Despite the pandemic’s disruptions, high school educators around the state shared how they’re keeping the Class of 2022 motivated to complete key college-going activities. With creative incentives and strategic data collection, Alabama educators are working together to make sure seniors are prepared for their next steps. We hope some of these ideas from your peers will inspire you as you cheer students across the finish line! 

Strategic Data Collection
To better support students on their individual paths, one counselor uses a data report that informs all future interactions with her students. Students fill out a Google form that surveys them on their goals and dreams. This counselor emphasizes the importance of allowing students to direct their future. Under the guidance of encouraging educators who know the prerequisites, high school seniors are more likely to remain highly motivated when they play an active role in crafting their next steps. 

Creative Incentives 
One counselor found that students were motivated to complete tasks when rewarded with meaningful experiences such as a College and Career Exploration Day. Students who had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and one college application by December could use a school day to explore their options after high school, whether that meant taking the day to job shadow or touring a college campus.  

Another counselor noticed that students are motivated by rewards that honor and celebrate them. For example, once seniors have completed a FAFSA and scored silver or higher on WorkKeys, they are allowed to purchase a special graduation cord. By pairing desired actions with motivating rewards, educators found that students were inspired to re-take and improve their WorkKeys score in addition to completing their FAFSA.  

Deliberate Partnership 
The partnership between counselors and career coaches is critical. One school counselor ensures that partners, especially career coaches who aren’t on campus each day, are copied on important emails. By staying in the loop, career coaches can then reinforce and complement the messages of school counselors. This close partnership means students are receiving information that is consistently built upon and prioritized. When possible, utilizing classroom time is an especially effective way to ensure every student hears these messages. 

The above lessons were shared by the following educators who represent schools that are leading the state in FAFSA completion: 

    • Rhonda Gibbs, School Counselor at KDS DAR High School 
    • Dedra Lori Muhammad, College and Career Counselor at Sparkman High School 
    • Angie Otinger, Career Coach at Marshall County Schools 
    • Kim Zwierzynski, Senior Guidance Counselor at Saraland High School 

For more ideas and resources, visit alabamagoes2college.org or email us at algoestocollege@alabamapossible.org. You can also call or text the Alabama Goes to College Help Desk at 334.316.6155 with questions about planning for college.