Prepare for College is a young person’s experience with an adult who helps them explore their college and career aspirations, needs, and fit.

Providing college support requires taking time to work alongside young people to complete school and financial aid applications and helping them chart their own unique college and career pathways. This is a Focused Experience for young people, one that specifically bolsters College SEL - Goal Orientation and College Outlook.


Across the United States, young people increasingly leave high school unprepared for college (Choy, Horn, Nuñez, & Chen, 2000; Jackson, 2009). While they may be academically prepared, they are not college ready -- lacking the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will allow them to successfully access and succeed in college (Conley, 2007a, 2007b). Specifically, they are unaware of their college options and do not know how to select an appropriate college that will meet their needs (Roderick, Coca, & Nagaoka, 2011, p. 187). In addition, few young people understand admission criteria, the application process, and academic course and financial requirements (Venezia & Kirst, 2005; Wimberly & Noeth, 2005).

However, research shows that when adults help young people prepare for college, emphasizing the value and attainability of college, assisting them to select the “right college,” and supporting them to fill out application and financial aid forms, they are more likely to enroll in and graduate from four-year colleges (Kless, L., et al., 2013, Conley et al., 2010; Corwin & Tierny, 2007; McClafferty, McDonough, & Nuñez, 2002; Perna et al., 2007). Specific studies demonstrate that young people are more likely to apply for and receive financial aid when adults help them fill out the FAFSA (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid) (Bettinger, Long, Oreopoulos, & Sanbonmatsu, 2009; Venezia and Kirst’s, 2005). They are also more likely to enroll in college if adults help them with college applications or entrance exam preparation (Choy, Horn, Nuñez, & Chen, 2000; Perna et al., 2007; Venezia & Kirst, 2005).


Hello Insight has found that Prepare for College is a focused experience that supports both Core SEL and College SEL development. College SEL encapsulates Goal Orientation and College Outlook, two capacities that are related to young people’s disposition to attend college. Young people with these attributes have the confidence and belief that they can succeed in college. Growth in College SEL is highly correlated with Core SEL development, as these two sets of capacities work together to make a young person college ready.

Download the Reflection Guide


Future Ready Student Voices Videos

This video captures young people’s perspectives on high expectations, college and career readiness, and the future. Watch this video with staff and young people to ignite conversations about the following guiding questions.

Guiding Questions:

  • What does success mean to you?
  • What does being “college and career ready” mean to you personally?
  • Do you think a high school diploma is necessary for success today? What about a college degree?

Fostering A College-Going Culture in Elementary School

This teacher encourages her second graders to start thinking about colleges and careers by enlisting the help of alumni and professionals. She provides four tips that can be used in any setting and, honestly, with any age group.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I create open dialogues about my own career path with young people?
  • How and when can I enlist outside support or ask professionals to engage with my group?
  • How can I support young people to create goals for their future and encourage them to take tiny steps toward them?
  • Are there ways that I can call out both current and future successes with my group of young people?

The Road Map: Figure Out Where You’re Going

Roadtrip Nation
This interactive website helps young people explore various interest areas and listen to youth-led interviews with professionals who have similar passions. This is a great resource to help young people see successful adults who are a lot like them. And, learn the various ways in which these interests play out over their lifespan.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I use this website to help young people identify and explore their passions and interests?
  • In what ways could young people in your program interview adults with similar passions and interests?

6 Exercises to Get to Know Your Students Better—and Increase Their Engagement

These exercises will help you celebrate young people’s unique identities and help them tap into their interests and passions. This can help young people begin to envision a future for their college and career pathways. Each activity comes with its own set of debrief questions and reflections.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I use these activities to help young people create a vision and plan for their academic and career paths?
  • How can I create space and opportunities for young people to express and share their interests and passions?

Pursue College Education with Confidence

National PTA
This site provides a wide range of resources for parents and staff to support young people to choose the right school, prepare for college, apply for college, pay for college and succeed in college.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I use these resources to help young people prepare for college?
  • How can I share these resources with parents and/or family members?

A School Where Every Students Goes to College

National PTA
This article provides a peek into a Title I school that guides every graduate into a four-year college or university. It gives terrific tips and strategies that show exactly how they do it.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I create a college culture in my program?
  • How and to what extent can I help to prepare young people academically?
  • Can I offer college preparation programs or partner with another program that does?
  • Are there opportunities to sign young people up for summer college programs?
  • Can we carve out time and resources to celebrate every student's college acceptance?

Find Your Career. Find Your Future

Learn How to Become
This website provides a wide range of searchable career paths for young people to explore. It also has great career guides that give young people in-depth information about a wide range of careers, curated by experts in their fields. It also provides tips and strategies for nailing an interview, finding the perfect job, becoming a manager, and transitioning to a new career and more. Their Job Search and Career Resource page also has up-to-date scholarship and financial aid information.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I use these resources to help young people feel more confident for their interviews?
  • How can I help young people search the Job Search and Career Resource Center?
  • How can I better enable young people to use and navigate online resources and databases like this?