, especially if they are from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • About 10 to 20% of graduating seniors who are accepted to college do not enroll by the fall after high school.

Strategies to Consider

  • Providing students more access to college counselors and setting aside time for college applications during the school day can raise college enrollment.
  • Beyond whether to go to college and how to apply, students benefit from guidance on where to apply and enroll.
  • Tracking student progress and facilitating targeted outreach and support can improve students’ likelihood of completing the application process.
  • Connecting with students during the transition between high school and college helps them fulfill their postsecondary plans.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Pushing all students to take Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment courses will not necessarily improve college readiness or enrollment.
  • Relying strictly on the experience and choices of prior cohorts may narrow the guidance that students receive about where to apply.
  • Rigid advice against taking out loans may limit a student’s options and make it more difficult to succeed in college.