College and Career Advising in the Middle Grades
This module, developed for practicing professional school counselors, pre-service school counselors, and college access professionals, includes six sessions that address the skills and knowledge required to help middle grade students prepare for college and careers. Participants build knowledge and skills in several areas, including how to create a college-going culture; the value and affordability of postsecondary education; career exploration; how to use data to support student success; academic planning; transitions from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school; and how to help students to develop academic mindsets and skills for college and career success. Participants will engage in constructive discussions in a learning community with their colleagues during each session, and complete practical, hands-on activities throughout the course.
Session 1: Developing a college-going culture in middle school
Session one focuses on the importance of developing a college-going culture in middle school as well as how to identify and address barriers within the school that impact students’ ability to reach their education and career goals. Participants learn effective strategies to establish a college-going culture in their school, how to help students and faculty to understand all postsecondary options, and how different higher education degrees/credentials lead to different career paths. Participants also learn how to dispel cultural, social, and gender stereotypes associated with college and careers.
Session 2: Helping middle-grades students and families understand the value and affordability of postsecondary education
Middle school is a crucial stage at which students and their parents must begin to make variety of complex choices that range from pursuing a challenging academic curriculum to developing an understanding of college financing. Studies have shown that almost all parents hope that their children will be able to attend college, but many parents do not have the necessary information to help their children make the important early choices that will help them prepare to fulfill their college dreams. This session equips participants with tools and strategies to communicate the value and affordability of a postsecondary education as well as the steps that are necessary to take now in order to plan for college.
Participants learn how to provide practical, developmentally-appropriate information to students and families about the costs of higher education; the types of aid that are available; what “postsecondary” means; the pros and cons of different types of postsecondary options; and an overview of the college planning and admissions process.
Session 3: Engaging middle-grades students in self-exploration of career interests and skills
In this session, participants learn how to research employment area forecasts, explore state-adopted career clusters, and explore tools and strategies to help students understand the connections between career aspirations and academic planning. This session also shows how stereotypes can influence students’ future aspirations, and the steps counselors can take to dispel those myths.
Session 4: Using data to address equity and create early warning systems
This session addresses the importance of exploring school data from multiple perspectives. First, it explores the use of data to uncover issues related to equity. It also explores the importance of using disaggregated school-level and individual student data to identify early warning signs for at-risk students. Participants plan interventions to support students who are struggling to be college and career ready as they progress through middle and high school.
Session Five: Engaging middle-grades students and families in academic planning and transitions
Transition activities, career assessments, and academic planning are important elements in student motivation, engagement and learning. This session helps participants understand factors that influence how students make decisions about whether or not they will go on to college. In addition, participants learn how to support students in their transitions from elementary to middle and from middle to high school; how to help students and families to understand the link between success in academic courses in middle school and access to postsecondary preparation options in high school; and how to help students and families understand why taking the right courses in high school and getting good grades prepares them for success in college and careers.
Session Six: Helping students develop mindsets and skills for academic and career success
Research suggests that racial/ethnic and gender differences in school performance can be reduced by focusing on students’ attitudes and behaviors. It’s important for students to learn self-regulation skills in middle school, as they are foundational to success in high school, college, and careers. This session will expose participants to strategies for helping adolescents develop a growth mindset and how academic mindsets, social skills, and career-readiness skills lead to success in college and careers.