College and Career Planning


College and Career Planning in K-12

To help students prepare for college or a career by the end of high school, many Southern Regional Education Board states have implemented college- and career-planning measures that begin as early as sixth grade. These include activities such as student success or graduation planning, meeting with advisors, tutoring, mentoring, and exploring possible careers. Many states have programs aimed at supporting underserved groups such as minority and low-income students who traditionally struggle to succeed in high school. See below for each state’s college and career planning policies. (Updated July 2023)


College and Career Planning in K-12

Eighth-grade students develop a four-year plan that includes the electives and credit-eligible courses that they will take during high school that align with their postsecondary aspirations. After reaching high school, students develop their academic/career planning portfolio and revise it annually. The Alabama Career Planning System allows students to explore career clusters and interests, take career assessments and receive assistance from Career and Technical Education Career Coaches. The Alabama Department of Education’s Counseling and Guidance Office is situated within the larger Office of Career and Technical Education and plays a significant role in the state’s student support systems.

To graduate from high school, students must complete a one-unit career preparedness course that incorporates instruction, academic and career planning, financial literacy, and technology.

In 2014, the University of Alabama at Birmingham began administering the federally funded GEAR UP Alabama that serves the Black Belt region, covering 42 schools across 21 school systems to prepare low-income early, middle and high-school students for college and to create or expand programs that strengthen schools.

Alabama also implemented an electronic graduation tracking system that allows local districts, in conjunction with each school’s Response to Instruction team, to use data on achievement, attendance and behavior to identify students who may need additional support services.


College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires eighth-grade students to develop a Student Success Plan with their parents and school personnel. These success plans must address accelerated learning opportunities, academic deficiencies and interventions along with college and career planning components while guiding the student along pathways to graduation. They should help assist students to identify college and career readiness skills, select high school courses, and provide a basis for college and career counseling. Plans should be updated annually.

The Arkansas Department of Education provides college and career planning tools to students in grades 8-12. The department has approved several online platforms that districts may use to explore college and career options. The state department reimburses platform costs if districts select an approved vendor.

The Arkansas Department of Education also has created the G.U.I.D.E. for Life program to help students develop soft skills needed for home, school, employment and in the community by high school graduation. The five guiding principles are Growth (manage yourself), Understanding (know yourself), Interaction (build relationships), Decisions (make responsible choices) and Empathy (be aware of others). The program aims to incorporate these skills throughout the school experience to help create successful students.

The Arkansas College and Career Coach program, formerly known as Arkansas Works, leverages federal funds to deliver college and career planning to students in grades seven to 12. Career coaches provide several types of support, including tutoring, mentoring, and career and financial aid counseling. ACT Academies are offered in the summer to help improve student’s ACT scores and Career Cluster Camps allow middle and high school students to explore a variety of career options. The Arkansas College Application Campaign encourages and assistsstudents to apply for college during their senior year in high school.


College and Career Planning in K-12

All Delaware public school students develop a Student Success Plan in eighth grade and update it yearly throughout high school with their parents or guardians and their advisor. Each district and charter school must establish an advisement process for developing and reviewing the SSPs with students, their advisors and parents. The purpose of the SSP is to monitor the student’s academic progress to ensure on-time graduation, educate students about their college and career options, and offer support if a student is failing or in danger of failing courses required for high school graduation.

State regulations require districts and charter schools to develop and implement postsecondary advisement plans. The plans describe the college and career planning activities and resources that will help students achieve their postsecondary goals.

Information and resource guides for students and parents concerning the Student Success Plan and college and career planning are available on Delaware’s college information website.


College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires middle school students to complete one course in career and education planning. These courses provide information related to diploma options, assessment requirements, scholarships, and accelerated learning options. By the end of the course, students must complete a personalized academic and career plan.

FloridaShines provides students with academic advising, career readiness and online learning resources to help students explore college offerings and career options.

MyCareerShines is an online career planning system available free of charge to all elementary, middle grades and high school students. The online platform allows students to explore career options and develop their academic and career plans.

Career Cruiser, provided by the Florida Department of Education, offers self-assessment activities to help students explore career options in relation to their personal interests.

Plan It Florida, provided by the Florida College Access Network, offers resources for schools, counselors and community organizations to help students start planning for college as early as the middle grades.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Districts must provide certain career advisement activities to middle grades students, including exploration of academic skills and career interests. State regulation requires that these advisement activities lead to the completion of individual student graduation plans by the end of eighth grade. The graduation plans describe specific student advisement activities for each high school grade. For example, students learn about dual enrollment opportunities to help in the development of a college and career plan. Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, high school guidance activities included “providing career-oriented aptitude guidance.” 

