Personal Learning & Career Plans (PLCPs) – I help administrators discover how they can support teachers and counselors work with students to create their PLCPs. Sharing career awareness and exploration activities, college and career training opportunities, financial aid information, and resumes. Let’s face it – I talk about these things a LOT!
Alaska’s students are taking more control over their planning and decision making with the help of the invested adults in their lives. High school graduation rates are on the rise – YES! However, a plan made does not mean it will be followed. This isn’t a new concept.
Students are being affected by “Summer Melt”. Last year we had record-high temperatures in Alaska distracting us from being ready to head out to new adventures in education. This year….well, with COVID-19, is there anything I really need to add here about being distracted? This is happening across the nation – the world. Students left classrooms in March. While they still had some contact with teachers, students probably were not talking with their counselors as often as usual for April/May/June. If they were talking with counselors, it probably wasn’t about postsecondary plans and entering the doors to classes and training programs in the August/September.
Spring ACT/SAT test dates were interrupted. Students may not have received the letters of recommendation they requested from teachers and coaches. Career fairs were canceled and campus visits, tours, and orientations have been canceled or moved to online resources. Now, it is Summer. Where is the support system? Who is their support system?
Vocational schools, colleges, and universities understand this. Their admissions and on-boarding teams have meeting and planning to put programs in place during the summer to help smooth the transition process over. Reminders, e-mails, letters, notices, postcards, and texts are strategically spaced-out over the summer to make sure students are staying engaged and are on track to attend class in the Fall. You can read more about them in other ACPE Blog entries.
Parents, you are a huge part of their support system. Here are things you can do to help freeze the effects of “Summer Melt”.
Take a Trip to the Campus
Take a virtual tour of the campus. With 360° cameras, virtual tours are the next best thing after an in-person visit for working out how far across campus the dorm is from the cafeteria or the next class or even the library. AKCIS.org now has over 2,000 virtual campus tours, with more being added.
Look at the Resources Lists
Campuses have an abundance of resources available to students: bookstore, gyms, shuttles, activities and clubs, health and safety, and disability support services. Each of these could be the answer to your student’s worries about transportation, academic progress, and fitting in. Look to see if the campus is offering Facebook Live sessions to discuss changes due to COVID-19. These are great times to ask your questions and hear the questions others ask, especially the ones you hadn’t thought of yet.
Check-in with your Student
There are so many messages going out from when your student receives the school’s acceptance letter and when he/she starts classes. Your student may become overwhelmed at all of the new choices, decisions, and deadlines presented. Ask your student about what messages they have received. A well-place reminder to check their e-mail will be one of the bigger helps. Some of the departments trying to get in touch with your student include financial aid, academic advising, and housing, and even admissions may still have some documents they are requesting.
Know the Lingo
Yes, there are many people messaging your student during this transition to postsecondary education. Knowing what kinds of things the school still needs will help ease the discussions with your student, even putting the student more at ease when he/she doesn’t have to know the answer already. Encourage your student to read the entire message for details is a big help. I recently came across an e-mail an academic advisor sent my daughter that included a TLDR section – Too Long Didn’t Read. Some of the topics in those messages we just mentioned are dorm selections, meal plans, move-in dates, scholarship and award letters, orientation schedules, final (official) transcripts, placement scores, and health documents like shot records and proof of insurance. For those taking out student loans, whether they are federal, state, or private loans, messages they will be receiving include reminders for master promissory notes and entrance credit counseling. The ACPE Success Center College & Career Specialists are here to help with more explanation in each area. You can reach them at (800) 441-2962 Option #4 or by e-mailing them at ACPESuccessCenter@alaska.gov .
Get Excited about the Plan
During this time, students start to question the plans they have been putting into place. Will there be money? Is this what I really want to study? How can I leave home and go off to new things? I don’t know anyone there. What will I do? Some parents dream about how they will use the student’s room, once their student has left for school. It might not be the most helpful thing to share those thoughts aloud with your student – not yet! However, do let your student know you are excited for them. Get excited about their plan. Talk about it with them. You will get so much more information from your student if you ask open-ended questions, ones that require more than “yes” or “no” responses.
When he/she asks you to help go through messages, set-aside time to listen and learn about what decisions they are making. Bring up the campus website and look at the map and the dorm rooms, talk about budgeting for food and laundry, talk about financial aid, discuss ways to connect on campus and in the community, remind them of their support system. Remind them of the plan they spent so much time creating, and let them know it can change along the way. They can continue to use their AKCIS portfolio to track their financial aid, academic progress, set-goals, and explore occupations. None of this stops just because school starts. It just gets easier when the new wears off.