Turning High School Partnerships into College Enrollments

Topics: Community College, Student Affairs, Student Experience, Career Services, Experiential Learning, Student Retention and Success, Degree Progress, Developmental and Remedial Education, Early Warning Systems

Lesson One: Cultivating College Navigation Skills

Ample investment in academic remediation, but lack of attention to noncognitive barriers

Many states administer academic placement exams and follow-up remediation during high school to identify and support students testing below college ready. Statewide programs in California and Tennessee have proven that jointly, these interventions can significantly reduce students’ need for developmental coursework in college. However, national conversations about college readiness have focused almost exclusively on remediating academic barriers while ignoring noncognitive barriers, such as an inability to finance education, the perception that coursework is disconnected from career goals, and a lack of a college support network.

Optimizing High School Interventions for Missing Middle Requires Shifting Resources to College Transition Support

The transition from high school to college is rife with opportunities to make damaging enrollment errors, particularly for students struggling to balance school, work, and family. In the complex web of enrollment, registration, and support services offices, students often miss out on available aid, place into developmental courses they don’t need, or build a schedule that doesn’t work with their lives outside of school.

Personalized Navigation Guidance Essential for Impact, but Tricky to Scale

Cultivating college navigation skills during high school helps students avoid these common pitfalls of navigating the college transition alone—but scaling skills development remains a challenge. Breaking the costimpact compromise to deliver personalized college navigation at scale requires college leaders reach students when they are most attentive, concentrate K-12 interventions during students’ greatest problem periods, and enlist free advisors when possible.

High School Students More Receptive to Success Skills Development Than College-Age Counterparts

Success skills are crucial for students to learn early and apply during their college careers, but administrators often struggle to engage college-age students in first-year success courses. Optional success courses are largely under-enrolled and college students consider required courses a burdensome hurdle to graduation. In contrast, high school students eagerly embrace opportunities to feel like “real” college students and earn advanced credit. Progressive colleges tap into this enthusiasm by offering success courses to high school students, supplementing traditional lessons on note-taking and study groups with early career and academic planning sessions that make a big difference in students’ ability to navigate college once they arrive.

Summer Helpline Supplements Leanly Staffed Advising Office for Urgent Enrollment Questions

Students who graduate high school with college aspirations are still at risk of seeing their plans derailed. One third of high school graduates succumb to this phenomenon known as “summer melt,” when plans to attend college dissolve once students are faced with mountains of course registration decisions and required paperwork. Seemingly small questions about deadlines, fees, and scheduling overwhelm students during the summer, at a time when advising offices are the most leanly staffed. On-demand summer helplines offer incoming students a central resource to answer one-off enrollment and registration questions, tackling small issues before they become insurmountable barriers to enrollment.

Enlist Parents and Local Professionals to Scale Personalized Transition Advising Sessions

Small pilot programs across the country have proven that a dedicated transition coach can significantly increase high school students’ odds of college enrollment and success. However, the cost of this model makes it difficult to scale across institutions with limited resources to spend. Enlisting parents and local professionals as free mentors for students help minimize the cost of personalized transition guidance. Progressive college maximize the impact of volunteer mentors by getting initial set-up right—pairing mentors and mentees, providing multimedia tools, and opening access to ongoing support ensures a positive, productive mentoring relationship that boosts student success and mentor satisfaction.

Top Lessons from the Study

Lesson Two: Brokering Accelerated Career Pathways