College and career readiness in the time of COVID 19


By Julie Sweitzer


When we wrote the Ramp-Up to Readiness™ Activities which advise students that they are likely to experience great change in their lifetime, we didn’t expect it to happen this year. High school juniors and seniors are seeing the immediate impact of shutdowns due to COVID 19 on the college application process, from the challenge of obtaining transcripts if their school is closed, delayed ACT and SAT testing, and wondering if AP and IB credits will still be accepted with at-home testing (the answer to the latter is ‘yes’ at the University of Minnesota.) On many large campuses mail is being held at central locations instead of being delivered to offices, so all admissions submissions need to be online. Summer orientations may be online rather than actual campus visits. As a result, staying in contact with college admissions staff and reading emails from colleges--something our young generation of texters may not do routinely--has never been more important.

Our current experience with COVID 19 reinforces many aspects of college and career readiness. Certainly our emphasis on the likelihood of changing jobs and the importance of lifelong learning is coming true, harshly hitting home for too many. Many factories are converting to produce something completely different, and employees must learn new skills. Service industries are shut down, and many former food service, retail workers and artistic professionals are looking for new work, at least temporarily, without time for more educational preparation. Those who are continuous learners and/or know something about alternative careers can act faster.

Personal finances are taking a hit, and it is evident that savings accounts matter. Students are having to exercise more independence and self-motivation in their academic endeavors than when they gathered in classrooms. Flexibility and resilience are essential during a time of uncertainty. 

Educational leaders who are familiar with John Kotter’s work on leading change found the first step, creating a sense of urgency, was created for them when mayors and governors suddenly shut down schools. Principals and superintendents across the nation gathered their leadership team, polished off or created for the first time a vision of what distance learning would mean in their district, communicated with staff, students and families and are relying on all stakeholders to carry out the plan, all in a few weeks or less.  

Adopting college and career readiness as a priority in your school or youth program can be achieved using the same steps, with an undeniably strong impact on your students. It is simply a question of providing information and exploration opportunities to all of your students about all of their options, because clearly we cannot (and should not) predict their futures. For more information see our digital curriculum at Ramp-Up to Readiness. 


About the author: Julie Sweitzer is Executive Director of the College Readiness Consortium and Ramp-Up to Readiness. Previously she directed the Minnesota Principals Academy and helped create Youth Central, a website that makes it easy to find the University of Minnesota programs and activities that serve K12 students and families. Julie was an elected board member of the St. Louis Park Public Schools for 12 years.

She holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota’s Law School.

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