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Who Benefits from Guidance Counseling

How can students of low social origin be supported to enter higher education after high school? There are several counseling programs in Germany that aim to support students on their way to university - but do they benefit all students equally? In the recently published study "Who Benefits from Guidance Counseling? Insights into Native and Immigrant Students of Low Social Origin", Irena Pietrzyk, Marita Jacob (both University of Cologne) and WZB researcher Melinda Erdmann investigated the effects of individual and intensive counseling on enrollment in higher education. In particular, they looked at whether, within the group of students whose parents did not graduate from higher education (low social origin), the effect on higher education enrollment differs depending on the students' immigrant status.

The empirical results, which are based on data from a randomized controlled trial in German schools, show that counseling generally motivates and supports participants of low social origin to enter higher education. In this respect, counseling proves to be very effective. However, high school graduates of low social origin with an immigrant background are more likely to study even without guidance because they are more likely to strive for status gain than people without an immigrant background. Accordingly, the impact of counseling is relatively low for this group. In contrast, high school graduates of low social origin without an immigrant background are relatively more likely to opt out of higher education in favor of vocational training if they do not participate in counseling. They are now supported by external counselors in using their high school diploma for higher education after all, which is reflected in a comparatively high counseling effect. The results of the study also suggest that the positive counseling effect for students without an immigrant background is due to the fact that counseling reduces their perception of the costs of higher education, while students with an immigrant background seem to be further encouraged by counseling in their already strong desire to move up the social ladder.

Immigrant Students of Low Social Origin as Role Models 

The study highlights the importance of specific and targeted support for students of low social origin and demonstrates the positive impact of individual counseling. It also offers a new perspective on the immigrant status of students of low social origin: While students of low social origin without an immigrant background are seen as particularly disadvantaged in terms of their choice for higher education, students of low social origin with an immigrant background are a group whose ambitious educational choices can serve as a role model for others.

The study is part of the research project "Future and Career plans before high school graduation" (ZuBAb). It aims to gain a comprehensive understanding of the post-school future plans of today's upper secondary school students and also to gain insights into how the realization of these plans can be supported further. It is a cooperation project between the University of Cologne and WZB.

23/1/24, kes