The University System of Georgia administers the GEAR UP program. It provides support for students through their middle grades and high school years and into the first year of college and offers services such as academic support, college and career exposure, guidance in selecting high school courses, and financial aid counseling. The first model, or “Cohort Strategy,” is for seventh and eighth grade students and “high priority” students. The second model, or “Priority Strategy,” targets students in 10th, 11th and 12th grade who have either been homeless or in the foster care system. is a statewide portal that provides access to online resources for students and their families to help them plan, apply and pay for college.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Starting in sixth grade, students develop Individual Learning Plans that align with their academic and career interests. Each district must provide information on career opportunities and financial aid.

Students write their plans with the help of parents or guardians and school counselors. The plans outline the student’s learning goals and helps guide the course of their studies through middle school, high school, and college. The plan emphasizes postsecondary goal setting and the pursuit of a robust academic experience, including appropriate extracurricular activities and electives.

State law requires the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to publish information on the employment and earnings of college graduates in the state, so that high school students can make better-informed decisions about future careers.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education administers the federally funded GEAR UP program in 12 school districts. GEAR UP Kentucky helps prepare middle grades and high school students for college and to create or expand programs that strengthen schools.

The state administers the ACT for all 11th-grade students.

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority provides access to multiple online tools for Kentucky students and their families to help them plan, apply, and pay for college. Current Web resources can be found at and


College and Career Planning in K-12

Starting in the eighth grade, students begin developing their Individual Graduation Plans with the help of their school counselors. School counselors are responsible for meeting with students, advising on academic choices and helping students update their plans annually throughout high school. Plans include components such as assessment results, career goals, coursework and extracurricular activities.

In 10th grade, students add their chosen high school diploma path to their IGP — either the Jump Start TOPS Tech Pathway or the TOPS University Pathway. Students choose a career concentration that informs their selection of academic electives. Finally, in 12th grade, students add financial aid completion information to their IGPs.

Students have access to several online planning tools to explore careers and align high school course selections with future goals.

The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance runs Louisiana Award System that allows students, their families and school counselors to track financial aid programs including TOPS and TOPS TECH eligibility and to store individual graduation plans.

My Life My Way and Unlock My Future are online career planning tools that help students explore and assess career interests and align those with academic goals.

Star Jobs is a searchable database of Louisiana-specific career and employer information provided by Louisiana Workforce Commission that connects students to high-demand career opportunities aligned with their interests.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Students develop four-year high school plans of study and identify career opportunities, but Maryland State Board rules do not stipulate when students must complete specific tasks with high school counselors. The Maryland Career Development Framework provides a structured, grade-appropriate and standards-based approach to college and career exploration. The six developmental standards are: Self Awareness, Career Awareness, Career Exploration, Career Preparation, Job Seeking and Advancement, and Career Satisfaction and Transition.


College and Career Planning in K-12

The Mississippi Department of Education created the Career Development Pacing Guide for counselors and school personnel to deliver college- and career-planning activities for students in grades 6-12. The state department requires students to develop Individual Success Plans by the end of the seventh grade and to update them annually. ISPs guide course selection and career exploration through high school. By the ninth grade, students choose whether they want to enroll in additional coursework and earn diploma endorsements in addition to the traditional diploma.

With guidance from their counselor and parents, students must select one career cluster and identify at least one high school diploma endorsement prior to entering the ninth grade.

Mississippi State University, in partnership with the Woodward Hines Education Foundation administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program to help low-income students prepare for college. GEAR UP provides “targeted college access services and other benefits to students in the Greenville, McComb, and Meridian public school districts, beginning in middle school with the goals of increasing: readiness for college; high school graduation rates; access to information on postsecondary schools, career options, and financial aid; and college enrollment.”

Students also have access to My Way Mississippi, a repository of online college and career planning resources. These include WHEF’s Get2College statewide web portal and counseling service designed to help students and their families plan and pay for college.

The Mississippi Office of Student and Financial Aid provides resources for students and their families to apply for financial aid and lets high school counselors, superintendents and financial aid administrators view and update student accounts.


North Carolina
College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires school counselors to provide college and career planning to middle grades and high school students but do not designate specific activities or timelines.

The University of North Carolina System, in partnership with the College Foundation of North Carolina, administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program, which targets school districts with high poverty and low college-going rates. The goal of the program is to increase the number of high school graduates who enroll in college and complete a degree or certificate. GEAR UP North Carolina provides tutoring, mentoring, academic planning, financial aid planning, college tours and professional development, as well as resources for Spanish-speaking students and parents.

The College Foundation of North Carolina offers a statewide web portal that helps students plan for, apply to and pay for college. The online portal serves as a one-stop-shop for students to explore careers, save course information, track academic progress, and apply for financial aid.

