I am excited to share a new project ACAC is supporting in partnership with San Diego State University Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment (CEPA) and funded by The Kresge Foundation. Through the COVID-19 Enrollment and Persistence Strategy Grant, CEPA and ACAC aim to create a K-12/Higher Education bridge focused on unpacking advising and counseling practices that best support recent high school graduates as they navigate the postsecondary pipeline and matriculate to college.
Direct high school to college enrollment for fall 2020 dropped by 6.8 percent, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Moreover, research shows that schools with high numbers of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, are experiencing a drop of 11.4 percent in enrollment. Students from the class of 2021 also completed fewer Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Common Applications.
As part of this grant, ACAC is supporting the development of student guidance and practitioner tools to combat COVID-19 melt, which refers to the significant number of high school seniors intending to enroll in college, but who do not show up to campus the semester following high school graduation. ACAC will be distributing resources, training materials, and curriculum across our network. To do this, we are thrilled to welcome Chantelle George, ACAC outreach manager, and Brittani Williams, ACAC fellow, who will support the COVID-19 Enrollment and Persistence Strategy grant and work closely with our CEPA grant partners.
We know higher education will determine the future of our nation and are grateful for The Kresge Foundation for supporting this important initiative to ensure more young adults have the opportunity to access a college education. We will continue to provide updates about this project as tools and resources become available.
While we are thankful for the new opportunity to reach recent high school graduates, ACAC is still committed to supporting high school seniors through the college application and admissions process. We hosted our annual #WhyApply Day social media campaign on September 17, with great success. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, we saw a full range of inspiring photos and videos. The day served as a reminder that students need our guidance and support navigating the college-going process. You can read more about the purpose of #WhyApply Day in my Forbes op-ed below.
Photo credits: Twitter - @DB_GoCenter and @SCCanGo
Thank you to everyone who participated in #WhyApply Day last month to help us kick off college application season. Even though the day has passed, you can still talk about college applications and options with students on social media.
Lisa King, director
What if? Asking the Right Question can Help High School Seniors Apply to College?
By: Lisa King, director, ACAC
Friday, September 17, was #WhyApply Day, an annual social media celebration intended to open the college application season and inspire students to take the next step on their journey to postsecondary education. The following op-ed appeared in Forbes on that day. If you haven’t yet shared your #WhyApply, it’s not too late! Inspiring students happens every day of the year.
Two little words in the form of a question have the potential to change lives: What If?
Just by asking high school seniors, “What if?” we can ignite their aspirations. What if they want to create the next big social media app? What if they want to find a new way to help people? What if they have a method of unlocking a mystery that’s perplexed humankind?
The “What If” question is a starting point — it allows high school counselors, college advisors, parents, relatives, and friends to then explain how bringing those aspirations to life requires education, training, and experience.
Today, Friday, September 17, the American College Application Campaign (ACAC) is holding its annual #WhyApply Day, kicking off a season of activities designed to encourage more students to apply to college, particularly those who often face systemic barriers to access and opportunity, including students from low-income families as well as Black, Latinx, and Native American students.
In support of #WhyApply Day, ACAC’s social media campaign asks students “What If?” as a way for them to express their ambitions and to think introspectively while providing educators, mentors, family members, and those who support students with a conversation starter.
Read the full op-ed in Forbes.
Students from Platt High School in Meriden, Conn. share their reasons for applying to college.
Student Voices: Advising Future Transfer Students While They’re Still in High School
By: Matthew Rios, ACT intern and student at California State University - Northridge
Nationwide, approximately 80 percent of students who enroll in community colleges plan to earn a bachelor’s degree. Less than one-third of these students successfully transfer to a four-year institution. In California, where our guest columnist attends college, 40 percent make the transition. Research suggests many reasons for low transfer rates. Today, Matthew Rios shares his experience as a transfer student, offering advice based on what helped him find success.
To many, the transition from high school to community college can be a confusing experience. It may be even more daunting for those students whose goals include transferring to a university.
Overwhelmed with forms for general education requirements while also keeping track of the different courses required in order to transfer, I found myself constantly in doubt as to whether I was heading in the right direction. It wasn’t until I received my acceptance letter from my transfer university that I felt reassured that the transfer process had gone smoothly.
The sooner a student knows they plan to transfer, the sooner they can make plans for the next step. In fact, if high school students know that their ultimate goal includes earning a bachelor’s degree, they can begin preparing even before they graduate from high school. Counselors and other caring adults can help.
