Bill Gates Foundation Study: “Guidance Counselors College Advice Unhelpful to Students”

A 2010 study about college-bound kids — commissioned by billionaire Bill Gates — concluded the following:

A large percentage of high school graduates believe their guidance counselors provided little meaningful advice about college or careers.

“Most young adults who go on to college believe that the advice of their high school guidance counselors was inadequate and often impersonal and perfunctory,” the survey reports (The survey was conducted by Public Agenda and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)

“Most young adults who go on to college believe that the advice of their high school guidance counselors was inadequate and often impersonal an perfunctory.  When asked about their experiences with their counselors in high school, about half say that they felt like “just another face in the crowd.”

Most troubling out of this in-depth study was how many young people were less likely to select the right college… which resulted in students selecting the wrong college based on academic reputation… attending schools that were less likely to give financial aid… and going to colleges that would have little chance of helping them get a good job after graduation.

A Counseling System Under Stress

“Responses from the more than 600 young adults surveyed by Public Agenda, all of whom had begun some form of higher education, suggest that the existing high school guidance system is a perilously weak part of the nation’s efforts to increase college attendance and ramp up degree completion.”

As the survey demonstrates, the judgments young people make about their high school counselors are often harsh, considerably harsher than the judgments they make about their high school teachers or their advisers at the post-secondary level.

It is also useful to present some context about the challenges facing the counseling system nationwide. Although professional groups such as the American School Counselor Association say that a student–counselor ratio of 100 to 1 is optimal, this is far from the typical state of affairs in most public schools. In California, the ratio is closer to 1,000 students for every counselor available. In Arizona, Minnesota, Utah and the District of Columbia, the ratio is typically more than 700 to 1. Nationwide, the average is 265 to 1.

It is also important to note that advising students about college choices is just one of the many tasks that a counselor is faced with performing.  Disciplining issues, scheduling, and various other administrative mix-ups are included.  Add this all up and it’s easy to see why so many students are left with little to no help from counselors.

In response to this lack of help in selecting the right college, many parents are looking to outside sources to fill the void.  This has caused a string of private companies to pop up and offer college admission, career counseling, college research, and financial aid advice.

But like any new field, it has caused several less then ethical outfits to sprout up like weeds.

Here are a few guidelines and questions to consider when looking to a private firm for any college admission and aid needs…

Do they have happy customers?  And are those customer testimonials available for viewing?

Are they certified or endorsed by any credible organizations?

Do they pressure you to buy their service on the spot?  Or do they give you a ton of free advice and ample time to make a decision?

For more information on this topic, and many more, follow this link to the Archives.

Until next time,

Scott Weingold


Related Articles:

5 Reasons College Counseling is More Important than Ever

Why College Counseling is More Important than Ever: Part 2

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Pauline SchmielFebruary 12th, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I was aware about this already, but nonetheless there are a few beneficial bits which finalized the picture to me, thanks a lot!

ShellyApril 4th, 2011 at 9:17 am

he’s absolutely right about high school counselors. They suck. Ours should be fired. We need more help. I’ve had the free counsel from College made simple and they were pretty close on the aid info packages we got. I may use them for our other daughter in a few years. Thanks CMS!

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.