When it comes to a student’s success, the earlier the start, the better. A clear vision and plan for the future is key to a student’s grit and perseverance. Yet many students — especially students of color and low-income students — face a number of obstacles including lack of school resources, fiscal mismanagement, disorganization and related issues including a low sense of belonging or self-esteem. Beginning to advise students in middle school and continuing through high school and college can help students overcome these issues and have a major impact on their likelihood of successfully finishing college.

Of the more than three million students who graduate from high school annually, nearly half will head to college. Sadly, only 60 percent of them will graduate. One reason is that students may not be properly prepared. Many begin college taking the wrong classes, or discover that they didn’t learn study skills, time management or self-organization in high school. 

Starting early to build awareness of college and career choices serves to guide students and keep them on track to finish high school and graduate ready for college. Brianna is a student who joined College Success Foundation’s structured curriculum in middle school. This encouraged her to develop a college-going mindset. Advisors continued to support her throughout high school by helping her prepare for college, think about what colleges would be the best fit for her and find a community of support. They also helped her apply for scholarships which allowed her to graduate from college free of debt.

Today, Brianna is a University of Washington graduate and works as an advisor to middle school students. “If it wasn’t for CSF, I wouldn’t have been as prepared or aware of what to expect in high school and college,” she says. “It started me off on the right track and brought me full circle to make an impact in other students’ lives.”

There are many complicated reasons why students don’t finish college, but encouraging and supporting students’ college and career aspirations earlier is one remedy we can all employ.