What is AVA AI?

The College Guidance Network (CGN) held a virtual round table meeting in early April to announce AVA, an AI chatbot that provides expert guidance and educational planning. According to an article published in Forbes, “Ava AI Chatbot Could Help Ease The School College Counseling Crisis”, high school students do not have fair and equal access to individualized college planning and guidance. The article states that the ratio of public high school students to school guidance counselors is significantly higher at 385:1 than the recommended ratio of 250:1. To combat this issue, the CGN created AVA. “AVA, which will launch in pilot this fall, is the latest AI counseling tool meant to replicate the work of a high school counselor or private admissions consultant,” according to an article published by Inside Higher Ed.

Can AVA replace the need for a college counselor?

Both AI and human counselors can provide personalized guidance tailored to each student’s unique needs, interests, and circumstances. But that’s where the similarities end. Only human counselors can have empathy, understand emotion, and adapt their approach accordingly. With college planning being such a complex, individualized process, leaving significant life choices to a chatbot comes with risk. While AI does excel at “personalization, data analysis, and tireless work at scale” (Medium, “AI Versus Human Intelligence: Who Wins in Education?”), human intelligence and reasoning are a personal touch that students need in today’s ever-changing educational landscape.

Additionally, the Forbes article states, “There are critical ethical and privacy considerations to address. For instance, the potential for AI systems like AVA to inadvertently perpetuate prejudices is a significant concern. This could manifest in biased advice based on race, socioeconomic status, or gender, affecting the fairness of the guidance provided.” AVA will be given regular audits to try to prevent these biases and ensure that the chatbot will comply with educational data privacy laws.

What Ava is… and what it isn’t

AVA was created to level the college counseling playing field, to ensure that all students could receive academic planning for college despite their in-school counselor ratios or socioeconomic status. Jon Carson, CGN’s CEO, makes it clear that AVA cannot do the work of a human and it’s not meant to replace the customization and understanding that a human counselor provides. Instead, it is meant to be a reliable resource to answer those frequently asked questions that students and their parents have as they embark on the admissions process.

The Inside Higher Ed article shares that the president of The National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), Angel Perez, supported the decision to have NACAC partner with CGN on the AI counselor. “I think a lot of our members are kind of putting their heads in the sand about this issue. The truth is, we have to engage with this technology; it’s already here. It’s true we’re stepping into the unknown, but I would rather our profession be involved in informing this technology as it evolves. If we don’t, someone else with profit-driven, less-than-ideal motives will be the one doing this work.”

There are other technology companies jumping into this arena with tools that aim to provide more in-depth guidance but so far none claim to replace the experience with a live counselor. As is the case in so many industries, the primary benefit of these technologies is to bring everyone to the table with more accurate and comprehensive information. AI’s ability to research schools’ offerings more quickly is a win for counselors and students alike, freeing up time for the actual personalized, human guidance.

The future of college counseling

One thing is clear: students need college counselors today more than ever. Studies have demonstrated that students who work with college counselors are more likely to apply to a diverse range of colleges, submit stronger applications, and ultimately enroll in institutions that are a better fit for their academic and personal needs.

Can an AI chatbot deliver the individualized guidance, insight, and empathy needed to assist students as they navigate the complexities of the college application process? Simply put, no. Is there tremendous potential for AI to make the time-consuming research work of college applicants and counselors more efficient? Absolutely.

At PREMINENTE, we are dedicated to providing premier counseling service for our students and that includes embracing technology that enables us to deliver the most comprehensive research and recommendations. We are also committed to fostering a trusted relationship that ensures not only that our students are admitted to college, but that it’s also the right fit school for them. Your future is too important to trust it to a chatbot. Contact a PREMINENTE college counselor today to help you with college applications, academic planning, and more.

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