Press Release

Survey finds gap between college aspirations and future preparedness

Contact: Hannah Bartlebaugh
YouthTruth Student Survey
415– 391-3070 ext. 171

SAN FRANCISCO – Only 50 percent of American high school students feel academically prepared for college-level classes, according to new data released today by San Francisco-based nonprofit YouthTruth.  The finding comes from a recent analysis of student perception survey data from over 55,000 high school students across 21 states gathered between September 2015 and December 2016.

Experiences also differ slightly by students’ self-reported race/ethnicity: Asian, black or African-American, and Hispanic or Latino students were slightly more likely to feel that their school has helped them develop the skills and knowledge they will need for college level classes. Fifty six percent of Asian students, 53 percent of black or African-American students and 52 percent of Hispanic or Latino students reported that they felt academically prepared for college level courses, compared to just 50 percent of white students and 46 percent of multi-racial students.

The student survey findings also highlight the gap between goals and expectations: Of the students surveyed, 84 percent reported that they wanted to attend college after high school, but only 68 percent of students actually planned on doing so.

 “Students’ perceptions are their reality, so it’s important to understand how prepared students are feeling for life after high school,” said YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Vorse Wilka. “In early 2016 we released findings about students’ perceptions of college and career readiness, and students’ perceptions of their own readiness have not shifted dramatically since then. This data shows us that there is still much work to be done to help prepare students for college and career. We hope that these findings will help spark conversations and help schools across the country recognize opportunities to better prepare students for a successful future.

The student survey findings also revealed that while students find support services to be helpful, most aren’t accessing them. Among the 55,000 students surveyed, just 19 percent received counseling about how to pay for college. However, of those who received counseling about how to pay for college 63 percent found it to be helpful. For schools, this is an area where improvement could directly help students successfully select a college and complete college – since financial aid and overall cost are among the top factors considered when choosing a college, according to a  study by the New America Foundation, and since college affordability is linked to college persistence, according to a study by MDRC.

Founded in 2008, YouthTruth works with schools across the country to use student, family, and school staff feedback to inform educational improvements. Utilizing sophisticated technology to analyze student feedback against a large library of aggregate data, YouthTruth also consults and informs school leaders to make meaningful decisions on other important issues such as social-emotional learning, school safety and bullying, and academic rigor.

About YouthTruth Student Survey:

YouthTruth is a national nonprofit that harnesses student and stakeholder perceptions to help educators accelerate improvements. Through validated survey instruments and tailored advisory services, YouthTruth partners with schools, districts, states, and foundations to enhance learning for all students. Founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), YouthTruth has surveyed over a half-million of students across 37 states and four countries, including Russia, Thailand, and Singapore. For more information, visit  

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