The ACAC team wishes you health and comfort during this unprecedented time. We are hard at work ensuring that we are providing you the best guidance and support while our state campaigns and K12 community are working tirelessly to ensure student needs are still met. We see you. We applaud your efforts. We know the work isn’t easy, while also balancing your personal needs and families.
After a strong, successful college application season we know how important it is to you to help our students navigate these uncharted waters. This issue of the ACAC newsletter is focused on resources, tips, and tools from the field to help you ensure that the class of 2020 feels supported and able to make their college decisions and that the class of 2021 doesn’t lose their momentum in navigating the college-going process.
For our ACAC state campaign coordinators, we can’t wait to connect with you virtually in May for the National Convening. For our counselors, college advisors, and others working in the education field, we look forward to connecting with you through webinars and social media over the coming weeks and months.
All ACAC staff are working remotely and are accessible via phone, email, and other virtual technology. Please reach out to us if you are in need of support. We also encourage you to continue watching our social media posts for new resources and recommendations.
COVID-19 Resources for Education Field
The following are resources from trusted partners of ACAC. We encourage you to bookmark the pages and check them frequently to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape as new resources and announcements become available.
National College Attainment Network: Our colleagues at NCAN are offering best practices, FAQs, policy updates, and other news and information to support students during the coronavirus outbreak. Learn more.
American School Counselor Association: ASCA is regularly hosting pop-up webinars for school counselors to discuss topics like School Counseling in an Online World and Ethical Considerations: School Counseling in a Virtual Setting Learn more
NACAC: As college admission deadlines continue to evolve, NACAC is committed to providing a central resource for information about college admission events, deposit dates, and more as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Learn more
NASFAA: A new webpage is dedicated to pertinent financial aid news related to COVID-19. Learn more
The Education Trust: This webpage is dedicated to understanding COVID-19’s impact on education equity. Ed Trust recommends six steps schools can take to address educational equity while schools are closed due to coronavirus. Learn more
ACT: The ACT April 4 test date was rescheduled to June 13. In addition, ACT is offering digital learning and workforce resources to assist students, teachers, schools, and workers affected by COVID-19. The shared resources are adaptable for use in home, through online learning, and in workforce settings. Learn more
College Board: The College Board has canceled the SAT scheduled for May 2, as well as all March makeup exams. In addition, College Board is making updates to the Advanced Placement (AP) program, providing free, live, and on-demand AP courses online and are in the process of developing a new at-home testing option. College Board is maintaining a web page with coronavirus updates as it relates to the SAT and AP Exams. Learn more
ACAC State Campaigns: Many of our state campaign coordinators have started to share with us the localized resources and supports recently created. We encourage you to look for your state and share these resources with students and families and your colleagues.
- Alabama – A counselors/educators blog and a students/families blog full of useful articles, guides, and webinars. Also hosted a webinar to discuss financial aid and admissions process during COVID-19
- Colorado – A central web resource for educators, students and families
- Connecticut – Hosting webinars to discuss college admissions and how to understand award letters during COVID-19
- Florida – A repository of resources for local college access and attainment professionals
- Georgia – COVID-19 landing page about available webinars, text message support, and scheduling phone appointments.
- Illinois – College-going and financial aid resources and services for students and families
- Indiana – Student and family resources
- Iowa – Virtual coaching and student and family resources
- Maryland – Information for postsecondary institutions
- Michigan College Access Network – A repository of resources for local college access and attainment professionals
- Minnesota – A repository of resources for colleges, faculty, staff and students
- Mississippi – A central web resource for educators, counselors, students, and families
- Nevada – COVID-19 information center for local college access and attainment professionals
- New York – Resources for students, families and local college access and attainment professionals
- Ohio – Information for Ohio students, families, educators, and campuses
- Oregon – A repository of blog posts and check lists for students, families, and local college access and attainment professionals
- Rhode Island – Offering phone appointments for students and families
- Virginia – A repository of resources for students, families, and local college access and attainment professionals
- West Virginia – A repository of resources for local college access and attainment professionals
College Signing Day 2020: Let’s Celebrate
Author: Stephanie Sprow Owens, director of programming, Reach Higher at the Common App
College Signing Day is very special to Reach Higher. In spring 2014, our team planned the first national College Signing Day. Former First Lady Michelle Obama chose to celebrate in San Antonio, Texas, because the mayor and the entire city had been formally celebrating their graduating seniors for years. We wanted to lift up the great work in the city and also set an example for others to follow in the future.
So many of you took up the call to action. In 2019, more than 3,000 schools and communities hosted College Signing Day parties. This year, Reach Higher will continue to celebrate College Signing Day to recognize students making the commitment to pursue higher education. Especially this year, amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, we have the responsibility and the joy to celebrate students’ accomplishments. We hope that even more people take the time to join us, even if it looks and feels a little different than in the past.
