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A lack of information about the selected major, its challenges as well as career prospects are among the most important reasons for dropout of tertiary education. Correspondingly, intensive counselling programs for pupils may contribute to a better-informed and prepared study field choice, hereby leading to lower drop-out rates. To date, empirical evidence on the effect of counselling programs for pupils is rare. This research project contributes to this discussion by analysing whether comprehensive counselling services before the study field choice affect transition into and success during tertiary education.  

Short and Long-term effects of counselling programs
The ultimate goal of counselling services for pupils is to prevent drop-out from tertiary education. At the same time, we assume that drop-out is influenced by several factors and the result of a longer process rather than an ad-hoc decision. Correspondingly, we adopt a dynamic perspective and assess the short-term as well as the long-term effects of counselling services. We argue that there are two groups of factors that influence drop-out rates. First, the choice of a suitable study program matters. Secondly, motivation, self-efficacy and resilience are important psychological resources for staying in the study program, especially if confronted with (unexpected) challenges.
Consequently, we assess the effect of two different counselling approaches, which affect the two mentioned groups of factors. The first approach tackles information deficits by providing information on possible and suitable study choices based on an in-depth analysis of a pupil’s abilities and personal interests. The second approach tries to foster psychological resources, e.g. by discussing and pointing to opportunities of how to cope with challenges during the studies. We will analyse how the counselling services affect these two groups of factors and whether and how this ultimately reduces the risk of drop-out from education.

Research design
We conduct a randomized field experiment in order to detect the causal effect of the program. Pupils to register for the study will be randomly assigned to treatment or control group. Only pupils from the treatment group will be allowed to participate in the program. This procedure guarantees that comparisons of treatment and control group are not hampered by selection bias. Without the randomization, differences between treatment and control group may be due to other (possibly unobservable) differences between the groups, e.g. socio-demographic factors or motivation.
The counselling program has been developed by a group of researchers together with practitioners from the universities of Cologne and Düsseldorf, who will be responsible for the implementation of the program. To assess short-and long-term effects, participants of the study will be interviewed in three subsequent waves after the workshops, both before as well as after the start of their studies.