College Readiness Counseling to Promote Native American Adolescents’ College Aspirations: The Integrated Conceptual Model of Student Success

Added December 18, 2018

When preparing for the current and future world of work, young people need to carefully consider whether or not they will pursue a college degree. Although unemployment rates are decreasing (U.S. Department of Labor, 2017), time to first employment and the ability to earn a living wage are still challenging for non-college educated youth (Pew Research Center, 2014). Although Native American parents aspire to their children attending college, for many Native American students, the complexities of college admissions and planning for college attendance can be overwhelming and may dissuade them from pursuing a college degree (College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, 2011; Keene, 2016; Sheley, 2011). Compared to young people from other cultural groups, Native American young people have less access to college information (Gallup-Strada Education Network, 2017), including information regarding college qualifications, and information regarding how to choose, apply for, or finance their college educations (Bryan et al., 2009; Keene, 2016; Kurzwell & Hundt, 2009). They also tend to have lower achievement scores than the national average as measured by standardized achievement tests (Nations Report Card, 2018), meaning that they are less likely to meet the academic standards required to enter college. Additionally, they often face cultural dissonance and chilly climates in their schools, so that they eventually feel that they do not belong in school (Martinez, 2014; Soria & Alkire, 2015).

School and college readiness counselors can assist Native American young people to aspire to, plan for, and prepare for college; however, there is currently little empirical information available to inform best practices in this area of counseling. The current research study investigated a model of college readiness counseling among Native American high school students. Researchers based the model on the Integrated Conceptual Model of Student Success (ICMSS; Perna & Thomas, 2006, 2008).

According to the ICMSS, student internal factors, such as achievement motivation, the ability to achieve, and college aspirations are developed within a milieu of school, family, and social contexts. School contexts consist of resources, such as those provided by college readiness counselors, that are designed to assist students in exploring, planning and preparing for college. Family contexts include environments where parents support their adolescents’ college aspirations (McKillip et al., 2012; Perna & Thomas, 2008). Social contexts are reflected in school climates, where “norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures” preside (McCallen, 2016, pp. 14-15).

Participants for the study were 149 Native American high school students (48% males and 52% females) who attended one consolidated school district in a Midwestern state. Participants were distributed approximately equally across the ninth through 12th grades. Measures used included scales from The High School Completion Survey (Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, 2001), and the Stanford Achievement Test-10 (Harcourt-Pearson, Inc., 2006).

Study results indicated that school climate and parent support directly influence students’ achievement motivation, with the effect of school climate on achievement completely accounted for by the way it positively or negatively affects students’ motivation to achieve. College readiness counseling and achievement motivation affect achievement. Achievement alone directly affects students’ college aspirations, which may reflect Native American youths’ recognition that they have less likelihood of being successful in their college pursuits without having the appropriate academic background.

The results of this study lead to a number of practice implications. For example, counselors can provide students and their parents with information about the local and national resources available to help Native American students achieve college-going success (e.g., American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Burlington North Santa Fe Foundation Scholarship, AISES Chevron Corporation Scholarship; AISES, 2016). Counselors can also help parents strategize about how they can help their children maintain motivation when they are facing challenges that threaten their academic success.

Counselors can take leadership in shaping school climates by tapping parents and elders to provide information regarding local cultures within which Native American students thrive, and can seek their assistance in knowing how to infuse cultural beliefs, mores, and customs into college readiness counseling. Counselors can help students find resources to support their academic endeavors (e.g., homework and test-taking help), and can help them learn achievement-enhancing strategies, such as setting academic goals and using self-regulated learning methods (Lapan, Kardash, & Turner, 2002). Counselors can help students learn to persist so that they can accomplish successfully college preparatory curriculum, and can help students connect their daily academic activities to their post-high school educational objectives.

In sum, the results of this research provides evidence of the efficacy of ICMSS in describing how college readiness counseling affects Native American students’ college aspirations. These results can be used to construct counseling strategies that help Native American high school students become college ready.


Sherri L. Turner, PhD, Ju Ri Joeng, Gale Mason-Chagil, PhD, Julia L. Conkel-Ziebell, Shari N. Dade, Ryoka Kim