The North Carolina First in FAFSA initiative from myFutureNC, in partnership with the College Foundation of North Carolina, focuses on increasing the number of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA, creating a FAFSA completion tracker that supports school districts and schools in accessing FAFSA completion data and target goals.

The North Carolina Career Cluster Guide is a web app that allows students to discover their career interests and explore occupations and related salary and job information.

The North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network Pre-College Program prepares students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Four NC public universities partner with schools and districts in the northeastern and central NC to offer academic STEM enrichment activities for students in grades 6-12. These include Saturday academies, summer programs, and leadership training and career activities. Coordinators hold parent seminars to help students and families prepare for college.

The Early Mathematics Placement Testing Program seeks to reduce the percentage of students who require remediation when they enter college. The program provides a free diagnostic test similar to the math placement tests given at state colleges and universities. These tests provide a snapshot of current readiness for college-level courses for each student’s chosen major at his or her first-choice college or university. Students enrolled in Math II and any upper-level high school math courses are eligible to participate.


College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires school districts to develop individual career and academic planning tools for students in grades 6-12. The Oklahoma State Department of Education provides OklahomaEDGE to help all students achieve their postsecondary goals by providing career exploration, guidance and equitable resources. EDGE also provides resources and information regarding Individual Career Academic Plans, a requirement for students entering the ninthgrade in the 2019-2020 school year to earn a standard diploma. The Individual Career Academic Plan is updated annually to provide written postsecondary and workforce goals, intentional sequence of courses that reflect progress towards those goals and the student’s academic progress.

Oklahoma Career Guide is an online tool to help all Oklahomans explore future career opportunities, develop education plans, and connect with employers. It is offered to students as well as educators, parents, adults, and veterans.

Students may use OKJobMatch to search for training and education providers that align with their career goals, including Local Workforce Investment boards that provide workforce investment activities for youth.

State law authorizes districts to develop mentorship programs to promote higher graduation rates for at-risk students. Mentors provide advice and counsel to students on crafting their graduation plans, exploring careers and selecting courses.

Oklahoma administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program, which partners with 10 rural school districts with high poverty rates and low college-going rates to provide academic planning, mentoring, financial aid planning and college application assistance.

The Oklahoma College Assistance Program offers UCanGo2, a comprehensive college access and outreach Web portal that aims to facilitate access to postsecondary education in Oklahoma and educate students, parents, instructors, counselors and community partners about preparing, planning and paying for college. Components include campus and community workshops, print publications, a college planning hotline and a variety of online tools. is an online platform where middle grades, high school and college students as well as adult learners can explore careers, plan their high school course work, and prepare to enroll in and pay for college.


South Carolina
College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires school counselors to ensure that, beginning in the sixth grade, all middle grades students have numerous opportunities to explore career options and complete career interest assessments prior to developing their Individual Graduation Plans, with assistance from their parents or guardians and school counselors.

By the end of eighth grade, students identify one or more of the 16 career clusters in their graduation plans. Students may change their choices of clusters at any time.

In high school, 10th grade students are required to narrow their focus areas by selecting academic majors within their chosen cluster(s). The selection of a major is also documented in the graduation plan to guide students in the selection of elective courses as they form their college and career aspirations beyond graduation.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program. The objectives of GEAR UP are to increase high school students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education. Students in the program receive:

  1. Tutoring and mentorship
  2. Introduction to institutions of higher education through trips and school-based sessions
  3. Informational sessions regarding financial aid for postsecondary education

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education also offers SC CAN, a statewide portal that provides access to online resources for South Carolina students, families, and educational professionals. Visitors can access information through social media, watch videos, view pictures, download resources, receive news and program updates, read student blogs, submit success stories, and view an interactive calendar of events.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education awards funding to the Center of Excellence for College and Career Readiness at Francis Marion University. This center partners with school districts, technical colleges, economic development centers, and four-year colleges and universities to prepare students for postsecondary success. The center provides resources, programs, and support for existing and new P-20 initiatives and stakeholders, including administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, and students. Further, the center conducts research to further an understanding of how best to prepare South Carolina’s students for the challenges they face beyond high school.

Using the South Carolina Transfer and Articulation Center, students can better plan their progression to a degree by identifying and taking courses that will transfer toward a degree program at a public institution. Using SC TRAC, students can easily locate information related to transfer and access transfer agreements, search for course equivalencies to determine how courses taken at one institution transfer to another and find detailed and up-to-date information on degree pathways


College and Career Planning in K-12

State regulation requires districts to administer a career-interest inventory to seventh grade students. Prior to entering high school, students complete an initial plan of study. By the end of the 10th grade, students should complete a second career interest inventory and revise their plan to include course work for the final two years of high school as well as career options and postsecondary plans. Students collaborate with middle grades and high school counselors to create these plans, updating them annually.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission administers Tennessee’s federally funded GEAR UP TN grant program, a seven-year discretionary grant program that aims to increase the number of low-income, first-generation students enrolling and succeeding in college across 15 Tennessee counties. GEAR UP TN provides direct services to a cohort of students, beginning in the seventh grade and continuing through the first year of postsecondary education. GEAR UP TN also provides services to students in the senior class of participating high schools each grant year.