I have three key pieces of advice for you to share with students, along with some conversation starters that high school staff, mentors, or family members can use to help future transfer students plan ahead.
Find a Subject Area That Interests You
Even if you are not sure of the specific major you want to choose, taking classes in the general area that interests you can make a big difference in the long run. Especially for STEM related classes, the requirements to transfer are lengthy and taking a couple related classes can make a significant difference on when you will be able to transfer.
Ask: What are your favorite subjects in high school? Are you interested in any subjects you haven’t had a chance to try yet? What do you think you might like to study in college?
Make a List of Goal Schools Early On
Making a list of your ideal target schools can not only help you later with applications but also in finding a program that interests you. Because the transfer process places much more emphasis on taking transferable courses that will give you upperclassmen standing at the university, it is important to know your target school’s requirements. Even for the same major, different schools require unique classes. Depending on the school, taking the necessary classes to meet a major’s requirements may be the bare minimum for acceptance into a program.
Ask: Which four-year colleges or universities have you considered? What are their requirements for being admitted as a transfer student? What are their required courses for all students? What are the required courses for the majors that you are interested in? Which of these classes are available at your community college?
Keep Track of Transfer Agreements
The number of agreements and general education requirements transfer students must account for can be overwhelming! I attend college in California. The requirements for transferring to California State University schools are different from the requirements for transferring to University of California schools. Transferring out of state or to a private university could be different from either of those. Plus, the requirements can vary by major. I learned early on that planning is crucial.
Scheduling meetings with your advisor every semester can be very helpful in creating a class schedule plan and ensuring that you remain on track. Advisors can also refer you to transfer programs that can ensure you will be admitted into a school. Some states may have transfer admission guarantees. Your advisor will be able to point you in the right direction to learn about these. If your state doesn’t have guarantees, your advisor will be able to help you connect with an admissions counselor at the universities you’re interested in attending.
Ask: How do you keep track of information – do you prefer to do that on paper in a binder or notebook or online? What process will you use to keep track of application requirements and deadlines? What are some questions you would like to ask your advisor during your first meeting?
Don’t let the pandemic change your college plans, apply to college today!
By: Ashley Johnson, program officer, The Kresge Foundation
The following article first appeared in the SDSU College Counseling Now blog.
Should I still apply to college? Is college still worth it? How can I even think about applying to college with everything else that is going on in my life? This pandemic has made everything more challenging than it already was.
These are common questions that many seniors and adults are asking themselves. Many students may be wondering about the next step in their education given the uncertainty of the past few years. High school seniors have had to do many things differently since the spring of their sophomore year. Some are still virtual while others may be in-person with the possibility of suddenly being sent home to quarantine lingering over their heads. Sporting events and other afterschool activities may be limited or canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks or staff shortages. It also continues to be challenging hanging out with friends when there are still limitations for large group gatherings without masks.
I want students to know that college is still an option! Students with some training after high school—whether that’s a year of training for a professional certificate or four years of college—earn more, learn more, and tend to be more active in life. This isn’t just another couple of years of school. It is the difference between thriving and simply surviving in life. The difference between living check-to-check and barely making ends meet and thriving in a career field that aligns to your passions and having the financial means to save for the future.
September 17th was #WhyApply (to college) day, a day where school counselors and staff, state leaders, and community members came together on social media to remind students why they should apply to college. #WhyApply is sponsored by the American College Application Campaign (ACAC), an initiative of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, which partners with thousands of high schools across the country each fall to host events supporting students through the college application process, especially first-generation college students and those from low-income families who may not otherwise apply to college. This year we anticipate nearly 6,000 high schools will host application completion events between September and December.
Many students are seeking individualized support and assistance as they prepare for life after high school. And while it is important to keep a strong focus on the Class of 2022, we must also support those who most recently graduated from high school. That’s why San Diego State University Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment (CEPA) and ACAC are coming together to address the college enrollment crisis. Through the COVID-19 Enrollment and Persistence Strategy Grant, funded by The Kresge Foundation, ACAC and CEPA aim to create a K12/higher education bridge focused on unpacking advising and counseling practices that best support recent high school graduates. You can learn more about these resources by visiting https://education.sdsu.edu/cepa.
