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Reimagining the Road to Graduation

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

What actions can leaders and organizations take, now and long after we emerge from the pandemic, to help young people achieve their dreams?

Jump to:  Themes  /  Top Recommendations  /  All (Sortable + Examples)




Three overarching imperatives, taken together, address the current crisis and build toward a more resilient system in the long term:

Three overarching imperatives: meet basic needs, build awareness, reimagine & implement supportsMeet the basic needs of students experiencing disruption

Adults must meet students’ basic financial, physical, and social-emotional needs, all of which are basic precursors to engaging in learning. This is a foundational step in supporting students’ postsecondary aims. 

Policymakers can provide emergency financial assistance and expand existing public benefits. K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and community-based organizations can provide students with physical space to learn, internet access and technology, and access to food. And K-12 schools and institutions of higher education can provide expanded mental health services and opportunities for peer connection.

Build awareness of the student experience and systems fragmentation so adults understand the needs of young people and the impact of COVID-19

Education leaders, program providers, and policymakers need a deeper understanding of the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 on student experience — and awareness that some ripple effects may take years to come to the surface. Students need to be invited to share their stories — and adults in the system need to authentically listen. (In addition to our site, examples of this kind of work include Beyond High School, Resurgence Student Journeys, and Personal Statement.)

Adults also need to recognize that, while individual people or organizations may be trying their best, the burden often falls on young people to piece all the different supports together. This shouldn’t be the case.

Reimagine and implement supports that can be delivered with coherence and coordination 

Support for students must be implemented with renewed purpose and, in some cases, entirely reimagined in response to COVID-19. Leaders need to ensure that gaps in learning caused by the pandemic are addressed and students are equipped to succeed in college. More fundamentally, the web of support needs to be knit together more thoughtfully so that individual students do not carry the onus of navigating disparate resources.


Top Recommendations


blue graphic of a college building with columnsThe recommendations most likely to make an impact in the short term:

  1. Provide and distribute emergency financial assistance to college students
  2. Prioritize access to physical space (e.g., unused gyms, cafeterias, classrooms, office space) for students who need a quiet place to study and/or access the internet
  3. Ensure all students, especially those learning virtually, have access to devices and internet connections that facilitate their ability to learn remotely
  4. Foster peer support models, social activities, and affinity groups for students to build friendships, mentor each other, and provide social-emotional support
  5. Provide expanded mental health services and proactively reach out to students so the onus is not only on them to initiate a conversation about their overall well-being
  6. Develop communication plans to reach out to students who paused their schooling due to COVID-19 and design program supports to get them back into school (e.g., texting reminders, counseling on financial aid forms, etc.)
  7. Adapt college and career advising models to center on the student experience (e.g., including meeting basic needs, social-emotional supports, and family engagement) and integrate more than just college/career planning and navigation
  8. Train teachers, professors, counselors, and other providers to implement new approaches that center on student relationships and leverage remote technologies
  9. Extend test-optional admission policies
  10. Revise and standardize policies (e.g., application cycle deadlines, tuition deadlines, courseload requirements, etc.) to provide additional grace periods for cohorts impacted by COVID-19
  11. Streamline FAFSA, including standardizing the “award appeal” process


All (Sortable + Examples)


A complete list of recommendations sortable by supporter type and transition point is viewable in the document below. Click to navigate to the section you want to view. For many of the recommendations, we identify salient examples. If you know of examples we can add to this site, please email us.