Volume 6, Issue 4 – August 2022

In This Issue:

Director's Note

Human-Centered Design

How Partners Add an Extra Element to College Application Campaigns

Counselor Corner


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Why Host a College Application Event: Insights from ACAC 2021 Schools of Excellence
Learn tips for hosting a successful application completion event from your peers.
Tuesday, August 16, 3:00 p.m., ET
Register now

Excellence in College Counseling Webinar Series
Learn about a variety of hot topics in college counseling in this series of recorded webinars from Common App, Reach Higher, and College Wise.


ACT My Journey
Free virtual event for students to learn how to confidently navigate the college admissions process.
Saturday, September 24
Learn more


ACAC 2022 Campaign Resources
Find helpful templates, handouts, and planning resources on the ACAC website.

College Counseling Now Campaign
Responsive and informed college counseling resources for a quickly changing world.

Upcoming College Admission Testing Dates
ACT: September 10, register by August 5; October 22, register by September 16
SAT: August 27, late registration deadline August 16; October 1, register by September 2

Toolkit Tips:

During August and September, state coordinators are encouraged to:

1. Download available site coordinator resources and customize to meet state needs.
2. Ensure all host site materials are available on the state campaign website.
3. Continue or launch recruitment efforts for new and returning host sites, including your college application campaign’s registration site.
4. Submit request for Governor’s Proclamation.
5. Schedule school and volunteer trainings, if applicable.
6. Promote ACAC’s #WhyApply Day on Sept. 16, 2022 and prepare social media content.

Director's Note

As the new academic year begins, ACAC state campaigns across the country are welcoming new high schools to join as host sites. Each year, the state campaigns work with thousands of high school staff and community leaders to provide students with individualized support and assistance as they prepare for and complete the college application process. We hope that you will host a college application event this fall and encourage your colleagues at neighboring schools to do so as well.

For those who have not hosted a college application event or if it’s been a few years, join our free webinar on Tuesday, August 16, featuring three 2021 ACAC Schools of Excellence. These exemplar host sites will share their strategies and why hosting an application completion event is important to the students and the community.

When you’re ready to register as a host site, fill out the national registration form so we can connect you with your state campaign coordinator. And don’t forget to check out the wide range of resources we make available for host sites.

To kick off the application season, join ACAC on Friday, September 16 for the sixth annual #WhyApply Day. Everyone is encouraged to head to their favorite social media channels to answer the question, “Why apply to college?” #WhyApply Day celebrates the college application season by sharing supportive and motivating messages on social media about the importance of applying to college.

Lisa KingWhether applying to a certificate program, two-year college, or four-year university, it’s important to celebrate this critical and necessary step on the journey to life-long learning and career success. Check out our digital toolkit to learn more about participating.

Thank you for your commitment to helping more students apply to college.

Lisa King, director

Drawing on Human-Centered Design for College Access Campaigns

By: Kat Klima, communications and outreach coordinator, Minnesota Office of Higher Education

Kat Klima

In her role with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, Kat is the co-coordinator for Minnesota’s ACAC campaign. We asked her to reflect on how she plans to use lessons from a workshop during the national ACAC convening of state coordinators. These are her thoughts.

The question, “Who is your audience?” is one that precedes every major project. It must be answered before beginning anything else. For state agencies, this is challenging because our audience is technically everyone. This can make it difficult to strategically plan and target campaigns for specific populations. We know that it is impossible to be effective by casting a broad net and hoping that everyone will benefit equally; equity does not work that way.

Within our own state campaign, Minnesota Goes to College, we often wonder about our audience: is it school counselors? Students? Families? Community-based organizations? All of the above? Thankfully, one of the sessions at the 2022 American College Application Campaign Convening, helped inspire a way to get to the root of this question. During the session, we practiced creating “Why college?” social media posts for current high school students based on their postsecondary foci, interests, and family situations. This exercise reminded me of human-centered design principles applied in user experience design and I began to think about how I could use an exercise like this to help target our campaign’s efforts. Although this work is still in process, below I’ll outline a few of the steps I plan to take.

Conduct User Research

The first step in the process of human-centered design is to empathize with our users by getting to know exactly how they are feeling within their specific environments. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming what our users—students, families, counselors—need or want. The next step is to determine our research goals. These will help guide us as we begin speaking with our users.

For example, a few of the questions I’d like to answer for the student portion of my research include:

  • How are students thinking about their lives after graduation?
  • What emotions are they experiencing while thinking about college, career, military, or taking a gap year?
  • Who are some of the people with the biggest influence in their lives?

Interviews are a good way for us to hear directly from students. They can be done in-person or virtually. Within any interview setting, it is important to ask open-ended questions and avoid simple “yes” or “no” questions, which will result in a richer understanding of the participants’ answers. It is helpful to create a typed-up set of questions and share them with your participant beforehand. However, during the interview, feel free to go off script and ask follow-up questions as needed.

