Post-Secondary Transition Planning Strategies for Counselors

The importance of post-secondary transition planning and ensuring that every student has a plan in place upon graduation

Ensuring that every learner is provided with the necessary resources and support needed to make the best decision for themselves is essential. In order to establish a strength-based learning environment that nurtures the abilities and aptitudes of every learner, schools should adopt an expansive approach to goal setting and curricular decision-making, driven by equitable access to a high-quality education.

Accomplishing this requires commitment, intentionality, vigilance, and often, a shift in the messaging around the vast array of post-secondary options that lead to success. In many schools, the narrative for students who are not bound for college is not given the consideration that it deserves. As a result, schools are defeating one of their primary purposes: to best prepare all students for whatever paths they choose in their transition to adulthood.

Schools that elevate and expand the conversation around all post-secondary options support diversity. When young people discover something that interests them in the school setting and a supportive pathway is in place to explore and grow understanding, they gain agency and become more deeply engaged in their learning.

Who we are talking about and how important it is to expand our thinking and programming to meet needs

Approximately 56% of graduating high school students in the United States choose to do something other than enroll in four-year colleges and universities after graduation. With around 3.2 million students graduating annually, this means over 1.5 million young people are choosing something other than a traditional four-year college as their post-secondary path. Including the military, community college, trade school, and other pursuits in the conversation illustrates the vast array of possibilities. An equitable approach to post-secondary decision-making that broadens the narrative and honors every student ensures that a greater majority of these students will have the right educational plan in place at graduation.

Effective strategies that help school counselors and educators meet the needs of all high schoolers, with a focus on those bound for paths other than college, include the following:

  • Comprehensive transition planning is collaborative and requires students, guardians, school counselors, and staff involvement. Transitioning works best, however, when it is a student-centered and -led activity. Students should be encouraged to identify and access resources that meet their individual needs and interests in a supportive environment. This empowers young people and gives them agency over planning for their futures. Knowledgeable adults support them by providing access to meaningful and impactful information, along with the necessary guidance during the post-secondary education decision-making process.
  • Promote self-exploration. Students should be encouraged to explore and learn about themselves in relatable ways. For example, if a student particularly enjoys working with their hands and spending time in nature, they can focus on these interests and skills when considering potential careers. Schools can use this information to expand the student’s knowledge base and provide direction.
  • Encourage learners to begin thinking early on, during the middle school years, about their future educational and career goals and what steps they can take at present to reach them.
  • Commit to making realistic plans and guiding students to develop and reach attainable goals.
  • Assist students in aligning high school course selection with post-secondary goals.
  • Demonstrate and model ways to look beyond high school in a positive way. When students can link what they are doing in their everyday school lives to how it can positively influence their futures and goals, education gains relevance and becomes more meaningful. Studies suggest that career goal-setting during secondary school raises self-esteem and increases student satisfaction.
  • Make sure that students are aware of all their options by disseminating information and providing career-related experiences to help them find a true fit. This can include but is not limited to job shadowing, internships, practicums, employment, and advanced coursework in targeted areas.
  • Be transparent and explicit around the prerequisites required for students to achieve their goals. Clear messaging from a variety of professionals, including school counselors, and post-secondary personnel, is useful.
  • Take advantage of technology.
  • Utilize a strength-based approach to educational goals and career planning that is reflective of and nurtures the unique abilities, competencies, and aptitudes of every learner.

Choices360 is a high-quality career and education planning platform that helps students track their educational goals and career plans. The modern platform guides students through a series of activities designed to support mindful decision-making around curricular choices and post-secondary planning. As students continue to grow and learn more about their aptitudes, abilities, interests, and competencies, they can tap into different features. They can access various online tools that enable them to make connections that highlight how their unique strengths translate into real-life proficiencies that help shape personal career goals.

Schools that choose Choices360 can promote an equitable approach to education and foster an inclusive learning environment where every student can thrive.

Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.

To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!

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