Connect the high school experience with pathways to postsecondary education, workforce readiness and participation, and overall adult success.

Communities should provide clear, connected, and responsive pathways so graduates can go on to participate fully in the economy and in their communities. Pathways may include a two-year or four-year college, trade school, career, and/or national service. Public-private partnerships that provide internship, mentorship, or project-based learning opportunities can make the high school years truly preparatory for life outside of the K-12 system.

  • Curriculums and in-school opportunities can build skills for the twenty-first century economy such as computer science literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and civic-engagement.
  • Building formal partnerships with the business, university, and nonprofit communities can help students explore their interests and gain real-world experience through project- and worked-based learning opportunities such as internships, externships, apprenticeships, and job shadowing.
  • Providing in- and out of- school time and resources can help students understand and prepare for post-secondary options through goal-setting and mapping, test preparation, post-secondary program application assistance, financial aid assistance, resume building, early college/dual-enrollment programs, advanced coursework options (AP/IB), and more.
  • Districts can collect and report data on postsecondary application, acceptance, and enrollment rates to track the progress of graduating students.



  • Advance CTE’s issue brief, The State of Career Technical Education: Career Advising and Development, provides the results of research conducted in partnership with the American School Counselor Association to find out what’s working and what isn’t in the state- and local-level strategies for career advising and development. According to the report, “Learners should see a clear line through their education from career awareness to exploration to planning, and this can only occur if strategies and initiatives are aligned across grade levels and policy initiatives.” The issue brief presents their findings and some policy recommendations. They have also provided a webinar recording taking a deeper look at the research and recommendations in the report.
  • The American College Application Campaign, a national effort supported by the American Council on Education, strives to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential. When schools and communities take on this initiative, the focus is on students who may not otherwise apply to college and happens during the school day. The goal is to help high school seniors navigate the college admissions process and equip them with the tools needed to apply to at least one postsecondary institution. Visit their website to learn how to get involved, access resources, and more on the partners in your state.
  • The To&Through Project's Communications Toolkit was produced in partnership with high school principals across the City of Chicago to increase awareness and support school leaders and partners in their efforts to share research on what fosters high school and college success with teachers, students, and families and promote a college-going culture. The toolkit includes a collection of briefs, posters, social media posts, videos from 19 students discussing the transition from high school to colleges and the challenges they faced, a counselor-created series of lesson plans, and PowerPoint presentations on key indicators of high school success, the importance of ninth-grade GPA, and college choice.
  • The number of dual enrollment programs is growing as high schools partner with institutes of higher education. Bard High School Early Colleges (BHSECs) are partnerships between public school districts and Bard College that provide students with a two-year, tuition-free college course of study in the liberal arts and sciences following the 9th and 10th grades. BHSEC students are enrolled as full-time students and earn up to 60 transferable college credits and an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree from Bard College concurrently with their high school diploma. BHSECs are located in Manhattan, New York; Queens, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Cleveland, Ohio.
  • For youth interested in options other than college, how can they figure out what their options are? Career Pathways: Five Ways to Connect College and Careers, a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, provides information to help students, their families, and employers unpack the meaning of postsecondary credentials and assess their value in the labor market in their state.
  • The Pathways to Prosperity Network, a collaboration of Jobs for the Future, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and states and regions, is building systems of academic and career pathways for grades 9-14. The network is focused on high-growth sectors in STEM fields, including information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing. The Pathways to Prosperity Network seeks to ensure that more youth complete high school, attain postsecondary credentials with currency in the labor market, and launch careers while leaving open the prospect of further education.
  • Dell Scholars is a scholarship and college-completion program from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation that supports students on their path to a college degree. Most Dell Scholars are low-income, first generation college students who overcame personal challenges in their lives related to their families, schools, or communities. The goal of the program is to empower more low-income students to attend and graduate from college. In addition to financial aid and academic support, students are also provided with mentoring that provides emotional, lifestyle, and financial support to help with challenges that may prevent students from completing college.
  • “From CEOs to educators, social entrepreneurs to STEM innovators, the leaders of the 21st century should reflect our population’s growing diversity.” This is the belief of The Posse Foundation and guides their efforts to support talented students from diverse backgrounds so they can become those leaders. “The Posse model is rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students—a Posse—carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development.”

    Posse’s four program components are designed to support Scholars’ success to reach college completion: dynamic assessment process, pre-collegiate training, campus program, and career program. According to their website, Posse Scholars persist and graduate at a rate of 90 percent. The Posse program currently recruits students from 10 cities in the United States and partners with 56 colleges and universities to award scholarships.
  • ¡Excelencia in Education!’s Issue Brief: College Completion through a Latino Lens analyzes Latino students’ persistence and completion in college, maps pathways to completion, and identifies evidence-based practices that will help institutions and policymakers increase Latino college completion. Accompanying the data in the brief are examples of what works to increase college completion, a framework for institutions to catalyze progress, and ways to accelerate completion.


