When Yolanda Bernal-Samano began the college application process, she had no idea what  “A-G requirements1” meant. She did not know what classes she needed to take in high school in order to qualify for a public university versus a community college. Her counselors didn’t steer her towards advanced classes, which felt exclusive. When she applied to schools, she did not know which classes would make her more competitive or which made the most difference.

When she received admission to both San Jose State and University of Santa Cruz, she saw the estimated cost of attendance at UC Santa Cruz, and assumed there was no way she could afford it. Her parents rationalized “Well, isn’t it all the same?” and recommended she attend San Jose State instead.

“These days, I think about that decision a lot. If I had known earlier what I know now and understood what my opportunities were, I think I would have chosen differently,” Yolanda says, “Though my experience at San Jose State was positive, I wonder sometimes if maybe I didn’t fulfill my potential.”

Once she entered college, she realized that out of her large group of friends in high school, only four had gone to college, and most of them were instantly placed in remedial courses.

“These days, I think about that decision a lot. If I had known earlier what I know now and understood what my opportunities were, I think I would have chosen differently…”

Yolanda Bernal-Samano

Yolanda’s high school was not preparing students to be ready for college. But her family and friends had no way of knowing that until it was too late. In 2018, the California School Dashboard introduced a new data point that could help families out. The College/Career indicator evaluates whether schools and districts are truly preparing students for college. It makes it easier for parents to understand whether their child’s school is graduating students ready to succeed in college and beyond.

Regardless of whether they choose to attend college, every child across the state should have a high-quality education that guarantees them access to higher education. Students agree: 94% have aspirations of attending college and 70% have career goals that require a college degree.

Schools owe it to students to hold up their end of the bargain, but, sadly, most are not. Only half of the students across the state graduate meeting the entrance requirements for a public state university. That gap — between students’ dreams and their reality — is even wider for low-income students of color.

This content series examines what it means to meet that promise in California and gives parents the tools they need to advocate for high schools that get all students ready for college. Take the first step by learning about the California dashboard and the College/Career indicator in our next two pieces.

Read the next post in our College Readiness Series: Students of color are not achieving less — they are being given less.