New realities are beginning to sink in as we close the third academic year, during which COVID-19 prevented schools from offering fully-formed college planning opportunities for students. High school students are facing more difficulties in their academic progress. are less likely to pursue a postsecondary education, and even those who might want to may be being derail.
Encouragementally, new student survey from ACT showed strong connections between college preparation activities and college application among students in class 2021. Students told us that the pandemic has made it clear how important it is for schools, colleges and other organizations to continue to support high school seniors in pursuing postsecondary education.
What is not so encouraging? Many students who planned to take part in these activities never did. Students from low-income families, Hispanic/Latinx student, and Asian student were more likely than others to report more activities that were interrupted by the pandemic.
Nearly half the students who took part in ACT’s survey stated that there was at least one event or activity they would like to take part in before the pandemic restrictions. However, these restrictions made it impossible for them to do so after the restrictions were enacted. One fifth of students were prevented from visiting college campuses. About the same number had to cancel plans to visit college fairs. One third of students were not able to attend a workshop for filling the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
This is particularly concerning because college preparation was not only associated with positive college application behavior, but it was also linked to higher self-reported preparedness for non-academic areas like personal and social readiness, choosing a major, and choosing a major. College preparation was associated with lower financial concerns for students from low-income families. This is especially important for high school students who are weighing whether or not pursuing postsecondary education. Preparation is key! Survey respondents expressed concerns over not only the cost of tuition and books, but also about having enough money for food and other necessities.
College preparation is vital to enable college-going. COVID-19 may hinder proven strategies such as those used by the American College Application Campaign, which employs the school-day, in-person model with trusted adults to guide students through the application process.
ACT surveyed students and found that they were more inclined to take part in college preparation activities if they had more personal learning. Although most students no longer learn remotely, some schools have responded to the rise in coronavirus infection by keeping students at home. As new variants are discovered, this uncertainty could continue. We need to be flexible in our college preparation activities in order to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
Virtual learning is a transition that must be made with care to ensure all students have equal access to the same opportunities to prepare for postsecondary education. As students of low income and students who are first generation may not have access to the internet and technology necessary for virtual learning, they have not been accessible by everyone. These technologies can be distributed by colleges and high schools, as well as providing printed copies of information about college and reaching out via telephone to students.
We know that even though schools may have been welcoming back students, many state coordinators of ACAC across the country have placed restrictions on volunteers and large-scale events. Programs must be able to overcome such restrictions, for example, counseling students in smaller groups or offering activities on an ongoing basis, rather than a one-and done basis.
Virginia College Application Week celebrates students completing college applications.
ACT’s report revealed that personalized support is crucial: students need to be listened to in order to determine which college preparation activities and which topics should be covered. Students who took part in the survey cited time management, career navigation and life skills as strong candidates.
We must do more to support all students during the college preparation process. Otherwise, they may abandon their college-going plans. This means that we need to adjust how we reach all students and make sure we take the time to listen and understand their concerns. Schools across the country can offer us valuable lessons from those who are committed to helping students realize their potential. ACAC recently honored 19 schools that have demonstrated excellence in their 2021 School of Excel awards. This group of educators, along with their peers from 45 states, helped more than 223,600 high school seniors to submit approximately 460,600 college application forms during the 2021 College Application Campaign events.
It doesn’t end there. We should be celebrating students who are pursuing higher education. College Signing Day season is upon us. After Reach Higher’s first National College Signing Day, eight years later, more than 5,000 College Signing Days have been held. This month-long celebration is a tribute to students who make decisions about their futures.
Although it may seem overwhelming to face new and persistent challenges in supporting students on their path to success in postsecondary education and careers, we cannot stop now. To ensure that every student can reach their full potential, we must continue to push. They deserve it after another year of incredible changes and challenges.
Lisa Sommer King
Lisa King is the director of the American College Application Campaign, ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning Read more
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Thanks To My Queerness, I Am…
I remember writing a love note to my middle school boyfriend …) when I was 13. I kept it in a pair white tube socks that hadn’t been outside for a while. When I returned from school, my mom was sitting at the kitchen counter. She pulled out a folded piece of paper from her pocket and set it on the table. I have fallen and broken my wrist and had tires blow out on the highway. And almost drowned at Ormond beach. But all those experiences are more peaceful than the panic and fear that overwhelmed me that day.
My expectations of me coming out were not met by the reality of my circumstances. It didn’t go as I expected and it certainly didn’t give me the warm embrace that I hoped for. At that point in my life, I did not have the emotional intelligence, vocabulary, or life experience to tell my mom that there was nothing wrong with me. Now I realize that I shouldn’t have to tell my mom and anyone else that I was fine. Nobody should have to.
“I thought that I was a normal child. “GIOVANNY GARZON
I believed I was a normal child up until that afternoon. I used to go to the pond to help the ducks, teach my dad Yu-Gi-Oh rules (unsuccessfully), and watch Totally Spies when it was on. When the folded paper touched the table, I realized that not everyone believed people like me were normal. In my teenage years, I felt a lot of shame and pain around my identity. For a long time I did not have anyone who understood me or could relate to my feelings. My identity, which I tried to ignore, became a burden on my shoulders from those who don’t mind their own business and allow people to be themselves. I’m proud to say that ten years later I can live my life uninhibited, free and authentically. However, I would be lying if it didn’t bother me to mention that I still feel the pain and shame of my childhood.
It is difficult to be queer. As I become more myself, I am able to remember my negative feelings and learn from them. I also appreciate the blessings they have given me.
Orlando Pride 2018: Gio (center left), and his friends.GIOVANNY GARZON
Being queer has been an incredible source of strength and joy for me. It’s given me so many opportunities that I never thought possible. My queerness has allowed me to:
- Beautiful community of queer friends, loved ones, and people who love me unconditionally (I love you all 3)
- I have a unique sense of resilience which has allowed me to stand strong in my identity, and my values
- I have a level of self-introspection that can be really frustrating at times, but it has helped me get to know myself better every day.
- A perfect taste in music and a connection with female pop singers that can only be understood by a gay person
- True authenticity is something that hateful people will never have, and I feel sorry for them.
Pride is more than rainbow flags or corporate emails yelling, “Hi Gay, Happy Pride month!. Pride Month is a time to recognize the courageous queer trailblazers who gave up so much and sometimes everything to advance our rights here in the United States and around the world. Pride Month reminds us to support and care for one another, even though there are many who face injustices and disproportionate discrimination, particularly Black trans women who are among the most marginalized in our community. Pride month is our collective solidarity in making this world a better place.
Everyone, Happy Pride Month! Here’s to being their true selves every day!
“Being queer has been an incredible source of strength for me.” “TRULY ME” BY
Giovanny Garzon (he/they), is a first-gen, immigrant and queer 2021 graduate of the University of Central… Continue reading
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Better Together: Partnership between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs in Advancing Nonpartisan College Student Election Engagement Efforts
Crackers and cheese. Peas, carrots. Peanut butter and jelly. Bananas, chocolate. Chocolate and… well, almost everything! Some things are better when they’re combined!
Clemson University formed a partnership called Clemson Voices four years ago when we began to strategize on ways to improve student voter engagement and democratic participation. We recognize that each type of organization enters the voting space with its own strengths and challenges. While some may have centers, endowments, or other institutional commitments to improve democracy, others might not.