Students considering college are more prepared than they were five years ago and often consider how difficult finding a job will be or what the pay in their career field will be, school counselors said.
Before the economic downturn, Greenwood guidance director Bill Ronk and Whiteland counselor Dave McMillan were used to seeing students who wanted to go to college but either were undecided about what to study or had plans to earn a degree based on their interests, such as art history.
Now, more students have started thinking about potential careers while they’re still in high school. They’ve researched jobs, such as in the pharmacy field or in engineering. They know that, to get jobs in those industries, degrees from schools such as Butler University or the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology can help them.
They also know that colleges’ standards are rising, and that a 3.0 GPA won’t necessarily guarantee acceptance to the school of their choice.
A growing number of students and their parents want to be sure that if they spend $100,000 to $200,000 on a college education, the investment will be worth it, the counselors said.
“I think the kids are just aware that it’s a more competitive environment out there, and you have to have something that distinguishes you from your peers if you want to have a job that is going to move you out of your mom and dad’s basement one day,” Ronk said.
Both high schools have programs in place to help students and parents with questions about applications for college and financial aid — more of which are being handled electronically.
And next year Greenwood is adding a required, semester-long course for sophomores to prepare them for college and career planning.
Students’ schedules typically are filled with basic courses in core subjects such as algebra and English as freshmen, but during their sophomore year they need to start preparing for upper-level courses that colleges want them to take.
The goal of Greenwood’s new class is to get students thinking earlier about how the courses they take in high school can prepare them for college, Ronk said.
The class also will highlight the steps students need to take when applying for college, such as the importance of college visits, which some students think they can skip, he said.
“After all, it is a place you’re going to be for the next four years,” Ronk said.
Whiteland is looking for ways to better prepare students and their families for the application process.
Earlier this year, all seniors — whether they plan to attend college or not — were required to sign up for a new electronic transcript program that lets students send their grades to colleges online.
The high school also has added more meetings for parents to get help filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and has started using social media to send reminders of application and scholarship deadlines, McMillan said.
“We’re trying to get as much communication to parents as possible,” he said.