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Institute of Education Sciences

How Often Do High School Students Meet With Counselors About College? Differences by Parental Education and Counselor Caseload

There are many factors that can affect students’ decisions to apply to college, such as income, school engagement, and coursework.1 Similarly, previous research has reported that students whose parents did not hold a college degree (i.e., first-generation college students) enrolled in college at a lower rate than did peers whose parents held a college degree.2 However, high school counselors may help students choose colleges and apply to them, meaning that students who meet with a counselor about college could be more likely to attend college.3 Counselors may help potential first-generation college students plan for college by providing information that continuing-generation students already have access to via their parents who had attained college degrees themselves. Despite the potential benefits of meeting with a counselor, a school's counselor caseloads may affect its students' counseling opportunities.4

What percentage of high school students met with a counselor about college? How did this percentage vary by parental education and counselor caseload?

Around 47 percent of 2009 ninth-graders were potential first-generation college students whose parents did not hold a college degree (table U1). These students met with a counselor at a lower rate than did students whose parents held a college degree. Figure 1 shows that 72 percent of students whose parents did not hold a college degree met with a counselor, compared with 76 and 82 percent of students whose parents held an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree or higher, respectively.

Figure 1. Percentage of students who met with a counselor about college in 2012–13, by average counselor caseload level at the school and parents' highest education level

NOTE: Caseload is a continuous variable based on counselor reports of the average number of students per counselor at the school. Each caseload category accounts for roughly one-third of the sample in the unweighted data. Low caseload refers to counselors responsible for 40 to 299 students, medium caseload refers to counselors responsible for 300 to 399 students, and high caseload refers to counselors responsible for 400 or more students. The category high school degree or less incudes high school diploma or GED and those who started college but did not complete a degree. Respondents who did not know whether they met with a counselor are excluded from the analyses. These represent approximately 8 percent of weighted cases. 
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Base year, First Follow-up, and 2013 update.

During the senior year of most of the cohort of 2009 ninth-graders, the average counselor caseload at schools attended by these students5 was 375 students per counselor. The average caseload at public schools was 388, and the average caseload at private schools was 202.

Students attending schools with low counselor caseloads met with a counselor about college at a higher rate than did students at schools with high counselor caseloads, when comparing students whose parents had similar attainment levels. For example, at schools with low caseloads, 79 percent of students whose parents held a high school degree or less met with a counselor about college, compared with 70 percent of these students at schools with high caseloads. This pattern is also true for students at schools with low caseloads compared with medium caseloads (i.e., 86 vs. 76 percent of students whose parents held an associate’s degree and 89 vs. 81 percent of students whose parents held a bachelor’s degree), except among students whose parents held a high school degree or less (79 percent was not statistically different from 74 percent). Finally, students whose parents held a high school degree or less met with a counselor at a lower rate than did students whose parents held a bachelor’s degree or higher in each caseload category (i.e., 79 vs. 89 percent for low caseload schools, 74 vs. 81 percent for medium caseload schools, and 70 vs. 77 percent for high caseload schools).

For more information about counselor meetings and college enrollment, check out this Data Point: High School Counselor Meetings About College, College Attendance, and Parental Education.

This blog post uses data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), a national study of more than 23,000 ninth-graders and their school counselors in fall 2009. Student sample members answered surveys between 2009 and 2016. Sample members or their parents reported on whether the student met with a counselor about college during the 2012–13 school year (most students’ 12th-grade year).

While data presented here are the most recent data available on the topic, NCES will have new data on high schoolers’ experiences in the 2020s coming soon. In particular, data from the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study of 2022 (HS&B:22), which also includes information about students’ visits to school counselors, is forthcoming.

Until those data are released, we recommend you access HSLS:09 student and counselor data to conduct your own analyses via NCES’s DataLab.


By Catharine Warner-Griffin, AnLar, and Elise Christopher, NCES

[1] See, for example, Fraysier, K., Reschly, A., and Appleton, J. (2020). Predicting Postsecondary Enrollment With Secondary Student Engagement Data. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 38(7), 882–899.

[2] Cataldi, E. F., Bennett, C. T., and Chen, X. (2018). First-Generation Students: College Access, Persistence, and Postbachelor’s Outcomes (2018-421). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

[3] Tang, A. K., and Ng, K. M. (2019). High School Counselor Contacts as Predictors of College Enrollment. Professional Counselor, 9(4), 347–357.

[4] Woods, C. S., and Domina, T. (2014). The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to-College Pipeline. Teachers College Record, 116(10), 1–30.

