Bridging the Gap: HS to College Advising, Part I (7 Points of Parent Contact)

parentcontact[Disclaimer: These are my opinions based on personal experience a non-traditional college student with a fairly recent degree completion and  as a parent of children in both a traditional high school and an early college high school.]

Although we talk in terms of PK-20 in the world of education, the secondary and higher education systems do not align. The registration processes, course equivalencies, and terminology are vastly different. There is a huge opportunity for professionals on both sides of the divide to build a bridge through personalized advising appointments with students as well as streamlined communication with families.

I believe advising is really about an ongoing, personal conversation…. which is rare when high school counselors are swamped with high caseload and college counselors function on a drop-in capacity. High school students in particular need parental input into the advising process. And parents need an opportunity to learn what is available so they can give educated feedback to their children based on their knowledge of their child, the family financial situation, and a host of other circumstances that staff may not be able to take into account.

As such, it is vital that secondary guidance counseling offices place a high importance on effective parent communication. Here are some ideas using the general marketing rule that it takes seven points of contact to make a ‘sale’…. which can be translated to sharing information with parents- it may very well take seven contacts to communicate to your parent base.

7 Points of Parent Contact

  1. Student assembly– Often information is initially disseminated through large group settings where students retain a fraction of what is shared…. and much of what they do bring home may be incorrect. Invite  parents to attend these events. Publicize, publicize, publicize. (see #2, #3, #4)
  2. Social media– Go where the parents of these millennial children are… which for a large percentage is on Facebook. Information shared on these platforms allows you to get specifics out to parents in a format that they see regularly and can use to share with each other.
  3. Mini-handouts– I know that paper is out, but it is still needed. Rather than large sheets that get crumpled to the bottom of backpacks, try mini-handouts that are business card size or interesting shapes. Have students in a design program help create an interesting graphic and use a URL shortener like tinyurl or to link to your website information page.
  4. School generated email– Most schools have the option to send parent communications via email. This is a great opportunity to share with parents information that was shared with students about post-secondary options. Include links- the more information, the fewer phone calls you will receive from confused parents which will allow you to spend more time on the important things- your students.
  5. Post-secondary options night publicity– Many schools already offer an evening dedicated to sharing options. However, families are often forced to choose between three activities or meetings on the same night… make yours sound like the most important! Use marketing terms like “free college”… parents may not know what ‘concurrent enrollment’ means and then choose to go another event. You are vying for busy parents’ time- sell them on your event using all of the first 4 parent contact points.
  6. Informal follow-up coffee- Parents can be actively following your communications, yet still have more questions than answers. Take advantage of these questions by hosting an informal coffee or two in your local coffee shop to answer follow-up questions in a group and allow parents to network. More information is shared by parents in passing or at evening events than you can imagine… harness the power of that network and let them help you communicate. Have resources and links available- you can use the same mini-handouts from #3 here if you have a generic URL and customize your landing page.
  7. One on one advising meetings with families– This is time consuming, but vital for student success. Early colleges often block out 1-2 hours per student, per semester (with parents) to do advising and enrollment for the following semester. Find a way to make this happen. Use an online scheduling app, allow parent volunteers to take on tasks… whatever it takes to make room in your schedule to personalize your advising information.


These points of contact should be in addition to and augment any newsletters or other parent web programs. Crosspost mercilessly. Obviously, having a quality and engaging website with links to social media is vital to the success of your high school to college advising. You are in the business of preparing students for their futures…. treat your counseling office as such. Ensure you are contributing to parents electing to remain at your school over other choice options in your area. Translate program names into parent friendly terms. Ask parents for feedback on your ‘translation’- what is still confusing? Be proactive, try new things, and adapt to the communication means that your families are using- text, email, social media, etc. Invest some time to prepare quality information so that you can decrease impromptu meetings and increase those planned one-on-one advising meetings.

Although I don’t want to take this bridge metaphor too far, I think parent communication is one of the first supports as we build a bridge from high school classes to college coursework (either during or following secondary), followed closely by student engagement and systems alignment…. and probably a few other things I’m going to think through in this ‘series’.

What is the most effective parent communication tool you use? What did you find was surprisingly successful? Have you tried anything that bombed? Parents- what school communication method has had the biggest impact? What do you want to see?

