News: College Access & Success

Schools Should Make Better Use of Advisory Periods; Here's How They Can

Tuesday, January 21, 2020  
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By Janai Raphael, Graduate Assistant for Research and Data Analysis

As more K-12 leaders begin to invest more resources into students’ postsecondary plans, few schools and districts seem to use advisory periods as a regularly scheduled time to provide students with additional college readiness support. Other district leaders may have an interest in using advisory periods to help prepare students for college, but may have run into questions like:

  • Who will develop the curriculum?
  • Who will implement the curriculum?
  • How much will it cost to design and implement the curriculum?
  • How much time will we need to implement the curriculum?

Advisory programs first emerged in K-12 schools during the 1990s to provide students with an additional opportunity to develop personal connections with school staff outside of instructional time. Advisory periods usually meet weekly, or sometimes daily, to discuss a variety of topics usually left out of academic lectures and discussions. Advisory periods are usually much less structured than traditional academic courses, which gives districts and schools the autonomy to innovate and implement new initiatives and strategies to meet students’ holistic needs.

Fortunately, there is good news for K-12 schools and districts interested in harnessing the potential of advisory periods. There are a variety of free and readily available resources, including complete lesson plans, to help teachers, counselors, and other school staff guide students through their entire postsecondary journeys.

Although there are a number of steps to prepare students for postsecondary pathways, dividing those steps into main phases can be helpful. The "Predisposition, Search, and Choice" framework was first proposed by Hossler and Gallagher (1987).

Predisposition Phase

These resources are focused on helping students to realize their postsecondary potential. These resources may be most helpful for younger students but can also help encourage older students to consider pursuing postsecondary education.

  • CollegeBoard’s YouCanGo features a diverse group of college students from all walks of life. These students share their stories as student-athletes, commuter students, immigrants, and nontraditional students, and how they were able to overcome challenges to reach their postsecondary goals.
  • ECMC’s Realizing the College Dream teaches with hands-on activities and workshops to help students visualize themselves in colleges, realize the value of college, and start planning their postsecondary pathway.
  • NCAN has a wide variety of early awareness resources categorized by the grade in which they might be most useful, and some of these are “plug and play” for practitioners.

Search Phase

These resources are to help students explore the higher education landscape, assess their institutional match, and find their institutional fit.

  • For independent exploration, reserve the library or a computer cart and let students surf a few college search websites like Big Future, College Raptor, College Greenlight. You can find a college exploration worksheet on page 21 of the CollegeBoard’s College Advising Essentials Resource Guide.
  • Find the Fit, a research-backed set of resources, provides a variety of activities to help students identify best-fit institutions, create a college application plan, assess costs, and apply to colleges and universities.

Choice Phase

These resources are focused on helping students assess and compare the cost of attendance between colleges and choose a postsecondary institution.

  • Federal Student Aid has a YouTube Channel with informational videos regarding the different types of federal student aid and tutorial videos for creating an FSA ID and other steps of the aid application process. The FSA website also provides webinars, booklets, brochures, and fact sheets on preparing for college and applying for financial aid. And be sure to check out this “Federal Student Loans Basics for Students” resource booklet.
  • ACT also has a college and career planning resources website, including financial aid e-book which includes student-friendly explanations, checklists, cost comparison worksheets to help students better understand their financial aid award packages.
  • NCAN’s Form Your Future website provides additional resources to guide students through FAFSA completion.

Comprehensive Lesson Plans

Things to Keep in Mind

Schools and districts that can’t find dedicated time specifically for college readiness can incorporate it into other preexisting school initiatives. College readiness topics can be intertwined in socioemotional program curricula through discussions of motivation, self-discipline, and commitment to school.

Some resources listed here may be implementation-ready, while others may need a little tweaking to meet the needs of students and schools. Regardless, they can be a great starting point for schools and districts looking for new ways to support students’ preparation for life beyond high school.

Advisory periods appear to be an underutilized resources that are ripe for transforming into something very valuable for students.