A new survey of 28,000 high school seniors found more than one in four changed their life plans during the pandemic.
In 2019, 25% of students planned to attend a two-year college; now down to 19%.
Jennifer Wilka, executive director of YouthTruth, a nonprofit based in San Francisco specializing in surveying students, said the disruption was more pronounced for certain groups.
“There were many, many more differences for certain groups of students,” Wilka reported. “Including Hispanic or Latinx students, Black or African American students, LGBTQ+ boys, and students attending high poverty schools.”
Compared with 2019, fewer kids said they want to go to community college, more LGBTQ+ students said they considered dropping out, and more seniors said they are unsure of their next move. The survey found financial stress played a big part, as did battles with anxiety and depression.
Wilka pointed out many students are weighed down by grief and struggled to adapt to distance learning.
“It feels to them as if time has stopped,” Wilka explained. “They have lost their study skills, a lot of them have lost focus, lost motivation, you know, lost, lost people that they cared about. So those absolutely are trends that come through loud and clear.”
The survey found fewer kids are connecting with school counselors these days to talk about college or financial aid. Wilka would like states to better fund schools, so they can beef up their counseling staff and offer more targeted interventions for groups of students having a hard time getting back on track.
Support for this reporting was provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.