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Redesigning Community College Student Onboarding Through Guided Pathways

Redesigning Community College Student Onboarding Through Guided Pathways

Community colleges engaged in guided pathways reforms are revising the new student onboarding process. They are replacing what is often a set of disconnected and optional activities with a coherent series of curricular and co-curricular experiences that enable students to explore program options; network with faculty, students, and industry professionals in fields of interest; take program-specific courses; and create an educational plan that they and their advisors can use to monitor progress toward completion. This practitioner packet provides guidance to colleges seeking to redesign their new student onboarding practices to better help students explore, choose, and plan a program of study best suited to their interests and aspirations.

Part 1 reviews research on why the conventional community college approach to new student onboarding is often unsuccessful in helping students choose and plan a program. It also describes and provides examples of several design features that guided pathways colleges are adopting:

  • Organizing and introducing programs by field of interest
  • Improving orientation and new student advising
  • Expanding career and transfer advising to all students
  • Increasing engagement with programs from the start
  • Designing dual enrollment as an on-ramp to college

To provide additional examples, profiles of redesigned onboarding practices at three colleges are included as separate supplements to Part 1.

Part 2 presents findings from CCRC research on what students at Indian River State College and St. Petersburg College (early adopters of guided pathways) say about reformed new student onboarding practices at their campuses. Discussion is organized along three goals: helping students to (1) explore interests and programs, (2) gain experiences in a program, and (3) engage in academic and career planning.

Organized by these same goals, Part 3 provides a set of discussion and planning activities for colleges seeking to redesign new student onboarding to increase the likelihood that students will choose a program that aligns with their interests and goals and develop and begin to follow a well-conceived program completion plan.