Encouragement and Engagement for Better Student Support at NACAC

The American College Application Campaign (ACAC) was delighted to be a presenter at the 2019 National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Annual Conference which brought together more than 6,000 counseling and admissions professionals. NACAC is a trusted source in college admissions, which affords ACAC and ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning the important opportunity to listen and learn from the counseling and admissions professionals who are directly serving students.

The conference also provided an opportunity for ACAC to highlight our efforts. I had the pleasure of co-presenting with our partners from Michigan and Kentucky regarding strategies, resources, and programming to support the successful navigation of senior year college-going steps. I shared the stage with Jamie Jacobs from the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and Audrey Price from Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). Both organizations lead the coordination of college application campaigns for their respective states along with other meaningful programming designed to engage and support their state’s most vulnerable students – first-generation students and students from low-income backgrounds – in the college-going process.

The senior-year college-going process can be overwhelming, confusing, and intimidating to all students, but especially those who would be the first in their family to go to college. By working together across schools, across communities, and across state lines, we can more successfully affect who pursues education and training beyond high school. As such, the goal of the session was to encourage the seamless connection of the senior year college-going steps for students, to inspire high schools not already engaged with senior-year programming to join with their state’s efforts, and to engage higher education representatives to volunteer and otherwise support these local efforts.

During our session, I shared information on Steps2College a resource created in 2017 through the partnership of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, ACAC, the National College Access Network (NCAN), Better Make Room, and the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success (CPRS). This free, online resource links the major senior-year college-going steps: college application (ACAC), FAFSA completion (NCAN), making a decision and committing to a plan (Better Make Room), and successfully transitioning to college (CPRS) through the creation of a repository of free trusted resources available to school counselors, college access professionals, and other educators supporting students through these processes.

Jacobs spoke about the MCAN’s work to support the navigation of the senior year college-going steps called College Bound Michigan. This is a statewide effort that links their Michigan College Month (college applications), College Cash Campaign (FAFSA and scholarship completions), and College Decision Day (celebrating commitments to education beyond high school). Jacobs also shared effective practices for implementing each of these events at the school level and why this work was so important to MCAN and the state of Michigan.

Price continued the engaging discussion by highlighting the work KHEAA does with Kentucky Goes to College. This statewide effort is comprised of three campaigns: Close the Deal (an effort to support the transition to college by helping students understand the admission and financial aid processes and solidify a postsecondary plan), KY College Application Campaign (college applications), and College Decision Day (celebrating postsecondary commitments). Price also shared the many free resources Kentucky makes available to schools that host these events.

The overall messages for attendees, both K-12 and higher education were:

  • high schools: register your school with your state’s campaigns to support the successful navigation of senior-year college going steps; and
  • higher education: volunteer, participate in information nights, and celebrate schools and students as they participate in these events on social media.

Given the K-12 and higher education partnership opportunities that ACAC, FAFSA completion, College Signing/Decision Day, and other events like Kentucky’s Close the Deal provide, the NACAC Annual Conference is an ideal opportunity to share these efforts and encourage engagement. When K-12 and higher education collaborate with the common goal of supporting students on their pathways to college, we can make strides in removing the barriers that prevent our most vulnerable students from pursuing education beyond high school.