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Understanding College Preparedness in California’s Central Valley High School Students


This study sought to understand the college preparedness of high school students, and specifically prospective first-generation students, in one high school district in California’s Central Valley, as well as these students’ access to college preparatory resources the role of a high school counselor in the college preparation process. The sample consisted of 490 high school students and 21 high school counselors from the same district. I used both questionnaires and interviews to capture the perspectives of students and the staff members who work closely with the students on college preparation processes. I compared data across these mixed methods in order to identify strategies that work for both the students and counselors during their college preparation process. My findings of the surveys from both the students and high school counselors, as well as the individual interviews with the high school counselors, reiterate what previous literature has taught us: equity matters. Unequal resources result in unequal access to college. Along these lines, the vast majority of students do intend to go to college, and yet, “most do not feel adequately prepared.” This number is more worrisome in first-generation students as counselors shared their biggest challenges with supporting this group of students is finding time to work with students on college preparedness. The perceived barriers related to college preparedness stemmed from the following themes: lack of exposure to college information earlier in high school, lack of parental involvement, a need for additional outreach to families, and the necessity of support from high school counselors. My findings suggest a call for restructuring the college preparation model within the school district and providing resources to better support both the students and counselors.

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