For High School students across the country, heading into junior and senior years can be filled with excitement. Proms, graduation celebrations, and talk about life after high school fill the hallways of school buildings. But with the excitement also comes the given stress that such a big transition can carry. College pamphlets start arriving in the mail and amidst all of the excitement, the pressure to answer the question, “What are you doing after graduation?” weighs on students.
At KIPP Massachusetts, our central mission is ensuring that our students are on a path to a fulfilled life, and with this comes the acknowledgement that no postsecondary path is the same. We have moved away from the one-size-fits-all approach to life after high school graduation, and with the support of the entire KIPP Public Schools network, re-branded our focus to ensure that all students are informed when making decisions about life after graduation, promising that KIPP graduates are set up with the best possible shot at success.
Our KIPP Forward team, formerly known as KIPP Through College and Career, follows a new model that strays away from the idea that in order to lead a fulfilled life, students must attend a four-year university or college immediately after graduation. While the previous model focused on a direct path of four-year college education to a career to achieve a “self-sufficient and choice filled life”, the new model is so much more than that. The focus has been taken away from the “college or bust” mindset and allows the KIPP Forward Team to hone in on each student’s individual skills, talents, and desires for their own future.
In this shift, a branch of The KIPP Forward Team adjusted, and the formerly known College Counseling Team transitioned to the Match Counseling team. The central mission of the Match team is that, “Every student is empowered, emboldened, and equipped to choose and excel in their postsecondary pathway, a pathway that will lead them to a career of highest aspiration and a life of choice, freedom, and happiness.”
“The best part is working with our Match Counselors because they’re the point person in helping to make our post secondary decisions,” Chidalu Aniekwenagbu, a 12th grader and the Class of 2023’s Class President, says. Chidalu’s path is a 4-year university, and she says because of her Match Counselor, she was given the courage and support to apply for what are known as her target and reach schools because, “My counselor reminded me that I deserved it.”
The Match Counselors work together alongside juniors and seniors to help them identify their best fit. Our students set a high bar for their futures. For some, that means college. For others, it is career training or the military. Our counselors ensure that each student has the skills and confidence needed to pursue any path that leads to their highest aspirations. But what does this look like?
During their Junior year in the credited class Junior Seminar, students begin to identify what they value while they imagine what their future looks like. Students participate in units with focus areas on values and identity, career exploration, unpacking the postsecondary application process, planning for their future, and telling their story. The class also covers the introduction to understanding finances after high school, an effort to combat the recent statistic that 54% of teenagers feel unprepared to finance their futures.
In the second semester of their junior year, students are paired with a Match Counselor. They are the student’s go-to resource until they graduate high school, working alongside the student and their family to answer any questions regarding applications, financial aid letters, entrance requirements, and career training. During their junior year, students work with their Match Counselor to develop a wishlist for jobs, programs, and schools they will apply for in their senior year.
As students move on to senior year, they hit the ground running at the start of the school year with Senior Seminar. Senior Seminar builds on many of the foundational pieces that Junior Seminar laid down, with a focus on each student’s individual plan for themselves. In addition to Senior Seminar, Match Counselors meet with students on their caseload biweekly, focusing on whichever steps are necessary to help the student reach their goal, including completing job and college applications, filing the FAFSA, and applying for scholarships. Match Counselors meet with families throughout the process, including FAFSA Nights in October and Decision Meetings in April.
Throughout it all, Match Counselors use what is referred to as “Fit Factors”. These are six principles to take into consideration when planning a postsecondary future, including: (1) Success Fit (does this program have strong completion rates and do I see myself completing it?) (2) Personal Fit (does this program offer what I am looking for from a postsecondary experience and community?); (3) Financial Fit (does the expected cost make a plan to pay possible?); (4) Community Fit (does my community support my plan?); (5) Career Fit (does this plan offer a pathway to my career of choice?); and (6) Academic Fit (is this program a strong match to my academic profile?). Match Counselors and students use these fit factors to build a student’s wishlist and ultimately land on what the student sees as their best postsecondary match.
“The highlight of the process is the Senior Commitment Ceremony,” Match Counselor Woodlynn Pierre says. “In that moment, everyone feels like they’re ready to start the next part of their life and that really is what Match is all about!”
And our data proves Woodlynn’s point that Match is set up to provide our students with success. Looking at Class of 2022 matriculation data, 94% of students had a set educational post-secondary pathway by graduation, with 74% matriculating to a Bachelor’s Degree program, 13% matriculating to an Associate’s Degree program, 6% matriculating to a Career or Technical Education program, and 1% enlisting in the military. For the remaining 6% of the graduating student body, 3% entered direct employment and 3% were still weighing their options at the time of graduation.
Keep an eye on our blog and social media as we highlight The Class of 2023 as they begin their post-secondary journey!