I’ve been writing about college readiness in my last few blogs, including what schools can do to prepare students for college by strengthening school culture and ensuring high expectations (College Readiness), and why tracking reduces the likelihood of college for students in low track classes (Tracking vs. On Track). This month I wanted to make the blog posting a bit more personal. As the mother of a high school junior, being prepared for college takes on a sense of immediacy. College fairs and campus visits, online researching of admissions requirements, learning about scholarships and deciding whether to play college sports—the list goes on. Much of this we’ve done on our own, but her high school has also implemented some useful practices to emphasize college preparedness and college going that are worth sharing.
Her high school offers afterschool and independent ACT practice and also publicizes ACT prep workshops offered by outside entities. The Algebra II class she is taking this year includes a workbook aimed at ACT preparation, and by all reports the students in her class did well on the test earlier this month. There was a week devoted to college information, including everyone filling out the universal college application and learning about what is needed to complete the FAFSA application. Last week juniors focused on updating their ILP’s (Individual Learning Plan). Moreover, the school principal encouraged all seniors receiving college acceptance letters to bring them to school to copy and post, in an effort to celebrate successes as part of a college-going culture.
These are important efforts, especially because they are aimed at everyone not just a few high achieving students. What I would like to see the leadership at her school figure out is a way to offer more personalized guidance for students as they formulate plans for life beyond high school. There are so many decisions to make regarding postsecondary education, and at a big high school with a counselor load of more than 450 students each, other structures or arrangements are needed so that each student gets support to clarify goals, consider career choices and look for colleges that would be a good fit. To me this is the biggest challenge: how school leaders can personalize education so that each student has high aspirations and support for meeting them.