Join me in congratulating the Class of 2021!
Throughout the month of May, many of you hosted virtual and in-person College Signing Day celebrations; another important milestone for the students we helped apply to college. As seniors head into the summer months, make sure they know what steps they need to take before showing up on campus this fall. And, while we take a moment to celebrate the graduating seniors, let’s also continue to celebrate the dedicated school counselors, teachers, and other school leaders working together to guide students through the college-going process.
May is also an important month to the American College Application Campaign because we convene the state campaign coordinators to officially kick off planning for the new application campaign season. At the convening, state campaign coordinators worked together to brainstorm goals to take back to their state steering committees and shared strategies of what worked well in 2020. A few of our national collaborators joined as well including CollegePoint, Get Schooled, and Eduventures. We always find the convening to be helpful and hope that those who participated did as well. A special thank you to Bloomberg Philanthropies for making it possible to virtually convene the state coordinators over three days.
Before you dive into the rest of the newsletter, there are a couple important items to highlight:
- Most 2021 campaign resources are updated and available on the ACAC website
- High schools interested in hosting an application event this fall can register through ACAC and we will connect you with your state campaign coordinator.
- Save the date - #WhyApply Day is Friday, September 17, 2021
Thank you for your continued service and dedication to helping students navigate the college application process.
Lisa King, director
Virtual Advising to Support Lower-Income, High-Achieving Students is More Urgent Than Ever
By: Nick Watson, CollegePoint lead, Bloomberg Philanthropies
Nick Watson shared CollegePoint resources with state campaign coordinators at the ACAC national convening last month. This article was first published as part of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning blog series.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, college enrollment rates have plummeted, jeopardizing recent gains that lower-income students and students of color have made in pursuing higher education. It’s the responsibility of student-serving institutions to address this crisis with urgency.
Even before the pandemic, undermatching – when an academically qualified student does not attend a top college – was a significant barrier to upward mobility for lower-income students.
It’s difficult to overstate what’s on the line. This moment has worsened existing inequities and caused many students to rearrange or abandon dreams.
For example, the pandemic pushed St. Louis-based, first-generation high school senior Tia Tricamo to refocus her college search to prioritize financial aid and live closer to home. Her dream school was once NYU, but New York City’s rapid uptick in COVID early on and high cost of living made her pause. With the help of her CollegePoint advisor, she’s now considering Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis as her top schools.
Six years ago, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched CollegePoint, which has reached 70,000 high-achieving, lower-income students like Tia, and provided free, virtual advising to help them apply to and attend the nation’s top schools. [Read More]
Setting Goals for a New Campaign Season
By: Adrienne Enriquez, national trainer and communications manager, ACAC and ACAC state coordinator for Oregon
I’ve attended all but one ACAC convening since we launched Oregon’s college application campaign in 2012. The year I missed is also the year I neglected to set clear and measurable goals for our efforts. That is not a coincidence. The convening provides the time and space for state coordinators to share our successes and challenges, to learn best practices from each other, and to reflect on where our state’s campaign has been – and, importantly, where we want it to go.
This past year has been challenging for everyone. Most state campaigns reported that site coordinators worked harder than ever to host events yet saw fewer students participate and submit fewer applications. In the midst of a pandemic, would anyone blame us if we simply decided to let the goal setting go and say “let’s just try to get back to the way things were in 2019”? It’s unlikely, but it’s also unlikely to result in serving students well. To keep state coordinators focused, we devoted most of one convening day to setting goals for our state campaigns.
The national campaign set goals in three primary areas, and state coordinators were challenged to set one goal in each of these three areas as well. At the end of the convening, I committed to asking Oregon host site coordinators to do the same. And now, I’m offering that challenge to you. Below you’ll find the three primary areas, a few of the goals that states are setting for the coming year, and some ideas of goals that host sites might set for local campaign efforts.
- Building Capacity through Partnerships
Sample state goals:
Things for host sites to consider:
- build a steering committee
- diversify the steering committee to include high school counselors
- increase the number of high schools that connect with tribal colleges
- increase the number of participating charter schools
- collaborate with 529 to provide incentives for student participation
- grow your planning team – does it include teachers, students and parents?