[5] These schools are only those sampled in the base year (i.e., students’ 2009 schools).

Education at a Glance 2023: Putting U.S. Data in a Global Context

International comparisons provide reference points for researchers and policy analysts to understand trends and patterns in national education data and are very important as U.S. students compete in an increasingly global economy.

Education at a Glance (EAG), an annual publication produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances, and progress of education systems in 38 OECD countries—including the United States—as well as a number of OECD accession and partner countries. Data presented in EAG on topics of high policy interest in the United States are also featured in NCES reports, including the Condition of Education and Digest of Education Statistics.  

The recently released 2023 edition of EAG shows that the United States is above the international average on some measures, such as funding of postsecondary education, but lags behind in others, such as participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC). The 2023 report also features a Spotlight on Vocational Education and Training as well as interactive data dashboards on ECEC systems, upper secondary education systems, and educational support for Ukrainian refugees.

Spotlight on Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Each EAG edition centers on a particular theme of high policy relevance in OECD countries. The focus of this year’s report is VET programs, which look very different in the United States compared with many other OECD countries. Unlike in many OECD countries, most high schools in the United States do not offer a separate, distinct vocational track at the upper secondary (high school) level. Instead, vocational education is available as optional career and technical education (CTE) courses throughout high school. Regardless of whether they choose to take CTE courses, all U.S. students who complete high school have the same potential to access postsecondary programs. In other OECD countries, selecting a vocational track at this level may lead to different postsecondary opportunities. Check out the 2023 EAG Spotlight for an overview of VET programs across OECD countries.

Highlights From EAG 2023

Below is a selection of topics from the EAG report highlighting how key education benchmarks in the United States compare with other OECD countries.

Postsecondary Educational Attainment

The percentage of U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree increased by 13 percentage points between 2000 and 2022, reaching 51 percent (the OECD average in 2022 was 47 percent) (Table A1.3).1 In this age group in the United States, higher percentages of women than men attained a postsecondary degree (56 vs. 46 percent) (Table A1.2). Across OECD countries, the average postsecondary educational attainment gap between 25- to 34-year-old men and women in 2022 (13 percentage points) was wider than the gap in the United States (10 percentage points). In the United States, the postsecondary attainment rate for 25- to 34-year-old men was 5 percentage points higher than the OECD average, and the attainment rate for women was 3 percentage points higher than the OECD average.

Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree, by OECD country: 2022

[click to enlarge image]

Data include a small percentage of adults with lower levels of attainment.
Year of reference differs from 2022. Refer to the source table for more details.
SOURCE: OECD (2023), Table A1.3. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes.

International Student Enrollment

The United States is the top OECD destination country for international students enrolling in postsecondary education. In 2021, some 833,204 foreign students were enrolled in postsecondary programs in the United States, representing 13 percent of the international education market share (Table B6.1).2 In comparison, the United Kingdom had the second highest number of international students enrolled in postsecondary education in 2021, representing 9 percent of the international education market share. Interestingly, when examining enrollment trends over the past 3 years (2019 to 2021), foreign student enrollment decreased by 143,649 students (15 percent) in the United States but increased by 111,570 students (23 percent) in the United Kingdom. International student enrollment during these years was likely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which had large impacts on global travel in 2020 and 2021.

Education Spending

U.S. spending on education is relatively high across all levels of education compared with the OECD average. The largest difference is in postsecondary spending, where the United States spent $36,172 per full-time postsecondary student in 2020, the second highest amount after Luxembourg ($53,421) and nearly double the OECD average ($18,105) (Table C1.1).3 This spending on postsecondary education amounts to 2.5 percent of the U.S. GDP, higher than the OECD average (1.5 percent) (Table C2.1). These total expenditures include amounts received from governments, students, and all other sources.

Figure 2. Expenditures per full-time equivalent student, by education level and OECD country: 2020

[click to enlarge image]

1 Year of reference differs from 2020. Refer to the source table for more details.
SOURCE: OECD (2023), Table C1.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes.

High School Completion Rate

The United States has a higher upper secondary (high school) completion rate than most other OECD countries. In 2021, some 87 percent of U.S. students completed their high school program in the expected timeframe, compared with the OECD average of 72 percent (Table B3.1).

Early Childhood Education

The level of participation in early childhood education programs in the United States is below the OECD average. In 2021, average enrollment rates across OECD countries were 72 percent for 3-year-olds, 87 percent for 4-year-olds, and 84 percent for 5-year-olds (Table B2.1). In contrast, enrollment rates for students of these ages in the United States were 30 percent for 3-year-olds, 50 percent for 4-years-olds, and 81 percent for 5-year-olds.  


