Activity 7: Student Preparation

Activity Guide

BigFuture™

Schools at the middle and high school levels and both traditional and career-technical schools are using proven best practices to increase the number of students who not only begin college or other postsecondary schooling, but successfully complete their postsecondary work. Those best practices include increasing the amount of rigorous, college-oriented course work, helping students and parents plan early for what happens after high school, and providing appropriate support for students who need it.

To increase the levels of college readiness for all students, schools must make college “real” by preparing students for the complexity of applying to college and making the transition successfully. The College Board provides a useful tool that supports this goal. BigFuture is a place where students can begin career explorations, get information about tests, find colleges, learn about financial aid, and get application help. Elementary, middle level, and high school students and their parents can create a customized action plan for college based on their grade level, interests, and situation—a plan that can be reviewed and revised as needed.

Middle Grades Use BigFuture to guide students as they begin to think about options for the future by:

  • Completing the self-inventory
  • Exploring testimonials of students like themselves.

Example: Students at Mater Academy Charter Middle School (Hialeah Gardens, FL) take a class entitled Career Research and Critical Thinking. The website can be used as a part of class curriculum to guide students’ career investigations.

Middle School Counselors
  • Help students use 8th grade Make a Plan for initial goal setting.

Example: Heritage Middle School (Deltona, FL) uses the AVID program to expose often-marginalized students to rigorous classes to prepare them for postsecondary education. BigFuture resources such as “Taking Your Classes to the Next Level” can be used to support the goal of taking and succeeding in more rigorous classes.

High School Advisory Curriculum Teachers/counselors can introduce the website to 9th-graders as a goal-setting tool:

  • Use site activities and investigations by grade level and guide students to use all four years.
  • Learn how to turn their interests and talents into careers.

Example: Statesville HS (Statesville, NC) provides a variety of initiatives (Freshman Academy, Advisory, Parent Alliance, College Readiness Boot Camp) to keep the focus on getting ready for college from the beginning of high school until graduation. BigFuture searchand match-tools and tools for learning how families pay for college can be a part of the curriculum for four-year planning.

College and Workforce Readiness Teachers/counselors can use the site to:

  • Increase student understanding of the value of taking AP® and other rigorous course content.
  • Increase the number and success of minority students taking AP courses.
  • Provide support for students taking more rigorous course work for the first time.

Example: Eastern Technical High School (Baltimore, MD) increased the rigor of its curriculum in recognition of the fact that the skills students need for college success are the same as those needed for success in the 21st-century workplace. They created a Template for AP Success that maps out activities for students throughout the school year. The AP guides in BigFuture can support students and parents in de-mystifying AP and increasing levels of success.

Middle/High School Counselors With grade-level specific activities, the site includes activities and tools that:

  • Help students explore majors and careers
  • Help students identify and investigate potential colleges, universities, and training programs.
  • Guide students to make the most of a campus visit.

Example: At San Diego Met HSM (San Diego, CA), students are required to research a dozen colleges every year and participate in campus visits to at least four local universities. Students take the required entrance exams and are assisted in applying to four colleges in their senior year. BigFuture college search and visit guides are an excellent support mechanism for students completing these requirements. BigFuture provides practice SAT® tests and SAT Subject Tests to help students ramp up their test-taking skills and identify subject area strengths and weaknesses.

Parents
  • Use intelligent search-and-match tools and informative videos to find colleges that are a good fit for each student.
  • Use as an information source for learning about and accessing financial aid resources.
  • Find out how families like yours have paid for college.
  • Create and follow annual Parent Action Plans step by step, starting in the middle grades. Samples at BigFuture.org. Type Parent Action Plan in search bar and explore.