  • In Florida the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) is partnering with community leaders, educators and other key stakeholders throughout the state – including local college access networks (LCANs) – to achieve their Goal 2025: for 60 percent of working-age Floridians to hold a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by the year 2025. One of their initiatives, College Decision Day, hosted on May 1, recognizes all students for their post-secondary plans, whether they are planning on attending four-year college, two-year college, technical school, or the military.
  • In Indiana, the Indiana Youth Institute provides capacity-building resources for youth development organizations and others who are working with and advocating on behalf of youth. Their issue brief, Postsecondary Pathways: College and Career Considerations for Young People, provides details on options high school students have after graduation and seven considerations to keep in mind while making postsecondary decisions. These considerations include: interests, motivation, preparation, affordability, job demand, job satisfaction, and return on investment.
  • In California, Linked Learning is an initiative aimed at reconfiguring high school education by supporting districts as they develop course pathways that lead to postsecondary education or high-wage employment. There are a variety of pathways for the state’s 15 major industry sectors, including building and environmental design, health sciences, information technology, engineering, and arts, media, and entertainment.

    More than 100 districts in California are using this adaptable approach to make public high school education a personally relevant, engaging experience for students, exposing them to previously unimagined career and college opportunities and preparing them to succeed in today’s global economy.
  • In Michigan, the Seita Scholarship is specifically geared towards supporting students at Western Michigan University who spent teenage years in foster care. The Seita Scholars program staff and Seita Scholars peer leaders work to level the playing field in seven life domains: academics, finances, housing, physical and mental health, social relationships and community connections, personal and cultural identity, and life skills.
  • East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) in Mesa, Arizona is an example of a successful career and technical education (CTE) model that provides students with the advanced skills and training needed to thrive in today's competitive job market. EVIT provides 40 occupation-specific programs, including Aviation, Culinary Arts, Health Care, Cosmetology, Fashion Design, and Welding, where students receive hands-on learning with experienced professionals. Students enrolled at 10 school districts in the East Valley area of Arizona are provided these programs tuition-free. This article provides more details on the work happening at East Valley Institute of Technology and other communities that are leading the way in CTE programs.
  • At Berea College in Kentucky, no student pays for tuition. How do they make this happen? They are able to provide this financial assistance thanks to the generous support of alumni, friends, organizations, and others who hold a similar belief that a student’s income should not dictate their outcome. The Berea Tuition Promise Scholarship is provided to all students who are admitted to Berea College and combined with other sources of financial aid and scholarship awards to cover 100 percent of tuition costs. For many students, the Tuition Promise Scholarship amounts to over $155,000 over four years.
  • In Boston, Massachusetts, the citywide college completion initiative, Success Boston, was launched in 2008 in response to a study that found only 35 percent of those who had enrolled in college ever completed an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree by the time they turned 25. In partnership, the Boston Foundation, the Boston Public Schools (BPS), the City of Boston, 37 area institutions of higher education, and local nonprofit partners are working to double the college completion rate for students from BPS. To prepare youth for the challenges of higher education and ensure they earn a degree, Success Boston is utilizing a four-part strategy: Getting Ready, Getting In, Getting Through, and Getting Connected.


  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step a student must take toward gaining federal aid for college, career, school, or graduate school. This is the largest provider of student financial aid with more than $120 billion in federal student aid provided each year to help pay for college or career school. The Corporation for National and Community Service provides the Organize a FAFSA Training Event toolkit to help communities identify the resources needed for college by sharing information on completing a FAFSA. The toolkit includes:
    • Explaining associated terms
    • Highlighting helpful resources
    • Sharing effective planning steps
    • Outlining project management tips
    • Providing ideas for communicating your message
    • Sharing tips for reflection and reporting
  • The National Governors Association’s report, States Continue Advancing Strategies to Scale Work-Based Learning, outlines key strategies governors can take to lead the way on expanding high-quality work-based learning opportunities as part of a pathway to career advancement for youth and young adults.
  • Now’s the Time: Early College and Dual-Enrollment Programs in the Higher Education Act, a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, highlights ten facts about the impact of Early College High Schools and dual-enrollment programs and the importance of continuing to support these programs. The report discusses research that shows students participating in these types of programs are more likely to enroll in college, persist, and graduate. However, the costs associated with these courses are often prohibitive for low-income students. The report provides a recommendation that Congress should consider a pilot program that would allow high school students to use federal Pell Grants to pay for college courses.
  • Redefining Access for the 21st Century Student, an initiative of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), aims to refresh the conversation on college access and develop a road map for aligning research and policy so more young people attain a college degree. IHEP developed a film, Degrees of Hope: Redefining Access for 21st Century Students, a viewing guide, and report, Access to Attainment: An Access Agenda for 21st Century College Students. The film highlights the challenges faced by five students accessing higher education: a first-generation college student, a community college transfer student, a veteran, an online learner, and a returning adult.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce developed Launch My Career, an interactive web tool currently available for Colorado, Tennessee, and Texas, that provides students with information about the return on investment in a certificate or degree from public postsecondary schools, including technical schools and community colleges.
  • KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, is a non-profit network of 209 college-preparatory, public charter schools. One of their programs, KIPP Through College, utilizes KIPP counselors to support students as they prepare for and select the right college and career based on their interests and passions. An important part of their program is that KIPP coaches also provide support to help students persist through college. There are moments through college where students could be at-risk of leaving school and key behaviors that help keep a student on the path to graduation, and KIPP uses a data- and experience-informed approach to assist students on the path to a degree.
  • College Track works to empower students from underserved communities to graduate from college. College Track’s results show that of the high school students who participated in their program, 95 percent are accepted to a four-year college and their college students graduate at a rate that is more than double the national average for low-income and first-generation students. Their college completion program model is designed around a ten-year promise made to students “to support them from ninth grade all the way through college graduation. By helping students maximize the value of their college degree—minimize student loan debt, secure internships, and limit the need to work while in college— they prepare today’s youth to succeed in the 21st century economy.”