- Three-fourths of high school graduates say they were moderately, slightly or not at all prepared to make college or career decisions after graduation. Specifically, 57% said they had five or less conversations with high school teachers and counselors about their post-high school plans, according to a survey recently released by YouScience, a company that gives students career guidance.
- The survey, which had over 500 respondents who graduated high school between 2019 and 2022, also found that 30% were not following any planned educational or career path.
- To reduce uncertainty about post graduation plans and add purpose to high schoolers' education experience, K-12 schools could offer more opportunities for career exploration and include real-world career skills in classroom lessons, said YouScience Co-Founder and CEO Edson Barton.
Barton said while high schools do offer certain career-focused classes such as business, computer and technical courses, schools could be more explicit about the connections between what a student is learning in class and how that knowledge is applied in certain jobs.
"What I found through the years really is the fact that students are asking the right questions," Barton said. "We're just not providing them the right answers for their questions. And what that question is — the question they ask every single day almost — is, ‘Why am I learning this?’"
Being more intentional in connecting lessons with careers, rather than having separate career-oriented and academic courses, can improve student engagement, graduation rates and clearer postsecondary pathways, Barton said.
"I've come to believe that that question of why am I learning this today is really a cry for help," he said.
Research supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released in September also raises concerns about high schoolers' preparedness for postsecondary life. That study included 11 focus groups and a survey of 1,675 high school graduates between ages 18-30 who decided not to attend college or dropped out of a 2- or 4-year college program.
Study results show only 30% of graduates said high school prepared them "extremely" or "very well" for life after graduation.
"Results indicate that high school provided important social skills, but it did not prepare this audience for ‘real world’ needs such as how to get and keep a job, how to do taxes, and establish/maintain good credit, let alone how to succeed in college," the report said.
Additionally, research by the American Institutes for Research found exposure to advanced coursework in high school contributed to improved postsecondary outcomes, as well as supported educational equity.