The New York City public high school graduation rate is up to an all-time high of 76%, according to new education department data. Late last year the city also announced progress in two related areas: the percent of students meeting college readiness standards increased three points to 49%, and a record 59% of graduating seniors enrolled in college, vocational or public service programs.
While the City should be commended, it’s important to consider these gains in the context of a larger goal: students’ ultimate success in college and careers. Such perspective is particularly important when thinking about students from low-income backgrounds, for whom college success—not just college admission—can help break the cycle of poverty in families and communities.
The odds that a student from a low-income background will thrive in college hinges greatly on whether the school they choose is aligned with their interests and needs, academically, personally, and financially. Since most New York City high schools have hundreds of students for each guidance counselor, it’s difficult for counselors to provide the individualized assistance that students need in order to make a well-informed college choice. With more students than ever heading to college, what better time than now for the City to invest in more guidance counselors?
In the meantime, the City’s limited progress underscores the importance of the college advising work we do at Breakthrough New York. Among the many services we provide to each of our students over 10 years is individualized guidance during the college selection process to ensure they go to a school where they will thrive.
Starting the summer before students’ senior year of high school, they meet one-on-one with our staff to determine what colleges they should consider and create target school lists—complete with “safety,” “best fit,” and “reach” schools.
Then the application process begins. Each student gets a college access mentor who helps them with every step, including personal statements, essays, interview prep, and the applications themselves. We also hold financial aid seminars for students and parents, where they fill out the FAFSA and learn how they can make their college education as affordable as possible.
Additionally, at our annual college fairs our high school students meet with representatives from many different types of colleges, and on the college visits we organize each semester they get to experience what it’s like to be on various campuses, including historically black colleges and women’s colleges.
We’re proud that 100% of our students enroll in four-year colleges, but we don’t stop there. We provide support throughout college—including monthly check-in calls with mentors and internship placements—to ensure our students graduate and are prepared to enter careers.