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We Are Crew: Chapter 7: Preparing for the Postsecondary Journey in Crew

How can Crew support students to become college- and career-ready?

Nearly all high schools have a structure for counseling college-bound students, usually centered in the school’s counseling office. Often the college counselor serves primarily students who are already “expected” to attend college, typically students in more advanced classes who are the children of middle- or upper-middle class, college-educated families. In schools with diverse populations, there is often a stark imbalance between college-bound and non-college-bound students based on race and economic status. While the ideal of public schooling in the United States is to provide equal opportunity for all students to get ahead, schools often serve to perpetuate existing inequities based on race and family income. Disrupting this inequity takes more than an enlightened college counselor on a mission. That’s where Crew comes in.

Using the structure of Crew to prepare students for the postsecondary journey is a game changer for students and their families. Dedicating school time and resources to the multiyear journey of preparation for what happens after high school graduation ensures that all students can become college and career ready. Crew is a place where students can explore all of their options and get the information and support they need to make aspirational and empowering choices about their own role as educated contributors to the communities in which they live and work.

“Crew was a big part of my high school journey. . . . It helped build a framework that I could apply and use to succeed at the University of Chicago.” Hamlet Fernandez, graduate of Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, New York City and freshman at University of Chicago

Learning Target

  • I can explain how Crew supports students to make confident and wise choices about their postsecondary options.

Read: Building College Knowledge

Most secondary schools emphasize college readiness in their curricula and credit requirements, but just taking the right courses is not enough to get accepted to college, much less to succeed as a college student. The structure of Crew provides a dedicated time for Crew leaders and college counselors to guide students through the work of planning for applying to college and strengthening skills that students will need to succeed in college. Read the excerpt Building College Knowledge and reflect on the following questions:

1. What assumptions do your students have about college that might change if you explicitly taught college knowledge in Crew?

2. What are some ways that you can strengthen your students self-advocacy skills so that they can see their challenges as stepping stones to success?

Review: Internship Program Overview, Brooklyn Collaborative, New York City

Understanding the world of work encompasses knowledge about what workers do in different fields as well as the mindsets and habits required to succeed on the job. Crew lessons that create a safe space for students to learn about and discuss these topics, and to share their own experiences of the world of work, support all students to fail forward and succeed eventually when they do join the workforce. Some high schools have specialized work or internship programs that give students a direct experience of work in a professional field. Such programs go well beyond the experience of working that most high school students might have, such as serving in a restaurant or working at a retail shop. Internship programs give students “a mental model” of the skills, mindsets, and habits of character required to take on professional responsibilities, earn a salary, and grow a career. Review the Internship Program Overview from Brooklyn Collaborative and reflect on the following questions:

1. What community partners would benefit from student interns? What relationships can you build on to establish and sustain partnerships?

2. What do students need to know before they become interns? Can you integrate these lessons into Crew?

Watch: “Postsecondary Journey in Crew”

Most secondary schools emphasize college readiness in their curricula and credit requirements, but just taking the right courses is not enough to get accepted to college, much less to succeed as a college student. The first step toward college readiness is motivation. Once students are motivated to try for college admission, there is a tremendous amount of planning and preparation to do before students actually apply to college. The structure of Crew provides a dedicated time for Crew leaders and college counselors to guide students through this work. Importantly, all students participate in Crew, so all students receive equal support and encouragement to access college and other postsecondary options. In this video, narrated by Hamlet Fernandez, a graduate of Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in New York City, Crew experiences support high school students to get into and succeed in college. Watch this video and reflect on the following questions:

1. How do the River Bluff senior mentors create a college-bound culture for their freshmen peers?

2. What traditions do you see in this video that could be adapted at your school?

Review: College Planning Timeline

Text and questions: Planning for, choosing, and applying to college is a multi-year process. The structure of Crew supports students to stay on track and support each other through this arduous process. Review Choosing and Applying to College, pp. 259-262. Consider the following questions:

  1. Which items on the “to do” list of choosing and applying to college pose the greatest challenges for your students? 
  2. How can a timeline like the one on p. 259 this help guide students successfully to the finish line?

Watch: “College March”

The College March is an inspiring tradition that began in New York City Outward Bound Schools. After learning together and supporting each other over three years of Crew, high school seniors march to the post office to mail in their college applications. The tradition celebrates 100 percent college acceptance at many EL Education high schools, including many who serve a majority of first-generation college applicants. As you watch the celebration in this video, reflect on the following questions.

1. How does the tradition of College March inspire the next generation of college applicants?

2. What other steps might be needed before all students at your school would be ready to apply to college?

Dig Deeper

College preparation events at Brooklyn Collaborative  Crew lessons and experiences that enable students to realize their own vision of themselves beyond high school put students back in the driver’s seat as leaders of their own learning. 

Career Guidance Washington Lesson Plans  This excellent collection of lesson plans, sorted by grade level, provides a wealth of resources for postsecondary exploration.

School Community Served as Lifeline during Pandemic  Read how Crew kept students together and helped them prepare for college at this New York City Outward Bound high school, even during a pandemic.

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers…

  1. What questions about college and careers arise most among your students? What lessons can you teach to help students find answers?
  2. How can you collaborate with counselors, school leaders, and other teachers to provide a support system that enables all students to pursue college?

For School Leaders…

  1. What structures exist or could exist in your school to support ALL students to pursue college?
  2. How would you crosswalk from your school’s character habits to skills and mindsets that lead to success in college and careers? Can you make this correlation explicit for students?