Most high schools understand that part of their mission is to prepare students for the next level. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and many state-specific standards, include a focus on student success at the next level, or “college and career readiness.”
It’s important for students to be prepared for the academic demands of college. There is a plethora of research around the “mismatch” between what students experience in high school classes and what will be asked of them when they reach a postsecondary institution. Not only are students expected to read and write more, and with more challenging texts, but they are also expected to be more independent and able to self-advocate when necessary. Some high schools have implemented “senior seminars” focused on helping students to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills that they will need in college.
While academic preparation is a key factor, it is not the only factor that determines whether or not students are ready to make the transition to college. Social-emotional factors, as well as just general knowledge of how to navigate the transition to college, affect how successful students are when they make the leap from high school into the postsecondary world. So, while high schools are pushing rigorous courses and incorporating additional opportunities for critical thinking and problem-solving, it is not enough. If high schools do not address non-academic factors that affect the transition to college, they are doing their students a disservice. Hirsch (2010) notes that although “high school students may have a pretty good understanding of what they need to do to get into college . . . they have an undeveloped and even unrealistic understanding of what it takes to successfully transition, persist, and graduate from college” (p. 1). Nagaoka et al. (2013) notes that not only are non-academic factors such as “motivation, time management, and self-regulation” necessary for success in college, but they are “critical for later life outcomes, including success in the labor market” (p. 46). Thus, high schools cannot focus on academic preparation alone, but must include a focus on non-academic skills, such as social skills and academic “perseverance” (Nagoaka et al., 2013, p. 47).
High schools must come to see college and career readiness as a more comprehensive idea. It encompasses academic readiness, but also readiness in terms of the social-emotional and interpersonal skills students will need to succeed. High schools interested in developing a more comprehensive program to prepare students for college can use the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College-and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student as a guide for addressing non-academic factors.
Comprehensive College and Career Readiness: ASCA Framework
The ASCA college and career readiness standards include five core mindsets for all students:
- Belief in development of whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well-being,
- Self-confidence in ability to succeed,
- Sense of belonging in the school environment,
- Understanding that postsecondary education and life-long learning are necessary for long-term career success,
- Belief in using abilities to their fullest to achieve high-quality results and outcomes,
- Positive attitude toward work and learning.
With these five mindsets, ASCA has developed 29 behaviors across three domains; learning strategies, self-management skills, and social skills. These behaviors include key non-academic factors, such as “use time-management, organizational, and study skills,” or “demonstrate ability to delay immediate gratification for long-term rewards.”
District and school leaders, as well as school counselors, working to implement comprehensive programs for college and career readiness can use these ASCA mindsets and beliefs as a guide for programming. Students should have the opportunity to engage in learning activities that allow them to develop these mindsets and behaviors as they prepare for their transition to college and career. While their regular academic courses may provide opportunities to develop some of these competencies, it is likely that they would benefit from additional programming through elective courses, advisement programs, or seminars that focus on planning and goal-setting in relation to the transition to postsecondary institutions.
The checklist that accompanies this article is meant to support school leaders and teams as they work to develop more comprehensive college and career readiness programs. In the end, students will benefit from our commitment to support them beyond the classroom as they move to the next level.
Conley, D.T. (2007). The prepared graduate: The challenge of college readiness. Educational Leadership, 64(7), 23-29.
Hirsch, D. (2010). The high school to college transition: Minding the gap. New England Journal of Higher Education. Available: http://www.nebhe.org/thejournal/the-high-school-to-college-transition-minding-the-gap/
Nagoaka, J., Farrington, C.A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Keyes, T.S., Johnson, D.W., & Beechum, N.O. (2013). Readiness for college: The role of noncognitive factors and context. Voices in Urban Education, 38, 45-52.