College is still a viable option and the ability to pursue a more stable future is within reach! Having hopes and dreams of attending college is the first step and applying is the next step! Do not let this opportunity slip by your students! School counselors play a critical role to ensure students have everything that is needed to pursue their dreams and get that college degree!
The COVID-19 pandemic and the way it has upended society might dissuade some in pursuing higher education, but don’t be fooled. Do not let your students miss out on the opportunity to have a passionate career and make more money! Help students apply to college today!
What Your School Leader Needs to Know in our Newest “New Normal”
By: Nick Sproull, director of k-12 educator engagement, myOptions®
How many times have you read an article or heard a story about our “new normal?” If it feels like a lot, you’re not alone. Google trends from the past five years show the topic has seen consistently higher interest since March 2020.
It’s hard to believe, but this is the third cohort of seniors navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, which means as educators we are also navigating our third “new normal” in as many school years. The first came in the latter half of the 2019-20 school year, with mass virtual learning. The second in 2020-21 was characterized by various iterations of virtual, hybrid, and, in some cases, in-person learning. And here we are a couple of months into 2021-22 charting our way through the current “new normal,” still not completely certain of what lies ahead.
The Kids Are Not Alright…And Neither Are the Adults
The toll on students from these “new normals” has been well documented. In June 2021, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights published a report stating, “Emerging evidence shows that the pandemic has negatively affected academic growth, widening pre-existing disparities . . . Nearly all students have experienced some challenges to their mental health and well-being.”
But what about the effect on educators? Until recently, little was known about the ways COVID-19 has affected educators, particularly school counselors. But according to a recent paper, authored by researchers from Harvard University and Boston College, educators have faced substantial obstacles carrying out their responsibilities. As noted in the report, school counselors “…received limited direction and guidance, were rarely asked for input into school planning, and their professional development needs went unmet. Together, these challenges left counselors feeling unsupported and challenged to fulfill their counseling roles.”
Counselors have long been asked to perform non-counseling duties such as tracking attendance and filling in for absent teachers. But amidst the pandemic, role ambiguity has deepened with counselors reporting instances of being asked to coordinate technological device drop-offs, implementing new grading policies, and even doing temperature checks.
Participants reported that communication from school leaders has focused primarily on school operations and instructional plans with no direction for counselors. This has left many feeling forgotten with little information about how their roles would shift and on their own to articulate their roles. Most of the study’s 1,060 participants disagreed or strongly disagreed their leaders provided clear direction about the scope of the role (55 percent) in the early months of the pandemic.
Around 43 percent of counselors reported spending less time doing 1:1 counseling, in many cases due to school policy barriers eliminating all 1:1 and/or group counseling sessions. In instances where 1:1 counseling occurred, high school counselors reported a substantial decrease in the amount of time spent on career counseling, “with nearly half of counselors (48 percent) noting that they spent less time on [career counseling] in the months after the onset of COVID-19.”
In sum, at a time when students have needed the most support, counselors have struggled to realize their professional roles and have faced barriers severely limiting their focus on students’ academic, social-emotional, and postsecondary development. Our students need us to be at our best, and sometimes that means we need to “manage up” not only for our own self-interest, but in the best interests of the students we serve. Here are a few asset-based steps counselors and other educators can take to advocate for the enabling conditions to support a comprehensive counseling program.
- Embrace Autonomy. Though limited communication from school leadership can be frustrating, it can also be an opportunity to practice independent decision-making. As noted in the research paper, “Counselors…leveraged this autonomy to enact their roles by creatively working around school-based policies and constraints. For example, one counselor delivered journals to students’ homes to navigate a no-home-visits policy, while others collaborated with teachers in an ad-hoc manner. For many of the participants, this meant calling on personal relationships with teachers whom they felt would give them access to classrooms.”
- Embrace Community. In the absence of district-mandated or district-supported professional development, take advantage of professional organizations like the American College Application Campaign, myOptions, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), which provide free resources, tools, webinars, and other virtual pieces of training to learn from colleagues navigating similar challenges.
- Seek Role Clarity. In the Report’s closing, the authors urged school leaders to “…clarify job expectations, protect counselors’ time spent directly with students delivering counseling . . . Clear plans for counselors’ roles are needed to help students and the school community heal and recover from the disruption in schooling.” Consider sharing ASCA’s “Appropriate and Inappropriate Activities for School Counselors” as a launching point for establishing clear boundaries and expectations to support student development and success.