Tag Archives: match and fit

The Power of Partnerships: Supporting Districts in Postsecondary Success

As elevated in our recent report and tipsheet series, school districts across the country are beginning to be more proactive in supporting K-12 students to achieve postsecondary success.

But what happens if districts don’t have capacity to develop a strategic vision and then actually offer college advising support? In these cases, we’ve identified concrete roles that funders and college access organizations can play. With the support of these external partners, districts can accelerate their progress towards supporting all students on their paths to postsecondary success. Cover of "Equitable Postsecondary Advising Systems Expanding access to help close the degree divide" tip sheet for districts, by Bellwether Education Partners June 2020

KIPP*, a high-performing national charter network, has always supported its students on their journey to college. In 2008, KIPP launched “KIPP Through College” to provide more structured and intensive support for students to increase the likelihood of postsecondary success. The model helps students to decide what colleges are the best fit for them using a user-friendly online match tool that leverages data and logic to build a list of colleges and universities for a student to apply to. In addition, KIPP has defined a set of milestones to track and measure success (e.g., FAFSA completion). As a result: in 2018, 80% of KIPP graduates enrolled in college, compared to the national average of 66% and the low-income student average of 46%. 

Recognizing that KIPP had a successful approach, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation* provided a grant for KIPP to adapt their model for three urban districts who were eager to prioritize college advising: Miami-Dade County Public Schools, New York City Department of Education, and Newark Unified School District. 

KIPP helped the three districts set a vision with milestones, customized their “match and fit” framework and online tool, and conducted in-person training and virtual coaching to support implementation. Early results are promising, and uptake has been strong: all three districts adopted KIPP’s approach after the 18-month program. KIPP is expanding the program to 13 additional schools in New York and 9 additional schools in Miami, as well as offering a summer training for staff using KIPP’s approach.

We profiled KIPP, and other organizations, districts, and intermediaries doing great work to support students on their postsecondary journeys, in our recent study on the postsecondary support landscape. Read it here.

*Former client/funder of Bellwether. We maintained full editorial control of this post.

Choosing a College is Both Art and Science: An Introduction to “Match and Fit”

Over the coming months, high school seniors across the country will anxiously wait to hear which colleges have accepted them. And after all the hard work of applying comes another tough step: deciding where to go to college. 

How do young people decide where to go to college? Do they pick the most selective school, or do they prioritize the place where their friends are going? Do they stay close to home or get as far away as possible? Big school or small school? Urban or suburban? Public or private? Greek life or geek life

There are countless factors to weigh, which can make the college selection process feel overwhelming, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds and those who are the first in their family to attend college. As counselors, advisers, and mentors to young people, we need to build systems and processes that enable them to make informed postsecondary choices.   

Fortunately there’s a useful framework for considering postsecondary options that’s gaining popularity among high school counselors and frontline staff in college access programs: “match and fit.”

While there is no standard definition, practitioners generally agree on the following working definitions: 

  • Match: The degree to which a student’s academic credentials align with the selectivity of the college or university in which they enroll. Match encompasses the quantitative elements of choosing a postsecondary option; it is more science than art.   
  • Fit: A more nebulous concept that refers to how well a prospective student might mesh with an institution once on campus: socially, emotionally, financially, and otherwise. Fit encompasses the qualitative elements of choosing a postsecondary option; it is more art than science. 

Together, these concepts enable students, families, and college counselors to share a common language when talking about college. A student may technically “match” to a particular institution based on their academic credentials, but then decide that school is not a great “fit” given their desires and interests. Conversely, a student might have their heart set on a college — it may seem like a perfect “fit” — but it may turn out to be a poor “match” when the student’s GPA and test scores are considered.  

Importantly, these concepts can be used to support equity in access for underserved students. Here’s how: Continue reading