High School Graduation Checklist for Educators

As the final semester of the 2020-21 school year comes to a close, graduating seniors will be out the door and onto their next life plan. These next few weeks may be the last time students will be accessible and available to receive college-going support. Use these four checklist items from guest blog writer, Ainsley Ash from the National College Attainment Network, to help students transition to college.


As the semester winds down, graduating seniors will be out the door and onto what’s next. Every year, an estimated 10-40% of high school students with every intention of enrolling in college the following fall, do not. NCAN members know that now is one of the last times that students will be easily accessible and available to receive a strong final round of college-going support.

With that in mind, here are a few final ways that districts, schools, and college access organizations can best support their graduating seniors.

1. Support for graduating high school seniors begins with the senior exit survey.

Information gathering is the first step in building out a plan to support graduating seniors.

A senior exit survey is a simple and effective way to update contact information, find out students’ next steps, and determine how to tailor student support throughout the summer.

Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research created a Summer Melt Handbook that includes a great guide for what exactly to include in a senior exit survey. They suggest administering a senior exit survey as close to graduation as possible to get the most accurate information. Consider including the exit survey in graduation materials to be sent to students and their families or offering incentives to increase the completion rate.

The senior exit survey should aim to identify up-to-date student phone numbers and emails, whether students plan to attend college, and, if so, where. Getting answers to these questions will help your organization identify which resources to promote to students. For instance, if the survey reveals that most of your students are attending a local college or university, your team can then share information on next steps for that particular school.

While it is important to make sure that the senior exit survey fits the needs of your students, there is likely no need to create an entirely new senior exit survey. Consider adapting exit surveys from previous years or using an existing template.

For exit survey inspiration, visit the NCAN guide to immediate next steps for graduating seniors or see the examples below.

Be sure to administer the survey electronically so that you are able to make use of the results immediately. These results can inform the resources that you promote to your students. For instance, once you have an idea of where most of your students are going, consider making or promoting transition cheat sheets.

2. Summer transition cheat sheets are a quick, easy way to ensure students have accurate information regarding their next steps at popular colleges.

Summer transition cheat sheets (or checklists) are simple one-pagers full of information on a college’s upcoming tasks, deadlines, contact information, and other pieces of helpful information. These resources can be a great way to make sure that your students have clear actionable tasks and goals to accomplish before enrolling in the fall.

NCAN member Puget Sound College and Career Network has created these same cheat sheets for their students, and they serve as a great example.

All of their checklists are neatly divided into sections on what to do before coming to campus: 

  • Apply

  • Finish the financial aid process

  • Complete testing or send transcripts

  • Register for orientation

  • Register for classes

  • Find transportation

  • Pay tuition,

  • Find supports and community

Harvard’s Summer Melt Handbook also has strong examples from which schools, districts, and college access organizations can draw inspiration. Be sure to include as many relevant links as necessary in your checklists – each link makes it that much easier for students to navigate the enrollment process.

Once you have created or identified information and resources to distribute to graduates, decide how you want to reach them. For many organizations, text messaging is a great option for reaching lots of students quickly and easily.

3. Texting is one of the best ways to relay information to students over the summer.

Research shows that text messaging campaigns can be a great, cost-effective way to relay information to students. According to research from the CARPE Center at the American Institutes for Research, “text nudges may be best for encouraging such high-stakes actions OR should help students understand consequences of inaction (e.g., what are the consequences of NOT going to a career fair?).”

Consider using texting to encourage your graduating seniors to take action over the summer. This is an opportunity to inform students of necessary pre-enrollment tasks that they might not be aware of such as the ones listed in summer transition cheat-sheets.

If your district of school has texting abilities, consider this avenue as a way to get in contact with students. Find the Fit has a timeline of text message templates that can be customized to fit the needs of your students and your organization. Alternatively, consider utilizing message delivery services such as Signal Vine to get in contact with students.

4. Let students know where they can find support over the summer.

If your organization has the capacity to offer hands-on support throughout the summer, make sure that students know where to find it as personalized advising is an invaluable resource. Before students are out the door, make sure that students (and parents!) know where to find help from counselors this summer. Consider including contact information in your summer cheat-sheets and in your texting outreach.

As your organization is finalizing your plans to support your seniors, don’t forget to take advantage of the resources that are already available to you. Be sure to check out NCAN’s key resources:


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