While we have heard the many calls for colleges and universities to change their deadlines for students to make final enrollment decisions, Reach Higher will still celebrate College Signing Day on May 1, much like we have done in the past. However, that won’t be our only day to celebrate! What we usually do on one day a year we will do on multiple days this year, and we encourage you to join us. Over the next few weeks, we will share with you all the fun ways we will recognize and cheer on students. So, if your students have already committed to a school, awesome! We will celebrate. If they wait until June 1 to make the decision, great! We will celebrate then. And if they decide on any day in between, we still want to celebrate! No matter when your students decide, share those commitments with us using #CollegeSigningDay on social media.
As always, we want you to celebrate College Signing Day in your communities, too. We know that this year will be different as we will likely still exercise some level of social distancing in May and June. We will share new tools with you on our website at bettermakeroom.org/collegesigningday to help you celebrate students virtually and on social media. Download our updated toolkit which gives you ideas for hosting a College Signing Day from home. Be sure to follow our social media channels (@ReachHigher and @BetterMakeRoom) and check out #CollegeSigningDay for updates and new tools that you can use in the coming weeks to recognize students.
I look forward to College Signing Day every year. It represents the culmination of K-12 education and a new big step into adulthood. This year more than ever we need a reason to celebrate. And I can’t wait to see all the ways that you do.
Photo: Former First Lady Michelle Obama at College Signing Day 2018 at Temple University. Photo Credit: Chuck Kennedy
A Colleague’s Words of Support and Advice…Just Start with the Heart
Author: Bryan Contreras, vice president, K12 & education partnerships, myOptions
It’s been about three years since I walked the halls of a high school and was able to lend an ear and share sound advice with a student who is about to make a life changing college decision. In my current role at myOptions®, this is a void in my heart. Students motivate me, and their stories inspire me to push through tough days.
April is usually an extremely stressful month for students. This year is different. The world’s axis tilted, and even for adults that typically have it all together, this is a very, very stressful time. There are many students and young adults seeking the support, direction, and reassurance that the sun will still rise tomorrow, and this level of encouragement may be absent in their home lives right now. I can empathize. So here are some personal and professional learnings and words of support after two decades of serving students and families as they build and chase their educational dreams.
First of all, school counselors and college counselors are some of the most loyal and hardest working individuals I know, and each is laser focused on one thing - their students. Right now, you are probably looking for new ways to stay connected with students, adapt to virtual counseling, and urging your higher education colleagues to think about how best to continue to meet the needs of graduating seniors and alumni. I am certain you are working long hours even if you are not getting “face time” in the hallways at school with students. In fact, you may now be more accessible for individual student counseling. Student need this more than ever right now.
This work is hard, and there is not a playbook for the times we are in right now. That said, I always reminded my college counseling team during times of crisis about our team mantra “the head and the heart” helps to keep us focused on the individual student.
Personally I have survived several life changing events, and this health crisis is another one of those times in which I can – we can – rise above and shine a light on how to beat the odds, and grow stronger together. As a college counselor, all my students’ life moments and challenges became mine as well. I walked along side my students and their families as they faced incredible adversity, and at times I carried them through. And I am certain you do this in your work with students.
It is in these times that I share some very simple advice to answer all the hard questions we may not be able to answer: counsel and advise from the heart. Start with your own heart, share your story and truths, and listen to your students’, and help them untangle all that is wound up inside. College counseling is all about helping students bring together “the head” and “the heart”. This means helping students to use their “heads” to sift through all the information and data to build a balanced college list and make decisions, but more important than ever, it is truly about the students’ hearts - how do they truly feel about college and life after high school? What are the challenges they face personally? This is our genuine work as college counselors.
Finally, here is my last piece of advice around what I’ve learned over the years. The 21st century is dynamic, and we have a front row seat in seeing “change”: changes in our workforce, economy, and how we lead our lives. This medical crisis has thrust our students into change and forced them to adopt new ways to learn, communicate, and socialize. This will not be their last crisis to manage. Students often asked me, “Mr. Contreras, what major should I pursue?” I always shared a list of majors with them, but I also pushed them to consider this thought: the 21st century problems and issues that confront our society will need 21st century thinkers and scholars, and honestly some of those jobs, careers, and majors just do not exist yet. This means you will forge your own path. How do you plan to do that?
We need 21st century college counselors to mentor 21st century scholars and trailblazers to “be the change they wish to see in the world”, and to help us create new solutions to address the global challenges that are touching us all. I realize that students and families have critical needs at the moment, which may not include college planning, however, let’s not lose sight that as a community of educators our moment to rise for our students is often embedded in these times of crisis.
From the team and family here at myOptions®, we are here for your students and here to support you and your students as you continue to champion for your students. Encourage students to visit us at myoptions.org for free student resources and advice.