Volume 7, Issue 1 – February 2023

In This Issue:

Director's Note

Junior year activity leads to more prepared seniors during college application process

Updating your college application completion events for the new reality

Counselor Corner


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Virtual College Fairs
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Application Fee Waiver Eligibility
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Build a Balanced College List
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College and Career Planning Resources
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SAT: Mar. 11, register by Feb. 10

Toolkit Tips:

Now is the time to wrap up the previous application campaign and begin planning for a new campaign year. State coordinators are encouraged to:

1. review your state’s campaign steering committee members and determine if additional representatives need to be included;

2. host planning meetings with steering committee;

3. prepare for host site registration launch in the spring;

4. issue a certificate of participation to 2022 host sites;

5. share data results and issue a press release of state campaign success; and

6. celebrate students on social media when they are #accepted to college.

Director's Note

Dear friends,

Lisa KingI hope your 2023 is off to a strong start. The American College Application Campaign is wrapping up data collection from the 2022 state campaigns, and we look forward to sharing our national results with you in March.

Over the next few months, we are encouraging state campaigns to evaluate progress, track milestones, and establish goals for fall 2023. The articles in this month’s issue are inspired by Tina Gridiron, vice president of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, and her feature in our June newsletter. Tina’s article reminds us to design our programs and activities for the diverse populations that make up our communities. Our students are telling us what they need to navigate life after high school, and it is our job to amplify their voices, listen to their needs, and create resources to help them achieve their goals. As more application events and activities take place across the country, we must ensure we continue to engage diverse voices.

School counselors are the people who support students in all of these ways throughout the campaign season and, frankly, the whole year. They play a pivotal role with students’ academic achievement and post-graduation plans, and they deserve to be recognized for their dedication. Next week, Feb. 6-10, is National School Counseling Week (#NSCW23), and this year’s theme is “School Counselors: Helping Students Dream Big”. I encourage you to acknowledge the counselors making a difference in your state. And on behalf of ACAC, we thank every school counselor who has hosted a college application event to ensure students dream big through the college application process. We look forward to hearing how your 2023 events help students succeed.

Lisa King, director

Junior year activity leads to more prepared seniors during college application process

By: Cammie Kennedy, college and career counselor, Wichita High School East, Kansas and 2021 ACAC Schools of Excellence recipient

I know more than anyone the struggles of enrollment in postsecondary education. I was a director of admissions for both public and private universities for 10 years before being laid off in the fall of 2020. The reason for my layoff? Our number of first-time enrollees was frighteningly low. Enrollment was down nationwide, and colleges were cutting costs across their campuses, making our circumstance anything but unique.

Thankfully, I was hired as the college and career counselor for Wichita High School East in January 2021. I soon discovered the main reason enrollment was down at higher education institutions: COVID-19 had done a number on our students.

Along with four of my peers who also came from higher education backgrounds, we uncovered common themes affecting our senior class, including lack of knowledge about next steps after graduation, lack of tools to research education options, unpreparedness to interview for jobs and scholarships, and, most commonly, students waiting too long to start the college application process. In addition, we saw the broader effect these challenges had on our students’ postsecondary enrollment and eventual employment in our community. We brainstormed solutions to educate our junior class to better prepare them for their senior year. Ultimately, our College & Career Boot Camp was born. We chose the term “boot camp” to reinforce the intensive educational experience our students would endure.

Knowing we could not do this alone, we sought the experts in our community to create a program that would educate all our juniors, no matter their pathway after graduation. After months of planning and development, including a test run, we launched our first boot camp on May 31, 2022.

Our initial class included 210 incoming seniors. We held three sessions geared toward increasing soft skills, introducing them to military career pathways, showing them what the small “c” in college means, and giving them a timeline to achieve their post-graduation goals. Our boot camp included interactive portions, experiential sessions, and a physical activity for our military day. The final day was a college and career fair, with participants showcasing the skills they learned.

The boot camp was a huge success. Not only did we have strong attendance and reviews from the participants and community partners, we witnessed our seniors proving their preparedness. Our district’s FAFSA and college applications are up about 20% this year compared to last fall. Our students’ scholarship offers also have increased, including two NROTC Marine scholarship recipients in our district (with awards worth $180,000 each). There is a vast increase in our seniors taking advantage of opportunities to prepare for their pathway after graduation.

We surveyed the students who attended and held a brainstorming session with a select number of them to help us plan for 2023. We were surprised to discover they loved the boot camp and suggested we include more sessions and experiential learning opportunities. In 2023, we plan to extend the boot camp from three to four days, ending it again with the college and career fair. Instead of having speakers for the entire day, we will start our mornings with educational sessions and dedicate the afternoons to off-site tours and authentic experiential opportunities.

As we move into our second year, with the event slated for May 30-June 3, our support has grown exponentially. Our district leadership is more involved; our community partners are donating and participating more; and the expectation is to have 30% of our juniors registered across the district, with 20% (650 students) in attendance. That would be triple the attendance from last year. In addition, our district leadership is currently discussing making the boot camp an annual, weeklong orientation for seniors. Plans for this are down the road, as the logistics of coordinating for more than 3,500 incoming seniors will take much work.

An event this vast only happens with the support of every administration member. The support must also come from the building as a whole: principals, nutritional services, IT, custodial, faculty, security, etc. As you consider college and career planning activities this spring for your juniors, start small and manageable. The activity should be geared to your students’ needs and your district’s expectations to ensure students are more prepared to apply to college their senior year. Most importantly, remember to create something fun and educational.

To learn more about our USD259 College & Career Boot Camp, please visit www.usd259.org/bootcamp.

