What Schools Need to Know and Do

In order to move from preparing some of their students for college to preparing all students, schools must develop a college-going culture. College-going culture refers to the environment, attitudes, and practices in schools and communities that encourage students and their families to obtain the information, tools, and perspective to enhance access to and success in post-secondary education.

The University of Minnesota created two excellent resources for school leaders. Minnesota Principals Academy is an executive development program for principals designed to help them lead schools to high
performance. Ramp-Up to Readiness™ is designed to help schools and organizations create a school-wide college going culture.

The following school-wide strategies and structures are essential to creating a college-going culture:

  1. Mission and Vision: Preparing all students for postsecondary success must be one of the school’s primary objectives. The goal should be explicitly stated in the school’s mission statement and/or its annual improvement plans.
  2. Leadership Structure: Either through the school’s regular leadership team or another vehicle, there is an ongoing forum where administrators, counselors, teachers, parents and other key members of the school community come together to guide college readiness efforts.
  3. Student Pathways: The school should either have completed or be working toward the elimination of any academic “low roads” that do not ask students to master the knowledge and skills needed for postsecondary.
  4. Opportunities for Acceleration: The school provides students with the opportunity to enroll in a significant number of advanced courses.
  5. Safety Nets: The school has in place strategies and structures for students who are struggling with social and emotional skills or academics.
  6. Partnerships: The school should have a partnership with at least one postsecondary institution through which both organizations work to improve student readiness for education after high school.
  7. Indicators: The school tracks relevant measures of its efforts to prepare students for postsecondary success, such as the number and percentage of students who…
    • Take dual-credit courses such as AP, IB, PSEO, College-in-the-Schools and other options,
    • Score at the “college ready” level or above on the ACT exam or other assessments that measure college readiness,
    • Have completed the FAFSA financial aid form,
    • Apply to a postsecondary institution,
    • Are admitted to a postsecondary institution,
    • Take remedial courses at a postsecondary institution,
    • Return to a postsecondary institution for the second year
  8. Time for Professional Development and Planning: The school allocates a meaningful amount of time to build the capacity of staff to implement high-quality college readiness initiatives, and to learn about college and career readiness on an ongoing basis.
  9. Senior Year: The school is committed to ensure that none of its students embrace the “senior slump” that deeply damages readiness for postsecondary education.