Browse the full EAG 2023 report to see how the United States compares with other countries on these and other important education-related topics.


By RaeAnne Friesenhahn, AIR, and Cris De Brey, NCES

[1] EAG data for the year 2000 can be accessed via the online OECD Stat database.

[2] Unrounded data in Excel format can be accessed via the StatLink located below each table.

[3] Expenditure in national currencies was converted into equivalent USD by dividing the national currency figure by the purchasing power parity (PPP) index for GDP. For more details on methodology see Annex 2 and Annex 3.

Announcing the Condition of Education 2020 Release

NCES is pleased to present The Condition of Education 2020, an annual report mandated by the U.S. Congress that summarizes the latest data on education in the United States. This report uses data from across the center and from other sources and is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress. This year’s report includes 47 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons.

The data show that 50.7 million students were enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools (prekindergarten through grade 12) and approximately 5.7 million students were enrolled in private elementary and secondary schools in fall 2017, the most recent year for which data were available. In school year 2017–18, some 85 percent of public high school students graduated on time with a regular diploma. This rate was similar to the previous year’s rate. About 2.2 million, or 69 percent, of those who completed high school in 2018, enrolled in college that fall. Meanwhile, the status dropout rate, or the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who were not enrolled in school and did not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, was 5.3 percent in 2018.

Total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 2018 stood at 16.6 million students. The average net price of college for first-time, full-time undergraduates attending 4-year institutions was $13,700 at public institutions, $27,000 at private nonprofit institutions, and $22,100 at private for-profit institutions (in constant 2018–19 dollars). In the same year, institutions awarded 1.0 million associate’s degrees, 2.0 million bachelor’s degrees, 820,000 master’s degrees, and 184,000 doctor’s degrees.

Ninety-two percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the United States had a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2018. In comparison, the average rate for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries was 85 percent. Some 49 percent of these individuals in the United States had obtained a postsecondary degree, compared with the OECD average of 44 percent. Similar to previous years, annual median earnings in 2018 were higher for 25- to 34-year-olds with higher levels of education. In 2018, U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s or higher degree earned 66 percent more than those with a high school diploma or equivalent.

The Condition of Education includes an Executive Summary, an At a Glance section, a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources, all of which provide additional background information. Each indicator includes references to the source data tables used to produce the indicator.

As new data are released throughout the year, indicators will be updated and made available on The Condition of Education website

In addition to publishing The Condition of Education, NCES produces a wide range of other reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public about significant trends and topics in education. More information about the latest activities and releases at NCES may be found on our website or at our social media sites on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.


By James L. Woodworth, NCES Commissioner

NCES Releases Two Short Reports on Shortened School Weeks and High School Start Times

Recently, NCES released two short analyses using data from the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey.

The first report focuses on the practice of shortened school weeks in U.S. public schools. About 1.9 percent of public schools in the United States operate on a shortened-week schedule (less than 5 days per week). Some of the reasons school districts operate schools on such schedules include attracting high-quality teachers and reducing costs. The report finds that shortened school weeks are more prevalent at rural, western, and smaller schools, and this practice varies by state.

The second report focuses on high school start times. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get a sufficient amount of sleep. The report looks at average public high school start times by various school characteristics and state. Findings include the following:

  • A higher percentage of public high schools in cities (26 percent) than of those in suburban (18 percent), town (13 percent), and rural (11 percent) areas reported a school starting time of 8:30 a.m. or later.
  • A higher percentage of charter schools (24 percent) than of traditional public schools (17 percent) reported a school starting time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

Both reports are based on data collected by NCES as part of the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). NTPS is a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals from public and private schools, and for the public sector, NTPS is state representative. NTPS uses scientifically proven methods to select a small sample of school faculty to provide information about major education issues related to school and staffing characteristics while minimizing the burden on teacher and principal communities. Without the cooperation and participation of districts and their teachers and principals, reports such as these could not be produced.


By Cris de Brey, NCES

The High School and Beyond Midlife Study

Over the years, NCES has conducted several longitudinal studies that collect information on a representative cohort of high school students and follow the students’ outcomes through postsecondary education and/or entry into the workforce. These studies have led to important research on the educational trajectories of young adults.

But what happens after that? A recent data collection provides some answers by following up with survey participants later in life.