Updating your college application completion events for the new reality

By: Adrienne Enriquez, state and national trainer consultant for ACAC

Have your students’ college-going goals and needs shifted since the world was changed by the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, how can you update your college application completion events so they meet those needs? In previous newsletters, we have shared the results of research, conducted by San Diego State University’s Center for Equity in Postsecondary Attainment and funded through a grant from The Kresge Foundation, which include six actionable advising recommendations. This month, we offer some suggestions for incorporating some of these recommendations into your fall events.

Apply local. All college-bound students should apply to at least one local institution.

More than a quarter of respondents in the SDSU survey said their college plans changed as a direct result of the pandemic. A third of those students cited distance from home as the reason for the change. Today’s students understand that circumstances can upend plans. Having a local college option increases the likelihood that students will be able to continue their education even when unexpected events occur. For your next event:

  • identify what “local” means in your community;
  • provide a list of schools that fit that definition, including options that offer alternative pathways or certification programs;
  • help students determine which schools and programs are the best fit for them; and
  • provide support for applying to more than one institution during your event, especially for students whose first choice is not a local option.

Complete the FAFSA or state aid application. All seniors should complete the appropriate financial aid application.

Nearly half of the students participating in the survey identified cost as a primary factor in their decision to change postsecondary plans due to the pandemic. Completing the FAFSA and/or a state aid application and applying for scholarships are key ways to reduce out-of-pocket costs for college. Help students keep doors open by encouraging all seniors to complete financial aid applications. When planning your events:

  • include support for applying for grants and scholarships;
  • select a date early enough to meet priority financial aid deadlines at local colleges and universities; and
  • provide a list of local scholarships.

Recognize postsecondary plans as nonlinear. Students may consider (and take — multiple pathways after high school.

Students are increasingly open to multiple pathways. While 86% of the Class of 2022 said they planned to attend a trade school or a two-year or four-year college, the majority of those students indicated they plan to pursue multiple options simultaneously. In addition, 60% of the class stated they expect to attend college and work full-time. Some students plan to attend both two-year and four-year schools at the same time. Assist students as they make these plans by recognizing them as valid options. During your events:

  • Provide information about dual enrollment opportunities in two-year and four-year institutions;
  • Research and share information about registered apprenticeships that combine education and paid work experience;
  • Invite military recruiters as presenters and/or volunteers;
  • Include support for job applications, including writing resumes and cover letters in the same way you provide support for college and scholarship essays;
  • Encourage faculty and staff to share their postsecondary pathways, especially if they were not singular or linear.

Other advising recommendations from the research include engaging families in the process and amplifying student voices about their plans. Simple ideas to incorporate these recommendations in your events might be to invite parents to volunteer or to include all graduating seniors in your “I Applied” displays.

As you plan future application completion events, consider which of these ideas might best serve your students. Since the start of the American College Application Campaign, schools throughout the country have found innovative ways to host events that meet their students’ needs. As those needs change, so can the events. What additions will you make to ensure your students are ready for their next steps?

Based on research by Owen, L. Hodge, P., Hanauer, K., Camilio, D., & Silva, V. (2022). Learning from student voice-class of 2022: Impact of the pandemic on postsecondary decisions. https://education.sdsu.edu/cepa/pandemic_impact_class_of_2022


Counselor Corner

Empower students through Encourage: Adapt. Automate. Accelerate.

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

Bryan Contreras

The college counseling profession is experiencing rapid change. As innovation continues to build, so does its effect on students, families, and college counselors. The McKinsey Global Institute's report on future jobs and wages is a clear reminder that robots are coming for our jobs and work routines. The projections tell us there will be enough work for employees to oversee, but automation will reach the entire global workforce. By 2030, about 50% of all work activities could be automated through current technologies. Additionally, six out of 10 current occupations have more than 30% of work activities that are automatable. 

This transition will be a challenge for many as we learn to coexist with automation and robots. Workers who are displaced through automation will either switch careers or learn new skills within their occupation. This report makes me think about our work with students, families, and the teams we lead. 

  • What does this mean for students and families in career and college counseling?
  • What does this mean for career and college counselors as they embrace changes and acquaint themselves with the “future of work”?
  • What does this mean for leaders of career and college counseling departments who ensure resources, technology, and professional development are available for their teams?

Technology solutions are replacing routines and roles of counselors and mentors. The goal of technology is to help students and counselors adapt to changes in postsecondary planning spaces, not replace the relationship entirely. Moving forward, counselors will need to ask themselves:

  • How will I need to adapt my work to ensure students are successful?
  • Are there daily job functions and routines that will accelerate and enhance my work in career and college counseling?
  • Do I have the resources and training required to automate these routines?

In thinking about how to adapt, automate, and accelerate your work routines, keep students in mind. Technology can be an accelerator of your work and help you solve capacity issues to serve more students, but our profession is built on trust and relationships with students. When selecting any tech resource, the priority should always remain whether or not you as a counselor or adviser maintain a personal connection with students. In other words, how do you coexist with the tech resource your students are using?

Encourage is a free postsecondary planning mobile and web app that helps students explore careers, match with colleges and scholarships, and develop plans to navigate this process. In using Encourage, we give some control back to the students in the initial college counseling steps. Through a series of exploratory questions, students are provided a list of college matches, scholarship matches, and a set of key tasks to complete as they develop a college list.

Because Encourage’s matching criteria is smart enough to create a college match list for students in their personal account, counselors save time they would have needed to build an initial college list with students. This is one of the ways Encourage strives to automate one of the many tasks college counselors spend time managing every year. 

In previous articles, we shared counselor resources to help your students create a balanced college list and assist college counselors through a college counseling learning series in partnership with the American School Counselor Association. Encourage is a great online resource on its own; however, when used with the information and training resources provided, it can transform how you and your program serve more students with limited human resources.

If you are interested in learning more about Encourage, please contact us here. 

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