Completing the steps to enter college can be challenging for low-income and first-generation students. They may lack information or support for prerequisites like registering for college admissions tests, searching for schools, submitting applications, and selecting a college. The WWC practice guide, Helping Students Navigate the Path to College: What High Schools Can Do, concludes that simply providing students with information isn’t enough. High schools should also engage students in the college entry process, providing hands-on assistance for each step.
The panel identified four steps to carry-out its evidence-based recommendation to engage and assist students in completing critical steps for college entry. Read the full guide to learn about the panel’s other 4 recommendations.
Prepare for and take college entrance or admissions
By the 11th grade, students should receive guidance in preparing for and taking practice admissions tests and take the actual exams before 12th grade. Schools should communicate the testing timeline, including registration deadlines and test dates, offer assistance with registering for the test and fee waivers, and offer exam preparation classes or workshops.
Help in the college search.
Students should receive guidance in searching for a college that matches their qualifications, interests, and goals. Advisers should meet with students to discuss types of schools that are a good fit based on location, tuition cost, financial aid, school size, admission requirements, retention rates, demographics, and majors.
Coordinate college visits.
High schools should work with college admissions officers to organize trips for students to visit college campuses to introduce students to college and the college environment, inform students about the college application and selection process, and help them consider different college options. These trips should be more than a campus tour—students should have a chance to explore campus resources, observe campus life, and interact with college students. For example, students can shadow college students, possibly alumni from their high school, throughout their day, attending classes, eating lunch, and walking around campus together. The visit should include meetings that allow students to hear from an admissions officer, a college professor, and a panel of students, including those who represent the background or culture of the high school students.
Help complete college applications.
Schools should provide students with hands-on assistance to ensure that applications are complete, on time, and of sufficient quality for acceptance. One-on-one sessions or small workshops or classes should cover deadlines for entrance exams, applications, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and state financial aid forms, and acceptances from admissions, financial aid, and housing. It’s important to clearly communicate timelines and use them in one-on-one meetings to track progress in meeting key deadlines.
Guidance counselors can direct students toward college websites, the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website or database of accredited institutions, and books that help compare different colleges.