Students graduating from high school today are fully embracing the open road that awaits them, pursuing all options at their disposal. In increasing numbers, more students are recognizing that college is not the only path to a successful future, as many are asking difficult questions about the true value of a four-year degree.
Some students are choosing to attend a vocational school, accepting apprenticeships, going straight into the world of work, enrolling in the military, or taking a gap year.
The challenge for school educators and counselors is cultivating novel approaches to post-secondary education planning.
Five Thoughts on Mastering Post-Secondary Education Planning
The growing focus on college alternatives adds an extra dimension to career counseling at the middle school and high school levels. It means that counselors need to adopt a broader understanding of all the options, so students can stay engaged and feel respected and supported.
That transition is happening quickly. School districts are expanding resources and support for counselors to learn about and help students find options that take them to places other than the college quad. Some of those resources can be provided through the smart application of technology, including software for researching various options and tools to create long-term plans for learning and success.
Not coincidentally, this more holistic view of post-high school options leads to other benefits that are good for the entire community. It helps students feel like they are being listened to, rather than pushed down the road to a life in college that they do not want. Feeling greater engagement helps keep students on track to graduation.
Still, there is more work to do. Here are five thoughts on mastering post-secondary education planning that can help open doors for students.
1. Listen on their terms
It’s hard for young people to see beyond homework and the weekend’s football game. It’s even harder if they feel that they cannot properly communicate that they see their future differently than traditional college-track students.
Students should be allowed to talk and for counselors to consider what they are saying carefully. As one expert advises, you should listen for the telltale words that indicate that something important is about to follow—for example: “I want to . . .” Be ready to respond in a supportive way.
2. Learn frameworks for all options
The due diligence process of evaluating and comparing colleges and universities in the United States is commonly understood—secondary school guidance counselors are awash in the information.
Less well-known are the requirements and standards of apprenticeships, career/technical schools, independent schools, and other non-college options. Counselors should focus on continuous learning for themselves about these paths, including getting acquainted with accrediting organizations.
3. Get access to the right information resources
Properly advising students depends on the counselor’s knowledge of the dynamics of fields that may not require a degree from a higher education institution. With the world full of databases, counselors can serve students by improving their awareness and IQ about tools that provide labor market data and occupational knowledge on certain post-secondary options.
4. Improve your own technology literacy
Today’s students are digital natives. They were raised during the era of the Web and the growth of social media. School counselors need to establish a connection with them, and that means learning or even mastering the types of information resources that influence students.
Counselors also need to use these new technologies to open students’ minds, such as through video, podcasts, and other developing multimedia tools. By speaking to them on their terms, counselors can have lifelong impacts and improve their abilities to master post-secondary education planning.
5. Take post-secondary education planning into the classroom
It is well documented that school counselors are overworked. Recent studies place the student/counselor ratio at 424 to one.
One way of mastering post-secondary education planning is to take the work of counseling into the classroom, so that many can hear the messages at the same time. Work with teachers to pursue opportunities to expose students to direct-to-workforce success stories and real-world applications for learning through curricular opportunities. By bringing accomplished visitors into classes to talk about their experiences, you make an important statement about the viability of professions that may not require college.
Making and Marking Progress with Software
Software tools have the potential to reshape the planning process by providing access to resources that nurture students’ unique interests and skills. XAP provides tools to state sponsors, schools, colleges, workforce development centers, and others that foster career exploration and support student growth and development.
XAP tools put information resources at the fingertips of students and adults and help counselors broaden the support that they provide. XAP’s Choices 360 platform helps deepen engagement by students in the post-secondary planning process. This is a critical element of equitably delivering programs and resources to all students, including those who choose not to attend college.
Counselors play a central role through their embrace of technology as fuel for the planning process, and XAP offers several training opportunities for professionals, including webinars, on-site training, and online resources. With proper training, resources, budget, and school district support, counselors can use technology in mastering post-secondary education planning.
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!