The RCT will randomly assign a third of the high school networks to the control group, a third to an information-only treatment group, and a third to a combination of information and mentoring treatment group. All interventions are focused on high school senior students enrolled in schools that offer a vocational track. All the students enrolled in treated schools will receive an information package either addressed to their homes when possible or sent through their schools when the address is not available/unreachable by the postal service (e.g. rural addresses). The package will provide information on three central aspects:
(1) Funding opportunities.
(2) Important variables to consider when choosing higher education programs.
(3) Steps they need to follow to apply for funding and to higher education.
Since all the students in our sample come from relatively disadvantaged settings, all of them are eligible for public funding. Thus, the information package will highlight the fact that, if they decide to enroll in higher education, they will receive generous support from the government.
The information package will also provide statistics on the benefits of attending higher education in terms of employment and earnings. However, considering that employment and wages greatly depend on the quality of the match between student and major-institution, the information package will also highlight the heterogeneity that exists in these variables across different fields and institutions. Students will be provided with links to official sources that offer tools to compare programs and institutions along with different variables including the labor market performance of recent graduates.
Finally, the information package will contain information on applications to funding and to higher education. The material will stress important deadlines and the requirements to apply to different types of funding and institutions. As in the previous case, it will also direct students to official sources providing additional details.
The package will contain three information pieces. First, an informative brochure that will contain the same information for everyone. Second, a calendar highlighting important deadlines and providing some guidelines to students who want to apply to higher education. Finally, a personalized letter that will reinforce the information in the package, customized based on typical higher education trajectories followed by students in that high school in previous years. Customization will focus on the Labor market outcomes in the four areas of study in which students from their same high school (in previous years) were more interested.
On top of the information package, 4 students of each last-year class in high schools allocated to the second treatment group will receive additional support from mentors. Mentors will be psychologists and school counselors who will contact the selected group of students 9 times between August and December. Each contact will have a specific goal in mind, but the general idea is to discuss with students their plans after completing high school. Apart from providing information about higher education opportunities, mentors will be available to answer any questions that students may have about different aspects of higher education (e.g., applications, funding and admissions requirements, important deadlines, variables to consider when deciding whether to enroll and where to enroll in higher education, etc). All the information provided by mentors will come from official sources. Finally, mentors will have 4 sessions with groups of 4 students, to cover topics like deciding what to do after high school and navigating the financial aid and application system. Although we will try to implement these sessions in person when possible, some of them might have to be done online due to Covid-19 restrictions. To make sure that mentoring affects students through either mentor interaction or peer interactions, we will make sure that mentors do not interact with other students in their school's visits and that mentorship materials are not shared with the school or other students.
Finally, students in the control group will no receive either the information package or the mentorship program. However, like the rest of the students in our project, they will answer an entry and exit survey.