Female high school graduates lag behind males in college readiness, concludes a national survey

YouScience's new report concludes females are less prepared to enter college than men and feel more limited in their career choices.

Female high school graduates are less prepared—and feel less informed—to confidently enter college or choose a career path, concludes the latest report from YouScience, the leading college and career readiness company.

The report gathered information from 500 graduated students from the classes of 2019 to 2022 and asked them questions about their exposure to college readiness resources in high school and how confident they were in taking the next step. The results infer that female students were consistently underprepared compared to their male counterparts:

  • Students who felt prepared to make a career choice or declare a major:
    • Male: 57% | Female: 41%
  • Students who reported not being exposed to a wide variety of options:
    • Male: 29% | Female: 57%
  • Students who had a conversation with a teacher or school counselor about opportunities after high school:
    • Male: 78% | Female: 63%
  • Students who were aware that career and technical education options were available:
    • Male: 70% | Female: 50%

A possible reason why women feel limited in their career choices and are underinformed has to do with lingering stereotypes about what industries males and females are “expected” to enter after high school.

“Gender stereotypes play a strong role in both educational and career awareness and preparedness,” stated YouScience’s Student Ability report. “Our analysis shows that biases still exist and need to be addressed in order to turn the corner on the exposure and skills gap challenges.”

Using anonymized data from YouScience Discovery’s aptitude-based career guidance assessments, women’s aptitude scores were compared with their self-reported interests in various career clusters. The conclusion: They are shorting themselves on their potential in STEM-based careers. For example, the data found that females have almost four times the aptitude for computer technology careers than interest. And compared to men who have two times the aptitude for advanced manufacturing careers than interest, females clocked in at ten times more aptitude than interest.

Interest alone is not a strong enough marker for students to make a successful career decision, according to another YouScience report that focused on women in STEM.

“Interest-based tools reflect primarily what the student already knows, while aptitude measures surface known and unknown talents that are less recognized and can surprise students, teachers and parents,” states the report.

More from UB: Is higher ed to blame for lack of gender, racial equity in the workforce?

Men’s aptitude, or natural talent, is more clearly aligned with careers they are interested in, which could explain why 57% of men felt prepared to make a career choice or declare a major upon graduating high school compared to 41% of women, who clearly have high potential in STEM fields but aren’t sufficiently exposed to these resources to gain interest. In fact, 57% of women reported not being exposed to a wide variety of options for college and a career.

YouScience proposes that the best way to close these disparities among young men and women is to provide them opportunities to earn industry-recognized certifications that carry weight outside the classroom and to apply work-based learning into student curricula.

As concerning as this gender disparity might seem, YouScience’s Post Graduation Readiness Report from November concluded that a majority of students across the spectrum reported feeling unprepared for college and a career—a whopping 75% of students, to be exact. They concluded that, overall, the root of the problem is that students simply do not see a strong correlation in their school curriculum to career-based opportunities outside of the k-12 paradigm.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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