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Report: More High School Grads Rejecting 4-Year College Pathway

A higher percentage of high school graduates are turning away from pursuing a four-year college degree compared to prior years, according to a new report.

For the report, Part I of YouScience’s "2023 Post-Graduation Readiness Report," a survey was conducted online nationally and polled more than 500 2023 high school graduates. Results showed that 55% of respondents planned to opt out of a four-year degree, compared to over 48% for the years 2019-22.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they were pursuing career paths other than a four-year degree, with 27% attending a two-year college, 13% working in a career field, 9% having no career plan, 8% taking time off or taking a gap year, 7% attending trade or technical schools, and 5% entering military service.

A large percentage (65%) also said they had little communication with guidance counselors or teachers about options following high school, and over 51% said their families were influencing their career decisions. While 33% were aware of future career options, nearly a third were unaware of career and technical education (CTE) programs.

Overall, 83% said they wished they better understood their natural aptitudes for career choices — they would have applied themselves better to their learning if they had.

"Empowering students with a deeper understanding of their unique strengths enables them to proactively plan their future and make well informed post-graduation decisions," said Edson Barton, founder and CEO of YouScience. "Our research highlights the urgency of providing students with more individualized guidance and exposure to diverse pathways. By arming our students with aptitude-based guidance and insight into a wider variety of potential careers. earlier and more effectively, we can instill the confidence needed to navigate through high school, postsecondary and career, and ultimately set them up for future success."

Based on the survey, YouScience made the following recommendations for helping guide student choices after graduation:

  • Use assessments that measure aptitude and interest;

  • Make collaborative planning available;

  • Encourage and use interdisciplinary teaching strategies;

  • Make career-connected learning available;

  • Find and use education-to-career programs;

  • Introduce and counsel students about accepted industry certifications and how to obtain them; and

  • Make work-based learning, internships, and apprenticeships available.

The company said Part II of the report, with more findings, will be available in the next few months.

The full report is available from YouScience here.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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