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Reimagining the Road to Graduation

The Need for Extraordinary Systems to Get Students to and Through College

Who assists students on their journey to and through college and career, and how can they work together to build better systems of support?


Counselors & College Access Organizations   /   K-12 Staff   /   Higher Education Staff   /   Families   /   Peers   /   Employers & Community-based Organizations   /   Policymakers   /   Funders & Intermediaries


K-12 Staff


Staff in K-12 schools, including teachers, coaches, and deans, prepare students academically, offer mentorship, and guide students through the logistics of college application and matriculation. They are largely operating virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting to online or hybrid learning while facing increased draws on their time.

“The relationship has always been central. This year it has been even more true. How we develop those relationships has changed — it's no longer the hello before they come into the classroom and there aren't the hallway conversations as much this year.” —School leader, Twin Cities

Common Pitfalls That K-12 Staff Face
  • Lack of incentives to prioritize college/career outcomes (over high school graduation).
  • Under-resourcing for college access/success: There are not enough staff hired or funds allocated in K-12 schools.
Mindset Shifts to Help K-12 Staff Better Target Their Support
  • Form holistic relationships with students that go beyond academics or sports and create space for students to bring a wide range of concerns.
  • Connect students to academic supports and/or college guidance that meets their individual needs.
  • Listen to the concerns and stories of students and families.
Opportunities to Build a More Coherent System in Concert with Other Adults
  • Partner with college access organizations and community-based organizations to provide college counseling services tailored to the specific needs of their student populations.
  • Form relationships with colleges and universities that serve a large number of the districts’ students to create more seamless pathways and supports.
  • Collaborate with funders/intermediaries to ensure the district-wide approach reaches all students with baseline supports and targets additional help to students based on need.
Further Reading
  • View student stories where K-12 staff played a supportive role: Anna
  • View a complete list of concrete recommendations for K-12 staff here.  
Meet the Supporters
Who supports students on their journey to and through college and career? What mindset shifts can these supporters make to better coordinate high school, postsecondary, and workforce systems?