The Effects of College Counseling on High-Achieving, Low-Income Students
NBER Working Paper No. 16359
This paper reports the results of a pilot study, using a randomized controlled trial to provide college counseling to high-achieving students from relatively poor families. We followed 107 high school seniors through the college admissions process in 2006-2007; we selected 52 of these students at random, offering them ten hours of individualized college advising with a nearby college counselor. The counseling had little or no effect on college application quality, but does seem to have influenced the choice of where the students applied to college. We estimate that students offered counseling were 7.9 percentage points more likely than students not offered counseling to enroll in colleges ranked by Barron’s as “Most Competitive”, though this effect was not statistically significant. More than one-third of the students who accepted the offer of counseling did not follow through on all of the advice they received. Going beyond the framework of the randomized experiment, our statistical analysis suggests that counseling would have had approximately twice as much effect if all students matched with counselors had followed the advice of the counselors.