- coordinate with neighboring high schools and colleges to offer virtual events
- Growing Strategically
Sample state goals:
Things for host sites to consider:
- provide free promotional items to increase buy-in from schools
- increase number of schools serving students from low-income backgrounds
- send regular planning newsletters to site coordinators
- set a goal for participation rates
- use data to identify students who may need additional assistance
- Broadening the Scope
Sample state goals:
Things for host sites to consider:
- provide resources and support for a variety of postsecondary options
- increase participation among elementary and middle schools
- host spring college application completion events
- ensure all students have a balanced list and know where they will apply
- prepare students prior to the event
- provide opportunities for 9th-11th graders to participate
Using Design Thinking to Support Students’ Postsecondary Planning Needs
By: Nick Sproull, director of k-12 educator engagement, myOptions®
If you work in education long enough, you’ll eventually see or hear corporate jargon make its way into the collective vocabulary of the field. In some cases, these buzzwords fail to resonate with educators and fade like a bad fashion trend. But in other cases, they have staying power due to their positive effect on student success. And I believe when used appropriately, “design thinking” falls into the latter category.
What is Design Thinking?
Over the last five years, design thinking—a human-centered innovation process used to deliver better products and services—has gained increased attention and adoption across a growing number of fields and disciplines. When done with fidelity, design thinking can produce improved outcomes in shorter amounts of time, leading to better products and services as well as more productive and enjoyable experiences for those tasked with delivering those services and experiences.
If there is any profession poised to incorporate design thinking principles to make a difference, it’s educators. Design thinking is founded on empathy, and educators are some of the most empathetic people on the planet! Let’s take a deeper look at design thinking and imagine how it might help us serve and support students who need it most.
How Can Design Thinking Help Students?
While there are different ways to define the design thinking process, it can generally be thought of as a series of iterative steps starting with empathy as the foundation, followed by ideating, prototyping, testing, and measuring. Let’s take a look at how this might translate to support student success.
Empathize. As noted above, design thinking is a human-centered approach to solving problems. And it begins by purposely and intentionally focusing deeply on others. This can mean observing, engaging, and/or immersing yourself in your students’ lives. Some call it ethnography; some call it qualitative data collection; others call it a needs assessment. It doesn’t matter what you call it. The point is that you find ways to walk a mile in your students’ shoes. Do you know which students might be most in need of help or support? Student-specific data (not aggregate) from your school might be an important tool for identifying those students and thinking deeply about their lived experiences.
After going through this step, you might, for example, discover that your students don’t think going to college is for them because they (falsely) believe they’ll have to successfully complete Calculus in college.
Define. Once you’ve done the work of deeply examining your students’ challenges and needs, it’s time to develop and articulate a clear statement of the problem you’re aiming to address. It’s possible – perhaps likely - that you identified several different types of needs or problems, but it’s important at this step to remain focused. Remember, we’re thinking about this through the lens of helping students who need it most. The “Problem of Practice” you define here will not only set the stage for your next steps, but it should also give you and your colleagues the inspiration you need as you work to support and encourage your students.
You might, for example, say, “The Problem of Practice is students who self-select out of college because they misunderstand college course requirements.”
Ideate. This is the space where magic happens. Have fun, be creative, think big, and be bold in your ideas, but remember to keep connected to the Problem of Practice you identified in the previous step. It can sometimes help to get the obvious ideas out of your head quickly so you can think beyond the strategies and approaches you may have used in the past. Don’t be afraid of asking questions like, “What might it look like to…?” as you explore possibilities.
As an example, you might say, “What if we design an interactive experience for students where we bring admission counselors to our school to help them learn about college majors and the courses required in each major.”
Prototype. This is when you begin putting ideas into the real world, whether that means a wall of post-it notes, developing a new or reimagined resource, writing a grant, or maybe building a new physical space. The point of prototyping is to force you out of the ideation stage and into a space where you can begin testing your idea. Your primary goal in the prototyping stage is to learn. Sometimes you’ll learn from failures. Other times you’ll build on successes.
Continuing with the example above, this might be where you begin contacting admission counselors from nearby colleges, reserving time and space at your school for the event, developing a communication plan, etc.
Test. Did it work? How do you know? Data is your most important tool at this stage. Consider collecting quantitative data (perhaps through short surveys) and qualitative data (anecdotes and feedback from candid conversations) from students, families, and/or other educators in your setting.
Keeping with our example, you might consider asking your students their beliefs about going to college before and then again after the college majors and coursework event to see whether you successfully addressed your Problem of Practice.
Supporting students in the 2020-21 academic year has been challenging to say the least. As you head into the summer with an eye toward the 2021-22 academic year, try using design thinking to find inspiration and gain back time as you consider ways to better serve your students.