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Preparation key to college and career success

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(ARA) - The 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics report "Education Pays..." illustrates that higher earnings and lower unemployment rates are often reported among bachelor's degree holders, compared to those with only a high school diploma. The 2010 median weekly earnings for bachelor's degree holders was $1,038, compared to just $626 for those with only a high school diploma.

Despite such clear benefits to earning a college degree, many students are not prepared for education beyond high school. In fact, according to data from the 2011 Pew Research Center report "Is College Worth It?," 58 percent of college presidents say high school students are coming to college less prepared than they were 10 years ago.

Because of these figures and the United States' falling rank among developed countries for college completion rates, many lawmakers have recommended efforts to increase the number of young adults with a college degree.

Some institutions are already working with high school educators to teach students about the importance of preparing for college. DeVry University's HerWorld program was designed to provide young women with the tools they need to be better prepared to succeed in college, empowering them to reach their full potential. HerWorld also introduces young women to in-demand careers of the 21st century, including those in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Findings from "STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future," a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration, illustrate that in addition to a lower likelihood of experiencing joblessness, STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. By exposing them to female leaders in STEM, HerWorld teaches young women that they can succeed alongside men in these positions, and gives the women a checklist for preparing to get there.

Now in its 15th year, HerWorld sponsors nationwide events each year that give high school girls the opportunity to interact with peers from other high schools in the area, participate in educational and confidence-building activities, and listen to local female leaders discuss how they achieved their career goals.

"HerWorld helps young women realize that they have the power to make their professional ambitions a reality," says Donna Loraine, provost/vice president of academic affairs for DeVry University. "The impressive stories of female leaders expand the students' perspective and teach them the steps they need to take to forge their own career paths."

This year, Olympic gold medalist Mia Hamm, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls through 2012, and DeVry University Corporate Partners have teamed up to support National HerWorld Month in March. It is anticipated that more than 7,000 young women from hundreds of high schools will participate throughout the month at more than 30 HerWorld events across the country.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to help high school girls harness the drive to accomplish their goals," says Hamm. "I began playing soccer before it became a professional women's sport in the U.S., so I never could have achieved my dream of becoming an international competitor without the drive to succeed."