Prepared (Mostly) for College

Survey of those who graduated from high school in 2021 and took the ACT finds students did prepare for college, but they had to do so in different ways.

February 28, 2022
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Students who graduated from high school in 2021 engaged in activities to prepare for college, but some students missed out on key experiences, according to a new survey by ACT being released today.

ACT surveyed thousands of students who took its test and graduated last year; 2,354 are included in the results. ACT published a report on the results, along with the survey.

The students answered questions about seven activities that generally are considered part of preparedness to go to college. For each of the activities, the students could answer “Yes,” “No, but they planned to before the pandemic” or “No, and they hadn’t planned to.” “Yes” was the most popular answer over all, but the second most popular was “No, and they hadn’t planned to.”

Activity Yes No, but they planned to before the pandemic No, and they had no plans to
Visited a college campus 67% 20% 13%
Attended a college fair to learn about specific colleges 45% 19% 37%
Participated in Free Application for Federal Student Aid workshop 39% 13% 49%
Talked with a teacher, counselor or college representative about applying to a specific college or colleges 73% 9% 18%
Talked with a teacher, counselor, or college representative about applying for financial aid 65% 11% 25%
Talked with a teacher, counselor, or college representative about which college major might be a good fit 57% 11% 32%
Talked with a college representative who visited their high school 44% 15% 41%

The percentage of students who didn’t visit a campus or attend a college fair—two activities that usually attract many students—and who said they would have done so but for the pandemic, was particularly high, the report noted.

“The more in-person learning a student had, the lower the number of plans disrupted by the pandemic, after we held other variables constant,” the report said. “Students who had more in-person learning might have experienced fewer changes in school, with support from teachers and counselors and the availability of in-person events in school or the school district.”

The report also noted that, “after controlling for other variables, taking college credit courses increased the chance of participating in five out of the seven college preparation activities, including visiting a college campus, talking with a college representative who visited their high school, and talking with a teacher, counselor, or college representative about applying to a specific college or colleges, about applying for financial aid, and about which college major might be a good fit.”

Further, the report found that Black students “were more likely to participate in six out of the seven college preparation activities (except for the activity of visiting a college campus), when we held other variables constant. Black students’ engagement in these activities did not appear to be disrupted by the pandemic.”

But students from low-income family backgrounds, Latinx students and Asian students were more likely to report higher numbers of activities that were disrupted by the pandemic.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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