Skip Navigation
archived information

Education and Career Planning in High School: A Longitudinal Study of School and Student Characteristics and College-Going Behaviors

A number of high schools across the country have adopted education and career planning requirements intended to help students prepare for postsecondary education and facilitate successful transitions into the labor market. By 2016, 33 states, including Arizona, required students to complete an education and/or career plan (ECP) for graduation. However, despite the widespread adoption of such requirements nationwide, there has been little research assessing how students who participate in planning experiences fare when it comes to preparing for and transitioning to postsecondary education. To fill this gap, a new REL West study sought to provide policymakers in Arizona with evidence, using a national dataset, about the education and career planning elements associated with students’ college-going behaviors.

This study examined student and counselor survey responses from a nationally representative longitudinal dataset (the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009) to determine the relationships between students’ participation in three core elements of education and career planning during high school and their subsequent attainment of key outcomes associated with the transition to college. Students who developed an education and/or career plan upon first entering high school in grade 9 were no more or less likely to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), complete a college preparatory curriculum, apply for college, or enroll in college than students who did not participate in such planning. However, when students received support from a teacher or a parent to develop their plans, and when they met with an adult in school to review the plan at least once a year, participation in planning was significantly associated with several college-going outcomes. In light of these findings, states may wish to pay close attention to how ECP policies are designed, especially with regard to the supports that students receive in the planning process.