Over the years, we have learned that our students who are most successful in college are not only academically ready, but also share a set of non-academic skills that have been instrumental in their success. The core of the seminar programming YES Prep students participate in every year is an in-depth focus on these 8 non-academic skills. This year we’ve expanded that focus even further with the roll-out of our College Assessment Portfolio Project (CAPP). The project focuses on the ‘Skills for Successful College Completion,’ articulated originally by Dr. Will Sedlacek*:
|Self Concept||Possessing confidence, strong ‘self’ feeling, strength of character, determination, and independence|
|Realistic Self-Appraisal||Ability to assess one’s strengths and weaknesses to allow for self-development|
|Understands How to Handle Racism; Navigate the System||Ability to deal with policies, procedures and barriers, intentional or not, that interfere with the development of people|
|Long-Range Goals||Developing long-range goals and understanding the relationship between efforts and ultimate practice of their professions|
|Strong Support Person||Utilizing a person of strong influence who provides advice, particularly in times of crisis|
|Leadership||Ability to organize and influence others|
|Community||Involvement in a community, often based on race and/or gender, from which support is received|
|Nontraditional Knowledge Acquired||Ability to learn outside of school|
*Sedlacek, W. E. (2011). Using noncognitive variables in assessing readiness for higher education. Readings on Equal Education. 25, 187-205.
The CAPP is a compilation of all of the college counseling work students participate in every year and has two parts:
Part 1. A gathering of and reflection on their progress in two self-chosen skills
Part 2: An evolving collection of their college application components
Part 1 focuses on the eight skills outlined above. At the beginning of every year, students take a self-assessment to determine their strengths and growth areas among the eight skills. Based on those results, students choose one strength area and one area for growth to focus on for that year. Throughout the year, they document their progress on their focus areas and also receive coaching on the skills from their college counselor.
By formalizing our students’ non-academic work, we are able to help our students more concretely understand where they are and how they’re progressing on each skill. We’re also finding that the CAPP is allowing everyone on campus, not just the college counselors, to support students’ progress. For example, on one of our campuses, students were asked to share their focus areas with all of their teachers. The result was that teachers began incorporating students’ focus areas into their feedback during class or on assignments. Those students are now seeing the impact of non-academic skills in all of their classes and in a variety of contexts.
On another campus, there is a school-wide effort to highlight a different non-academic skill each month. Now the middle school students have a head start in thinking about what skills they’ll need for college success and how to go about developing them.
Part 2 of the CAPP focuses on college eligibility and ensures students are building a strong college application beginning in 9th grade. Our goal is not for our students to simply ‘complete’ their college applications, but to ‘live’ them. With that in mind, this half of the project pushes them to deliberately document and reflect on how they’re preparing and representing themselves once per semester throughout their high school career. For example, when they’re creating their resume, if they look over it at the end of their freshman year and see that it doesn’t reflect their commitment to volunteer work, they can set a goal for the next semester to volunteer more. Or a sophomore may find the average student at their dream college was involved in more organizations in high school then he/she is, and so seek out the faculty advisors for clubs they might be interested in joining.
At the end of each semester, each student also completes a reflective essay on their progress. Not only does this help them process their work and growth, it also mirrors the personal narrative style of writing required on college application essays and so continually allows them to build that skill.
In our first year of the CAPP, we are already seeing our students benefit and grow. We are currently working to provide our college counselors with more tools to facilitate this work effectively with their students and also gathering best practices and lessons learned from our campuses. We’re excited to see how the project evolves in the next few years. We’ll keep you posted!
To learn more about the work of Dr. Will Sedlacek, visit http://williamsedlacek.info/