Bill DeBaun, National College Attainment Network

The once-enticing prospect of a more normal, calmer start to the school year has evaporated in most parts of the country thanks to COVID-19’s Delta variant, but schools have nevertheless re-opened their virtual and/or physical doors for the 2021-22 academic year.

About one month into the fall semester, a few things are true and worth noting:

  1. The start of the school year is a hopeful, exciting time full of potential for students and those who care about them.
  2. It’s also one of the busiest times of year for school personnel.
  3. High school seniors now only have about8 months before graduation, which means a lot of advising to receive and activities to complete before then.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s good to highlight the tools and tactics that can promote postsecondary readiness for this year’s seniors, the class of 2022.

K-12 College and Career Readiness Calendar

NCAN has a 15-month college and career readiness calendar that helps K-12 districts, schools, and the partners who work with them plan ahead and find the best resources to support their college and career readiness work. The interactive resource provides a series of college and career readiness activities sortable by time of year and category (data, financial aid/FAFSA, etc.). It’s also available in PDF form.

There’s no need to strictly follow every step and activity in the calendar, but it’s a good reference to keep in mind as the year progresses. College and career readiness activities have a lifecycle, and it’s good to know when to plan and execute them. Only interested in financial aid activities? Filter down to those and go for it from there. More worried about the winter than the fall? You can filter down to that, too.

“4 for the Fall”

Last year, NCAN released a guide titled, “4 for the Fall: A Blueprint for Supporting the High School Class of 2021.” It suggested paying special attention to these four steps:

  1. Understanding students’ postsecondary intentions and needs through survey data.
  2. Obtaining and analyzing postsecondary outcomes data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
  3. Increasing access to financial aid by improving Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates, one of the highest predictors of college-going for aspiring students.
  4. Examining current activities around fall milestones and pivoting to virtual where possible.

It turns out these steps will also assist the class of 2022.

Each section of the guide includes questions stakeholders should ask and a curated slate of related resources.

Although there are any number of practices that K-12 systems could strengthen this academic year to assist students, NCAN identified these four because they are tactical, conceptually clear, and backed by strong resources that help practitioners with implementation.

Senior College Seminar

The last resource to be highlighted here is also the newest. The Senior College Seminar (SCS) from College Is Yours is a completely free, easily implemented college counseling curriculum for seniors, and it can help to catch rising seniors up with the knowledge and milestones they need to pursue a postsecondary pathway next fall.

The curriculum is “designed to meet the scheduling needs of any high school” because it “offers educators the chance to build a college access curriculum that meets the needs of their students in a format that meets the needs of their school.” The curriculum is “built with minimal technology needs and maximum flexibility.” The SCS has 37 lessons, each of which has formats for 10-, 20-, and more-than-20-minute delivery.

We’re living through a promising, perilous time. Many school staff, students, and families are entering this academic year with some justifiable wariness. Despite that, May and June commencement ceremonies will somehow still be here before we know it, same as it ever was. The resources above hopefully provide a jumpstart to the academic year that can help students make their best choices around their postsecondary pathways.


NCAN Guest Blog: FAFSA completions were down, but we can get them to go back up
NCAN Guest Blog: How to use ‘fit’ and ‘match’ to increase student success
NCAN Guest Blog: Summer is the time to build strong pathways between K-12 and higher ed
NCAN Guest Blog: A Quick Guide to Financial Aid Award Letters
NCAN Guest Blog: Stopping Summer Melt Starts in the Spring

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