As part of the GEAR UP grant, the Tennessee Department of Education and THEC offers, an online, one-stop-shop that provides information for Tennessee students and their families to help them plan, apply and pay for college.

Tennessee has an online College and Career Planning System, available to all students in grades six through 2, allowing students to explore career options, learn more about themselves and plan for higher education and the workforce. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Student Assistance Corporation provide an additional statewide web portal, College Pays, to help students and their families plan for college.


College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires middle grades students who have failed a state test or are not likely to graduate high school on time to complete personal graduation plans. All other students complete such plans by the ninth grade. Districts must inform students entering ninth grade about the endorsement requirement for the Foundation high school diploma and about the distinguished level of achievement.

The College for All Texans campaign is a project of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The goal of the campaign is to increase college-going rates of Texas high school graduates. The campaign provides information for parents and for middle grades and high school students about preparing, applying and paying for college. The project also provides materials to schools and other organizations to help them promote college readiness, financial aid options and postsecondary education to Texas students.

The state also funds Texas On Course, a one-stop college and career planning resource for educators, students and their families. Students can explore career interests and job opportunities, assess their skills, and select high school coursework and endorsements that align with their postsecondary goals.

Texas Career Check, provided by the Texas Workforce Commission, provides an online high school graduation plan and career and education exploration tools to help students prepare for postsecondary work.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Beginning in elementary school, students develop Academic and Career Plan Portfolios, including information about students interests and future goals. Seventh and eighth graders develop Academic and Career Plans and receive counseling about opportunities for obtaining industry certifications prior to high school graduation, as well as learning about Advanced Placement and dual enrollment options.

Middle schools are also required to provide a course in career investigation, middle grades students complete a locally selected career interest inventory and identify a career pathway. Students review their academic and career plans before they enter the ninth and 11th grades. The plan includes a high school program of study that is aligned with a postsecondary career pathway and/or college entrance.

Virginia offers several online resources and web portals to help students develop their plans. Virginia Education Wizard and Virginia Career VIEW help students in elementary, middle grades and high school learn more about college, career and work-based learning opportunities.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program to help low-income students prepare for college. The program delivers early college activities through summer school on college campuses, neighborhood academies and parental-involvement initiatives, and scholarships for eligible participants.


West Virginia
College and Career Planning in K-12

State regulation requires districts to provide structured Personalized Student Planning opportunities for students to explore and plan for careers. Student advisors use these activities to develop personalized education plans with each student. During the eighth grade, students explore career options and complete needs and interest assessments to help choose coursework for the ninth and 10th grades. Students revise plans annually. During the 10th grade year, students choose their coursework through the end of high school and postsecondary plans for the first year after high school graduation. Advisors assist students and their parents in identifying the student’s interests, learning styles, and career and academic aptitudes to guide educational planning and career choices.

School Counseling and Student Advisement

A standards-focused, integrated, and Comprehensive School Counseling program helps high school students acquire the skills to prepare for high school and postsecondary success. School counselors work with other school staff to assist students with academic and postsecondary planning that leads to seamless transitions to the identified postsecondary options.

High schools will implement student advisement systems that provide students with meaningful, supportive relationships and maximize each student’s personalized learning experience. An adult advocate, advisor or mentor will take an interest in each student’s successful learning, goal setting, career planning and personal growth. Schools should implement an evidence-based advisory system that integrates school success and career-readiness skills (e.g., work ethic, communication skills, teamwork, personal responsibility, organization, financial literacy, and study skills).

Postsecondary Access and Completion Initiatives

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community and Technical College Education strive to facilitate a statewide culture that values education and actively cultivates the academic achievement of all citizens, regardless of age or income.

College Foundation of West Virginia is a college readiness outreach initiative aimed at helping students plan, apply, and pay for college. The division also has launched a pilot project, funded by the Kresge Foundation, to provide students with college counseling and college-planning reminders via text message. Other CFWV outreach activities include training educators and community outreach professionals to provide in-depth college counseling, coordinating West Virginia’s statewide “College Application and Exploration Week” event, and engaging communities in promoting a stronger college-going culture across the state.

Additionally, the division supports the work of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Financial Aid in informing students of the availability of financial aid and assists in the efforts of the Commission to help adult students complete college degrees. The West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, and various other educational organizations are partners in these efforts.