Over 5,000 high school counselors packed out the Pasadena Convention Center last Thursday for California State University’s 2017 High School Counselor Conference.
The conference was one of a series of gatherings that California State University (CSU) hosted across the state in Visalia, Escondido, Santa Clara and Sacramento.
Held less than two weeks before the kick-off of its college admission season for Fall 2018 which begins on October 1, the conference informed high school counselors about the major changes that have unfolded at CSU since the summer.
Chief among CSU’s new roll outs was its improved online application portal called Cal State Apply. The portal received mixed reactions of excitement and caution. The most obvious upgrade to the new online portal is its cleaner and more user-friendly look. Counselors were also impressed that Cal State Apply has helpful links and resources available on its web pages to aid students who get stuck during the application process. Those tools include chat boxes that connect students with experts and a handy calculator that helps students tally up their G.P.A. as they enter their grades into the system.
Yet, despite its goal of helping students complete a hassle free application, the system does still have quirks. Similar to the old CSU Mentor system, Cal State Apply cannot totally eliminate human error. CSU still relies on students, or their parents and counselors, to understand how to report their high school coursework and grades in a way that proves their classes met California’s A-G requirements for college eligibility.
The pitfall of the new and old system is that it depends heavily on school counselors to be gatekeepers to college. It places tremendous responsibility on counselors to ensure students begin preparing for college throughout their high school career. If students do not learn about college admissions requirements on their own, their college prospects are left in the hands of counselors who may not be knowledgeable of college requirements or who are very likely overwhelmed by a caseload of hundreds or thousands of other students.
The second large CSU announcement was that the Early Assessment Program (EAP) has been retired. EAP required incoming freshman that were dubbed “academically underprepared” start their first semester paying tuition for remedial classes that did not count toward a college degree. Now, CSU will allow admitted students to begin earning college credit from day one, regardless of their level of academic preparedness. Extra support will be given to students who need to increase their proficiency levels in math and English while they matriculate through their first year.
Other themes that dominated the conference included information on veteran support at CSU, the Education Opportunity Program (EOP), and CSU Chancellor Timothy White’s commitment to continue student services originally funded under DACA, or Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, which is a federal law that grants rights to undocumented students who arrived in the U.S. as young children that was recently rescinded by President Trump.