Help your students plan and prepare for college or career school.

Find tips, tools, and a support system to increase your effectiveness as you advise your students.

Preparing for College

Here at the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid, our job is to fund students as they pursue a college or career school education. You'll see that the Financial Aid Toolkit focuses very much on that topic. However, we did want to share some information on college preparation to provide a fuller picture. Your students can find information at Meanwhile, here are some things you can do to help them.

Demonstrate the Importance of College or Career School
Discuss the Connection Between School and Career
Share College Preparation Checklists
Direct Students to Free College Search Tools
Support Underrepresented Students
Network: Get the Support of Colleagues

Demonstrate the Importance of College or Career School

Some students don't see the benefit of continuing education beyond high school. We've provided an infographic (downloadable below) to show them that as they get more education, they will make more money and have more job opportunities.

Tip: Many students respond better to visual representations of information than to paragraphs of text. Infographics such as Why Go to College or Career School are a great way to get a point across quickly.

Talking point: According to 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone with a bachelor's degree will make (on average) 75% more than someone with just a high school diploma.

Why Go To College or Career School? graphic(Result Type: IMG)
Description: Graphic that shows the average earnings for people 25 years of age and older with different levels of education. [66 KB]
Resource Type: Infographics
Also Available in: PDF(Result Type: PDF)Text Version(Result Type: General)Spanish (Result Type: IMG)Text Version - Spanish(Result Type: General)


Discuss the Connection Between School and Career

Because going to college or career school is a big investment in time and money, we want to help you encourage your students to explore their options based on their interests and talents. Send them to to find some self-analysis questions to ponder.

Talking point: What you study and where you study can have an impact on the job you get. Students who are undecided about a career or a college major should try these steps:

  1. Use the career search (link below) to identify careers that might suit them.
  2. Click on the "See more details at O-NET OnLine" link at the bottom of the search results that describe an individual career; that link will take the student to a new page, where he or she can click on the "Find Training" button to see what schools offer degrees or certificates relevant to the career in question.

Career Search Website(Result Type: Web Resources and Tools)
Description: Explore potential careers using this career search tool with info on typical duties, education needed, average salary, and more.
Resource Type: Web Resources and Tools


Share College Preparation Checklists

Direct students to detailed checklists at that will walk them through procedures to get ready.

Each checklist is about more than the classes your students will take. It's also about developing the skills that your students will need to succeed in college and life. The checklists show the steps your students can take, as well as websites they can explore, as they prepare academically and financially for college or career school. There are also checklists for parents, as well as for adult students.

College Preparation Checklist(Result Type: PDF)
Description: Checklist that helps students (elementary, middle, and high school), as well as adults and parents prepare financially and academically for college. [7.3 MB]
Resource Type: Handouts
Also Available in: Spanish(Result Type: PDF)


As your students prepare to choose schools to which to apply, you might want to suggest they explore the tips at They will find plenty of information about things to consider beyond just price or location.

There are a number of free college search tools on the web. The U.S. Department of Education's tool, College Navigator, allows students to search for schools by location, degrees offered, programs/majors, tuition and fees, setting, size, and much more. The search results for each school will give them a wide range of information such as estimated student expenses, types of financial aid provided, admissions requirements, accreditation, and graduation rates.

College Navigator (College Search Website)(Result Type: Web Resources and Tools)
Description: College Navigator, the Department of Education's college search tool, allows students to find colleges and career schools by location, degrees, tuition, etc.
Resource Type: Web Resources and Tools
Also Available in: Spanish(Result Type: General)


Support Underrepresented Students

The federal TRIO programs are educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds toward high academic achievement resulting in the attainment of undergraduate and graduate college degrees. Assistance in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is a mandatory service provided to all TRIO program participants.

The TRIO programs include six outreach and support programs targeted to serve and assist low-income, first-generation college, and disabled students to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs. TRIO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRIO projects and a dissemination partnership program to encourage the replication or adaption of successful practices of TRIO projects at institutions and agencies that do not have TRIO grants.

GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP grantees serve an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.

The National College Access Network (NCAN) is made up of college access programs that inspire and motivate low-income students to gain access to postsecondary education. NCAN helps its members serve students better by providing college access programs with up-to-date tools and resources, connecting them to each other, and informing them of developments in the field.

TRIO Contacts 2017(Result Type: XLS)
Description: If you're working with a student who is eligible to participate in a TRIO program and want to find a program for him/her, refer to this list of programs. [210 KB]
Resource Type: Other


Network: Get the Support of Colleagues

Are you looking to strengthen your support network? Besides turning to your immediate colleagues at your school or organization, consider subscribing to a listserv or joining an association or simply chatting with the staff at that local college access program. You might get some good insights based on the experience of others.

Please note that a mention on our site does not constitute an endorsement of an organization.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is an organization of professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC offers a free listserv/online discussion feature, The Exchange, in which nonmembers may participate.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) supports school counselors' efforts to help students focus on academic, personal/social and career development so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society. ASCA provides professional development, publications, research, and other resources.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has developed a variety of resources for counselors, including a mentorship program through which college financial aid administrators volunteer to mentor high school counselors as well as a set of materials for counselors to use to conduct a financial aid night presentation. Note: NASFAA's listserv is open to nonmembers but—because the audience is college financial aid administrators—the discussion on the listserv tends to be very technical and suited only to those who are well versed in financial aid programs and the application process.

And don't forget about the programs mentioned in the section above this one to help you support underrepresented students.