In 2014–15, the High School and Beyond (HS&B) Midlife Study collected information from a cohort of individuals in their early- to mid-50s, all of whom had first completed an HS&B survey in 1980 when they were in high school. By linking high school survey data with information collected 35 years later, this new collection offers an exciting opportunity to conduct research on the long-term outcomes of education.

Some preliminary research using the HS&B Midlife Study shows that high school and college experiences continue to play important roles in individuals’ lives into midlife.


Education (Grodsky and Doren 2015)

  • Between the ages of 28 and 50, a majority of cohort members (61 percent) enrolled in some sort of formal education, and in the process, they earned higher level degrees. By age 50,
    • 12 percent had earned a master’s, graduate, or professional degree, compared with 4 percent at age 28.
    • 36 percent had earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree, compared with 27 percent at age 28.
    • 36 percent had earned only a high school diploma or less, compared with 54 percent at age 28.
  • Gaps in educational attainment by gender, race/ethnicity, and parental education observed in early adulthood remained largely unchanged in midlife, with a notable exception:
    • A higher proportion of cohort adults whose parents had higher levels of education enrolled in graduate school between the ages of 28 and 50, which may be related to high school academic achievement (e.g., grades, test scores).


Labor Force Participation (Bosky 2019)

  • Men and women who took college preparatory math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or higher) had lower unemployment at midlife, even after controlling for whether they completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition,
    • Women who earned higher GPAs were employed at higher rates.
    • Men who scored higher on math achievement tests were employed at higher rates.
  • At midlife, the percentage of workers who held jobs with low pay and/or no health or retirement benefits was higher for women than for men, even among workers with similar levels of educational attainment. This gender gap was smaller among people who had taken advanced math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or above).
  • Across levels of education, higher percentages of women than men experienced economic insecurity at midlife, as indicated by their perceived ability to pay for a large unexpected expense in the near-term. The percentage of women experiencing midlife economic insecurity was lower for those with a college degree than for those without a college degree. Also,
    • For people without a college degree, higher math achievement test scores were associated with lower rates of economic insecurity, even after controlling for work, health, and family characteristics at midlife.
    • A lower percentage of women who had taken college preparatory math coursework in high school were economically insecure at midlife, regardless of whether they had completed a bachelor’s degree.
    • A lower percentage of married women than unmarried women were economically insecure. This gap was largest among women without a college degree.



  • Adolescents who took coursework that was more advanced in high school reported better health and physical functioning at midlife (Carroll et al. 2017).
  • Earning a bachelor’s degree by age 28 predicted body weight at midlife. This relationship differed by sex (Pattison 2019).
  • Mortality risk was higher among the following groups:
    • People who had not taken college preparatory math coursework in high school.
    • People with more frequent absences from high school. (Warren et al. 2017)

Survey data from the HS&B Midlife Study are now available for researchers. In order to protect the privacy of survey respondents, the dataset is available only to researchers who have a restricted-use data license. For more information about the survey, visit, and for more information on the restricted-use data program, visit  


Funding Acknowledgement

The 2014–2015 HS&B Midlife Study was supported by a combination of government and nongovernment sources, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant 2012-10-27), the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education (Grant R305U140001), and the National Science Foundation (Grants HRD1348527 and HRD1348557). It also benefited from direct funding from NORC at the University of Chicago and support provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to the University of Texas at Austin (R24-HD042849), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (P2C-HD047873), and the University of Minnesota (P2C-HH041023).



Bosky, A.L. (2019). Academic Preparation in High School and Gendered Exposure to Economic Insecurity at Midlife (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Carroll, J.M., Muller, C., Grodsky, E., and Warren, J.R. (2017). Tracking Health Inequalities from High School to Midlife. Social Forces, 96(2): 591–628. doi: 10.1093/sf/sox065.

Grodsky, E., and Doren, C. (2015). Coming in to Focus: Education and Stratification at Midlife. Paper presented at the Invited Lecture at Columbia University, March 26, 2015, New York.

Pattison, E. (2019). Educational Stratification and Obesity in Midlife: Considering the Role of Sex, Social Class, and Race/Ethnicity (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Warren, J.R., Milesi, C., Grigorian, K., Humphries, M., Muller, C., and Grodsky, E. (2017). Do Inferences About Mortality Rates and Disparities Vary by Source of Mortality Information? Annals of Epidemiology, 27(2): 121–127. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2016.11.003.


By Chandra Muller, University of Texas at Austin, and Elise Christopher, NCES