During the year, students rely on the guidance of their counselors and teachers to find their way, challenge themselves, and discover new college and career interests to explore. However, that changes over the summer when everyone goes home for a much-anticipated and well-deserved break. Without a plan for keeping students engaged in the process over the summer, students could "slide" all the way into under-preparedness as a result.
That means that one of the best things that school districts can do to help students continue their college and career readiness journeys over the summer is to engage parents, guardians, and families in the process.
That can be a little easier said than done, of course. Even when families have the time and resources to support student readiness, they may not always know how to connect their students to those resources operationally. Throw additional challenges into the mix, like single parenthood or busy work schedules, and parents can quickly feel disconnected from the process even when they're eager to be equal stakeholders in student success.
Counselors and directors can be the bridge between where families are and where they want to be in their student's college and career readiness journey. Here are some ways to point parents and guardians in the right direction over the summer to help them engage with the process:
1. Start with proactive, transparent communication
There is a decades-wide gap between a parent's high school experience and a student's. Technology, legislation, and pedagogy have changed the way students learn and how districts and families communicate. Where district stakeholders have had time to gradually assimilate, parents and guardians must play catch-up as fast as possible. Transparent, proactive communication gets everyone on the same page much quicker.
Make sure that parents and families know who to talk to, how to get in touch, and understand the channels for checking on student achievement and progress. If your district uses many different platforms for college and career readiness and communication, ensure that information for accessing each is clear and available from one place.
If your district uses SchooLinks, the easiest way to foster open communication with parents is built-in. When you welcome new students, SchooLinks will create a custom code for their parent or guardian as a part of the onboarding process. Not only does this give parents a transparent view of student plans and progress, but it also puts students in charge of facilitating parent connection, making that connection more likely to stick.
2. Enlist guardians in helping to jump-start student success next year
Many states require students to create individual learning plans that parents need to approve with a signature. Even without a mandate, giving parents a clear picture of how their student's plan evolves over time is essential for building out the framework that supports it.
When a parent can see that their student's individual learning plan is pointing them toward a particular career or course of study, they'll be better equipped to keep their student engaged in the summer months. That means that students can come in fresh in the fall, ready to learn and continue to work toward achieving the goals they'll continue to set in the planning process.
Pulling parents into the planning process is easy to do in SchooLinks, where individual learning plans function as living documents, not a series of forms to be filed away. Collect required guardian signatures digitally through the guardian portal or through a unique link via email. With a guardian account on SchooLinks, parents can always see the most current version of the plan and use the Message Center to talk to both counselors and students. At the same time, the information (and any questions they might have) is still top of mind.
3. Get parents involved with summer test prep support
With a clear picture of the goals students have set and the path they're on, parents can more effectively support long-term student success with key short-term activities that can be done over the summer. For many students, that will include sitting for formal standardized assessments of some kind, like the ACT or SAT.
Familial encouragement and support in the months leading up to test season in the fall can improve student test scores and bolster student confidence. In addition, counselors can help close the access gap by passing along information about free resources, like those available through the ACT website or through the College Board's partnership with Khan Academy.
On SchooLinks, counselors can keep students and their families abreast of upcoming testing dates by creating custom to-dos to remind them and communicate about access to free resources like those listed above through the Message Center. If your district partners with an external test preparation provider, students can use SchooLinks to access those resources over the summer, too, with our Study Prep integration.
4. Make applying for scholarships a family affair
Many families assume that students need to wait until their senior year to start applying for the scholarships that will help them offset college costs. They don't know that students can apply for good-fit scholarships much earlier!
Coordinators and counselors can make sure that families are aware that they have the option to start exploring financial resources for two- and four-year colleges and technical schools throughout high school with events like financial aid nights or scholarship information sessions. At events like these, families can see how to access scholarship information and craft competitive applications, then bring that information home with them to leverage over the summer.
If your district uses SchooLinks, you can easily coordinate financial aid events throughout the school year using the Event Center. Whether you decide to host your event in-person or virtually, you'll be able to invite students and their guardians, send reminders, and track attendance.
It's an excellent opportunity to walk parents through SchooLinks' robust scholarship matching features. Counselors can add custom indicators that will automatically remind families to stay on top of scholarship applications before the deadline.
5. Get parents engaged in college and career readiness throughout the resume-building process
A whole-student preparedness approach isn't just about planning for college. Whole-student readiness also takes long-term career goals into consideration. For a growing number of students, it includes work-based learning experience.
The summer is a perfect time for students to explore opportunities to help them develop those experiences and teach them how to build their resumes. Parents are in a unique position to partner with school districts because they bring their own professional experiences and networks to the conversation.
CTE coordinators can engage families in more than one way regarding work-based learning and logging experience hours. First, by relaying information about the opportunities that their students can take advantage of over the summer and then potentially engaging with them or their networks as industry partners in their own right.
For SchooLinks districts, preparing students to continue to log experience hours and build their resumes over the summer can begin in the spring. Consider coordinating opportunity fairs that introduce students to available internships, employment, and volunteer needs in the community over the summer. Invite parents — not as an opportunity to hover, but to show them how they can help their students make the most of the Resume Builder activity in SchooLinks and engage them as potential industry partners for future events.
6. Encourage families to tour colleges together over summer break
For college-intending students, college campus tours can help remind them what they're working toward and assist in the decision-making process. Summer is an excellent time to get a head-start on campus touring. It can get the whole family involved in the college planning process and make everything feel a little more "real". However, summer is also the busiest time of year for campus tours, so counselors and directors will want to make sure that families know to schedule these in the early spring if they plan to do so in person.
SchooLinks can help bring college campus tours to students and families, no matter where they are in the country, without the need to schedule ahead of time. Students and families can tour campuses together when students log into the platform at home with the ever-growing campus list with virtual reality tours. For an in-person approach, setting custom indicators in the spring to schedule college tours over the summer will remind guardians automatically to start coordinating those visits while there's still time.
By treating guardians as the equal stakeholders they are in shaping their student's long-term outcomes, the probability that parents will get and stay engaged rises. That can be a tall order on a good day.
When a district is time-strapped or managing multiple platforms, spreadsheets, and communication channels to keep everyone on the same page, it becomes even more challenging. School districts partner with SchooLinks to bring everything — and everyone — together to work toward the shared goal of setting students up for long-term success.
Get in touch today to schedule a demo and see how we can help you engage parents, guardians, and families to go beyond academic achievement with a whole-child approach that benefits every student.