Build Empathy Maps

After we conduct user research, we will move to building an empathy map. For visual learners, empathy maps are a fun, visual way to demonstrate groupings based on recent interviews. Essentially, we will create a map with four sections: says, does, thinks, and feels, with the user’s name in the middle. We will take direct quotes from our interviews and put them in the different sections for each interviewee. The “thinks” and “feels” categories can be a little confusing and require paying special attention to the user’s body language, gestures, tone, and inflection during the interview. I created a fictitious example for reference:

 Create Personas

After empathy maps, we can create our first personas. Personas are fictional characters based on interviews with real users to represent the needs of a larger audience. Essentially, this is the part where we combine the similar goals and frustration of users and personify them. This allows us to design for this specific audience and create deliverables like worksheets, videos, or social media posts just for them. The idea is that it will be more relevant to them because we took the time to understand their needs before creating the product. Another fictitious example is below:

Once we have crafted our personas, we can begin to brainstorm how we create materials and promote them specifically with our user personas in mind. For example, when we design a virtual FAFSA completion series during the month of October, we can use the personas to ask ourselves: how do I make sure that Aamiina is there? What do I need to do in order to make sure she, and students like her, are there? Should I make sure the sessions are offered during the day, so she doesn’t have to choose between work and school? Ideally, we would develop 3-8 personas for this type of project.

Ultimately, human-centered design is an iterative process. Once we conduct our research and create personas, we are able to craft new solutions to the problems we are trying to solve, like helping students make their postsecondary decisions. Remember that best practice is to return to the original interviewees or others similar to them and ask for feedback on the proposed solutions. Human-centered design offers wonderful opportunities to build relationships and improve products to help students succeed.

How Partners Add an Extra Element to College Application Campaigns

By Lisa King, director, American College Application Campaign


Note: this article first appeared in the ACT blog on June 9, 2022.

Helping high school seniors move to the next stage in their lives requires more than individual motivation or support from their families. It can even take more than wise words from teachers and advisors. In fact, these very educators say that partners and community members from outside of high schools make a big difference.

Many winners of the third annual School of Excellence awards, an initiative of the American College Application Campaign (ACAC) that honors schools across the country for helping students pursue postsecondary success, engaged and leveraged external groups to improve the reach of their programs.

For instance, Woodhaven High School college advisor Zariea Williams in Flat Rock, Michigan, is extremely proud of her school’s Senior Set-Up event. During the gathering, approximately 100 seniors created their Federal Student Aid IDs and started filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The school hosts the event in partnership with financial aid office representatives from nearby Oakland University.

“We walked seniors step by step through applying to a local college, sending their transcripts, and discussing financial aid,” Williams said. “This helped promote and maintain momentum during Michigan College Month and the following months. A high school can expand its resources and have expert support by partnering with a university's financial aid or admissions office to host an event like Senior Set-Up or on-site admissions.”

In Washington, D.C., Coolidge Senior High School partners with the District of Columbia College Access Program and the Latino Student Fund Listo Program. These groups provide additional resources and support because, College and Career Coordinator Symphoni Henry says, “All students, regardless of socioeconomic status, color, income, or ethnicity, deserve access and opportunity to secure a quality postsecondary future.”

Not all external partners work in the education field. Crooksville High School in central Ohio asks its alumni to return to their old stomping grounds to help seniors understand the value of making a plan.

Continue reading on the blog.

Counselor Corner

New Resources from myOptions Encourage

By: Bryan Contreras, vice president of education partnership, myOptions Encourage

Bryan Contreras

Welcome back! I hope you had time this summer to recharge and reset and that you’re looking forward to a great 2022-23 academic year.

College application season is upon us once again. As someone who works with students through this process, you know how important building a balanced college list is to student outcomes and success.

I’m delighted to share that myOptions Encourage and Encourage are here to help you and your students this fall.

First, for you: myOptions Encourage is partnering with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) on a three-part webinar series focused on supporting students in building a balanced college application list. Registration is not required, and you can earn CEUs for your participation in each. Learn more here.

Webinars will be released on the following dates for you to watch at a time that is convenient for you. Thank you to our colleagues at Contigo Ed, the University of Cincinnati, and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission for supporting this effort with our team. I hope you find these helpful as you work with the Class of 2023 this fall.

Sept. 8, 2022: The Role of School Counseling and Smart College Application Lists

Sept. 29, 2022: Help Students and Families Build a Balanced College List

Oct. 6, 2022: Implement Programming & Leverage Community Resources to Help Students Build a Balanced College List

For your students, the new Encourage app has been released. Students can download the app for free on their phones and gain access to a tool designed to support them in planning and preparing for life after high school.

Encourage gathers student preferences – like affordability, social fit, and majors – to customize a list of 25 college matches. Students can save schools they are interested in and understand critical information like majors, acceptance rates, costs, and outcomes. This is a great first step in building a balanced college list. From there, we have a guide that walks students through narrowing and balancing so they are informed and ready for planning conversations with you.

Our mission at Encourage is to help students plan for their future. We welcome your feedback and ideas on how we can enhance the functionality to better serve students. Please download Encourage to check out the tool for yourself. And, if you or your students have feedback you’d like to share, use the feedback button at the bottom right of the screen.

We at myOptions Encourage are grateful for all you do every day to support students. We hope these learning opportunities and the new Encourage app help smooth the pathway for you and your students as the class of 2023 finalizes their balanced college lists.

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