The Pandemic’s Effect on College and Career Readiness Supports

RAND policy researcher Christine Mulhern describes findings from her recent report that examined how college and career readiness supports changed during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Christine Mulhern, Policy Researcher

College and career readiness supports include people within schools, such as teachers and counselors; education technologies, such as supplemental advising platforms; specific courses, such as career technical education and college level courses; and other school and community based programs, for instance, internships or coding camps. A growing body of research indicates that these resources can help increase college attendance and completion and improve students' awareness of their career and postsecondary opportunities.

In our study, we find that supports for postsecondary transitions have changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that high school teachers play an important role in supporting postsecondary transitions. Overall, high school teachers provided fewer students with college and career readiness supports one year into the COVID-19 pandemic than just before the pandemic.

In the study, we looked at changes in teachers' responses about the frequency with which they discussed different postsecondary education and career topics with students in 2020 versus 2021. Across all seven categories, teachers were less likely to report that they discussed the topics with all or most of their students, and the largest declines were for discussions of education and career options, testing goals in relation to postsecondary interests, and soft skill experiences. This reported reduction is consistent with evidence from other studies showing that teachers faced many pandemic-related challenges in the 2020-21 school year, such as struggling to engage students, learning new technologies, and providing instruction in new environments.

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