Industry leaders say their number-one challenge is a shrinking talent pool, but making college and career decisions intimidates many high school graduates, according to a poll released Monday.
A startling three-quarters of high school grads say they do not feel prepared to make these important choices about their futures, according to a survey of 500 students from the classes of 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 conducted by YouScience, an integrated college and career readiness platform. Here’s a look at more of the students’ responses:
- 62% say college and career readiness is one of their school’s responsibilities.
- 41% felt unprepared to make a career choice or declare a college major at graduation.
- 42% lacked confidence or were only slightly confident in their chosen career or education; 33% felt only moderately confident.
- 37% of the graduates—regardless of their current education or career—are still not sure they are where they want to be.
- 30% were not following any planned educational or career path.
“Education leaders and industry must come together to help our students better understand themselves and their opportunities beyond high school,” said Edson Barton, founder and CEO of YouScience. “Career guidance and exposure are a critical part of student development. We need to provide this support as early as eighth grade, beginning with helping students understand their natural aptitudes and talents and how that translates to career fit.”
Another key finding is that more than half of the graduates said that their family and friends had the greatest impact on their decision-making. As education leaders know, family involvement is crucial, but this can also have its limitations.
“We need to showcase career opportunities beyond the obvious,” Barton added. “If students rely on family and friends for direction, they can be limited in their dreams and fail to fulfill their potential. In large part, our talent gap is also a career exposure gap.”
College and career decisions in more detail
The survey also revealed varying levels of college and career preparation across K-12. A large majority of the least confident students reported being less often exposed to career options in high school and having had limited discussions with teachers or counselors about post-graduation opportunities.
The most confident students, on the other hand, reported ample exposure to potential careers and have had as many as 20 conversations with educators about life after high school. And only a handful of graduates reported taking college- and career-aptitude tests even though nearly 80% of the students say they would be more engaged in learning if they had deeper knowledge about their own aptitudes and opportunities.