Southern Regional Forum: 4 Ways to Bridge the Gap Between High School and College
Southern Regional Forum: 4 Ways to Bridge the Gap Between High School and CollegeAndrew Elwell, Associate Director, Communications
Making the transition from high school to college can be a challenge for students. From applying to college to navigating the financial aid process to completing summer paperwork, it can be difficult for students to manage all the pieces along the way.
Orange County Public Schools is making that process easier by providing a college transition counselor at each high school. At the College Board’s Southern Regional Forum, two of these counselors, Heather Alexander and Latashia Joseph, shared how their work has helped the students and parents of Orange County on their way to college, and offered advice based on the lessons they’ve learned over the past year and a half of the college transition program.
- Communicate widely: It’s important to reach students where they are. Each high school has a college and career center where students can come for information and resources. In addition to in-person outreach, the college transition counselors connect with students via social media, the Edmodo global education network, school newsletters, and websites. They also use Remind, a communication tool to help teachers and counselors reach students and parents via text.
- Reach out to parents and families: Parents are a critical part of the college planning process. Offering opportunities for parents to learn about the college application process, financial aid, and more can help them to be an active participant in the process. One of the ways that the college transition counselors reach parents is through their Parent Academy, a monthly program held on Saturdays for parents of students at all grade levels. The academy provides a comprehensive look at key components of applying to college, searching for financial aid, and transitioning to college.
- Provide motivation and celebrate successes: Completing each step on the journey to college should be recognized. One of the ways the college transition counselors motivate and celebrate their students is through “college signing days” once students have decided which college they’ll attend. Modeled after similar events for high school athletes planning to play at the college level, each school has their students sign a “letter of intent” to their future college, celebrate their college decision, and encourage their postsecondary plans.
- Acceptance isn’t the finish line: Once students have accepted an offer to attend college, their work isn’t done. Orange County Public Schools college transition counselors work to combat what is commonly referred to as “summer melt” by breaking down informational barriers for students and families, partnering with local institutions, and encouraging students to participate in summer bridge programs.