100 Cups of Coffee: The Year-Long Conference

cupsofcoffeeI can’t remember where I was introduced to the concept of 100 Cups of Coffee, but it may have been The $100 Startup book.  All I know is that the concept of meeting with many people to discuss ideas and thinking around a particular field rocks. 100 cups of coffee is simply meeting one hundred people for coffee. It’s like an extended education conference that can last the whole year long for considerably less than a plane ticket, hotel, and conference fee. Not only that, but it can be personalized to your current learning needs. Tom Whitby recently posted about the relevancy of education conferences, and there has been amazing discussion on Twitter about the topic. It reminded me that the individuals I met and the discussions we had are what made EduCon 2.4 an amazing conference experience.

I know some are tired of the conference bandwagon…. maybe it’s time to make your own conversations? To buy 100 cups of coffee? To find the interesting people and learn from them like Chris Fancher mentioned this morning:

Conferences are a great starting point for conversations. Twitter can also be a starting point… the whole reason I met Chris at #educon was from his tweets inviting people to join him for dinner prior to the conference. Pick your starting point… then start.

As I learn about academic advising in order to better meet the needs of my personalized learning students at E3, I find the need to start those conversations. I am beginning locally through some traditional networking, but plan to meet over coffee with others via Skype or FaceTime. I can even email a Starbucks card to pay for the coffee. Voila!

You can too.

(And if you are an #acadv professional bridging the high school to college gap, please contact me or comment below. I’d love to talk with you.)


My Academic Advising Independent Learning Plan


As I spend more time working with personalized learners through E3, I find there is a huge gap between high school and college in terms of adequate and personal advising. We have students in our program with very specific needs and goals who need expertise and advice from someone who knows them.  I want to fill that gap and help families navigate the many options available to them as their students complete high school requirements earlier and earlier. Although I am considering pursuing a Masters in Academic Advising from K-State, I do not feel that is the best use of my time and money right now. Instead, I have embarked on an independent learning project of my own to educate myself about the field of academic advising. (See- this personalized, independent learning thing works for adults too!)

Here are my recent steps:

  1. 100 Cups of Coffee – This is my variation on the concept for start-up businesses of meeting 100 people for coffee in order to launch your business. I am meeting with 100 people to discuss the career opportunities and education requirements in academic advising as well as learn about the day to day experiences in the field. (More on this to come- I need to request permission from the two folks I have already met with to mention them by name… and the two I meet with next week!)
  2. Volunteer/Intern – I have offered to donate 4 hours a week of my time to intern at two different schools. One is very excited about the possibilities of my ‘job shadow’ project, and the other does not really grasp how this can benefit them. (Discussions continue. Also something I will blog about once it becomes a reality.)
  3. Academic Advising Books – When I elected not to enroll in graduate study this semester, I had already researched assigned texts in order to calculate cost. Now, I am just reading through them… and paying attention! It’s amazing to me how differently I approach academic books when I am not under time pressure or “write a paper about this” pressure.
  4. Twitter for Academic Advising – I have started a list of higher education professionals in the field, and plan to spend time reading and interacting on Twitter. I was happy to see there are quite a influential folks using Twitter for professional development.
  5. NACADA Membership – I joined, and should start receiving their publications and other information. Not sure how much impact this will have on my learning, but I think it is an important step in being connected to the people and ideas that will make a difference in my journey.
  6. NACADA Region 10 Conference (May 2014) – I’ll be attending the conference in Jackson Hole, WY. Not gonna lie, this one sounds fabulous. These kinds of events are really important in the ed tech world, and I hope to see the same kinds of connections and learning happening at this conference.
  7. NACADA Region 10 Facebook Group – This group seems very active and helpful in sharing through the Facebook Group. In the past they have paired mentors with mentees within their group, and they assure me that they intend to offer that again in the future. Cool! Might just help with #10.
  8. YouTube Webinars – Amazingly, there are quite a few lengthy webinars specifically dedicated to academic advising on YouTube. I’m working my way through them and have created an Academic Advising PD playlist.
  9. COWY ListServ – It’s amazing to me that ListServs still exist in 2014. The last time I encountered one of these was decades ago… however, I hope that there will be helpful info shared through the COWY List Serve (COWY is the Colorado and Wyoming Academic Advising Association.)
  10. Find a Mentor – I’d like to work with a mentor or two in the field of academic advising. This could be via FaceTime or Skype or face to face. Not sure who, when, or how, but I trust that the above things will lead me to the right person.


What should I add to my plan? Do you have a book or video or conference suggestion for me? Do you know someone in northern Colorado who I should connect with over coffee? Know someone who would make a great mentor? Please comment. 

My Saturday- learning on the UNC campus while waiting for my son to finish the ACT
Last Saturday… learning on the UNC campus while waiting for my son to finish the ACT.