Promoting Successful Transitions from Secondary to Higher Education: Implications for Career Practitioners

I attended a Roundtable presentation by Professor Richard Lapan, and Associate Professor Tim Poynton, University of Massachusetts who reported the findings of their research into personal, behavioural and environmental factors that predict successful transitions from secondary education to university or college.


On 16th and 17th May I attended the 2016 Biennial Conference of the Society of Vocational Psychologists (SVP), Integrating Theory, Research and Practice in Vocational Psychology, held at Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA.

I attended a Roundtable presentation by Professor Richard Lapan, and Associate Professor Tim Poynton, University of Massachusetts who reported the findings of their research into personal, behavioural and environmental factors that predict successful transitions from secondary education to university or college.

Not all students who aspire to a university or college education attend or go on to complete their degree. The transition points in the pathway from aspiration to degree completion are shown below.

Year 12 Transition to University or College

In a statewide study over a four year period, Lapan and Pontyn (in press) investigated factors that influenced successful transitions from aspiration to persistence.

These include:

  1. Demonstrated successful academic performance in high school.
  2. Working hard.
  3. Family support for university or college aspirations, application, enrolment, attendance, retention and persistence.
  4. Early university or college going identity and aspirations.
  5. Researching universities and colleges and application processes.

Additional factors were influential in predicting successful transitions at specific points. University or college application, enrolment, attendance, retention and persistence were also influenced by:

  1. More frequent meetings with career counsellors to define career and course preferences and goals and for assistance with university applications.
  2. Greater career and course choice certainty in Year 12 and commitment to course completion and graduation.
  3. Greater certainty about how to pay for university or college study and sources of financial support.

A greater sense of connectedness and belonging to their school influenced the likelihood of students applying for university. Experiencing a school environment where students feel safe and secure influenced university retention.

University or college characteristics were associated with student retention and persistence, including:

  1. Good student retention rate.
  2. Proportion of full-time faculty.
  3. Student to faculty ratio.

Implications of these findings for careers practice include:

  1. The need for early provision of career interventions to facilitate the early formation of university or college aspirations.
  2. Delivery of career services that develop a future orientation and recognition of the importance of developing good work and study habits.
  3. Career development programmes that provide opportunities for exploration of career and related course options.
  4. Parent/guardian involvement in student career development programmes.
  5. Opportunities for students to have several career counselling interviews with a career practitioner to facilitate career and course choice certainty, confidence and commitment.
  6. Career interventions with a focus on costs associated with university or college study, budgeting, income support and strategies and methods of paying for higher education.
  7. Career interventions that explore the characteristics of higher education institutions of interest, such as costs, retention data, student to faculty ratio, scholarship availability etc.

Reference:
Poynton,T. A. & Lapan, R. T. (in press). Aspirations, achievement and school counsellors impact on the college transition. Journal of Counseling & Development.


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