Page 77 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - DBU Journal for K-12 Educational Leadership

Journal of K-12 Educational Research 75 activities that help students mitigate this stress and build their self-confidence. Additionally, strong academic performance in advanced courses and high SAT scores were enough to gain admission into many colleges, even highly selective ones, for students in previous generations. However, as the number of applicants has increased over the past several decades, current high school students need more than high grades and extra-curricular activities to set them apart from other students with high scores (Selingo, 2020; Tough, 2019). This is especially true now that most colleges and universities use a holistic admissions process. For students to successfully walk the current college admissions gauntlet, they need high school courses that provide this academic freedom and opportunities for professional mentorships. Recommendations The researcher identified a local solution to help students navigate the U.S. college application and admissions process, which has become increasingly complex and ambiguous. This solution is to provide a course in high school in which students can investigate a college major, learn from a professional mentor, and learn important soft skills. Not only does a program like the ISM program benefit students, it could also help public schools compete with private schools in the area of college readiness. Several participants in the current study who are attending highly selective private universities cited examples of how their work in the ISM program helped bolster their confidence. Their confidence and sense of belonging was a significant finding in the current study. During the teacher focus group, the ISM teachers said they believe participation in the ISM program gives students a tremendous advantage when it comes to applying to college. Talking about college applications stimulated a conversation about two additional topics during the teacher focus group, which the researcher expected to happen: a) the ISM teachers wondered about the percentage of ISM students who study the same topic in college that they studied in ISM, and b) how often ISM students change their major compared to the general population. Conclusions The world is changing at a break-neck pace. Students will need a college degree or a skill to earn enough money to comfortably provide for their families in this new world. However, due to the rising costs of college, as well as the fact that college admissions is getting more competitive, school districts need to think differently about college readiness. Districts need to realize that college readiness is about more than academic skills and college knowledge if they genuinely want their graduates to be completely college-ready. Also, it is not just about helping students gain admission to college anymore. Given all the advanced courses, SAT preparation, and extra-curricular activities students are engaging in to become stronger college applicants, they do not have the time or emotional bandwidth to research a career and to be mentored by an adult unless they are provided time during the school day. Schools need to provide a course that helps students not just gain admission into college but to also identify what they will study when they get there. Aweighed elective course, like the one included in FISD’s ISM Program, is a compelling, innovative solution to this problem. The ISM program allows students the time and space to prepare for college in relevant, meaningful ways that are specific to each student and have the power to, in the words of several research participants, be “life changing.” References Bastedo, M. N., Bowman, N. A., Glasener, K. M., & Kelly, J. L. (2018). What are we talking about when we talk about holistic review? Selective college admissions and its effects on low-SES students. The Journal of Higher Education, 89(5), 782–805. 546.2018.1442633 Bastedo, M., Bowman, N. A., Glasener, K. M., Kelly, J. L., & Bausch, E. (2017). What is holistic review in college admissions? [Policy brief No. 3]. Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. http://www-