College Board Forum 2023

Meeting Students Where They Are: Postsecondary Education

An evolving postsecondary education landscape introduces new opportunities and challenges for K–12 and higher education leaders who are committed to supporting high school students during this pivotal transition. 

At College Board Forum 2023, attendees of Meeting Students Where They Are: Planning for Education After High School were introduced to BigFuture® where students can explore careers, plan for college, and pay for college as they consider their first step after high school. With more than 25 million visits annually, it is a key resource on a topic that is top of mind for many—planning for the future.

“We can’t leave things up to chance. We have 55 campuses in our district, so I'm always asking how I can be more intentional about bringing connection points and resources into every school, so students have equitable access to information,” said panelist Tracey Morman from Amarillo Independent School District.

Access to quality guidance at scale is one aspect of the planning process. BigFuture offers free resources, including informative videos and articles, and new personalized checklists by grade level and semester that can help students understand what to do and when, and track those actions. That was the case for Brianna, a junior at Columbia University. “I didn’t know much about the college process as a first-generation student. There is a lot of information and data out there, so it’s nice to have it organized [on BigFuture]." 

But access is not the only challenge. Creating a stronger connection between K–12 and higher education is difficult and necessary. These are not systems that students are used to navigating, presenting a need for more coordination and more conversation. One way that has been effective is through Student Search Service™, a service for students to opt in to hear directly from colleges and scholarship organizations that are looking for students like them. In fact, students who are contacted by colleges through Student Search receive, on average, 29% more offers of college admission.

But the reality is that things happen between graduation and enrolling. As Hannah Smith from Education Strategy Group said, “We're losing a lot of students between their senior year of high school and freshmen year of college. What happens to those students who don’t have a plan?“ 

In the Amarillo Independent School District where the majority of students are economically disadvantaged, all students graduate with an industry certification. “If students have a certification when they graduate, it can encourage them to enroll, but then they also have a reliable plan to fall back on or pivot to,” said Morman. 

For BigFuture, that school district example connects to our broader effort to elevate multiple pathways for students with future planning so they can better understand their options at a time when students are taking different paths after high school. Understanding these pathways is important for students, but also for counselors and caring adults. Students' interest in multiple pathways means counselors also need to have a pulse on what industries are in demand and the current regional landscape to best support their students in navigating their options.

Panelist Pei Lin, a student at NYU, reinforced the impact of caring adults in postsecondary planning. “I always knew I wanted to be an educator, and my mentor in high school is who most helped me as I work to achieve that goal.”