Students at high schools with large low-income populations could be at a disadvantage when applying to college because of a little-known document that’s part of the process: each high school’s “school profile.”
School profiles offer colleges a quick way to get a sense of the applicant’s school and community. They include information such as the school’s size and racial and socioeconomic makeup; the grade point averages and college-admissions exam scores of its senior class; and its grading scale, graduation rate, and what kinds of advanced courses are available.
This randomly chosen profile from a high school in Pennsylvania offers an example of the thumbnail portraits colleges typically see. Schools aren’t required to create profiles, but most do to provide an easily accessible self-portrait for colleges and their communities.
It turns out that those profiles are tougher for colleges to find at low-income schools than at wealthier ones. A new data-collection project by the National Association for College Admission Counseling has found that high schools with wealthier student populations are more likely to post their profiles online than schools with large shares of low-income students.
Take a look at the table below. The highlighted numbers at the bottom show the correlation between the income level of a school’s population and the likelihood that it will post its profiles online.
NACAC, which represents high school counselors and college admissions officers, undertook the analysis in part because its members were interested in seeing examples of other schools’ profiles, said David Hawkins, the organization’s executive director for educational content and policy.
The group assembled 1,264 profiles on a special page of its website. Separately, it drew on the nationally representative sample of respondents from its annual counseling-trends survey of 2,251 schools to get a sense of how often schools post their profiles online, Hawkins said.
It found clear patterns based on schools’ size and their students’ income level.
A school’s profile can play an especially important role in the admissions process when it embraces nontraditional practices. If a school grades by performance assessment, for instance, including that information in its profile would be important in helping a college admissions officer evaluate a student’s application, he said.
If a school doesn’t post its profile online, it doesn’t mean colleges could never see those profiles. Often, colleges reach out to a school counselor or administrator to get a school’s profile when they receive an application or serious expression of interest from a student at a school they’re not familiar with, Hawkins said. And students who’ve had enough support from a counselor or savvy parent know to ask their schools to send profiles to colleges.
But making colleges have to hunt down school profiles—disproportionately at low-income schools—can’t be terribly helpful to the cause of expanding college access to groups of students who’ve traditionally been underrepresented on campus.
A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.