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Learnings from a summer of transition


Over summer 2020, PSCCN partnered with districts and colleges across the region to work in partnership to reduce barriers for incoming college students, leverage expertise and support of K-12, CBOs, and college partners, while acknowledging the known and potential impacts of COVID-19 on students and communities of color. This is a summary of what was learned that can be applied right away. 


  • CBO’s were not a part of the group this summer, but do play an important role in partnerships such as these.
  • The strategies below include best practices we’ve seen across our region and nationwide, many implemented by partners outside the workgroups thus summer as well; we encourage you to celebrate the strategies you already have in place and consider implementing others that you have not yet used. 
  • Many of the strategies named below were possible before COVID and distance learning, but we underscore that pre and post COVID starting with attention to equity gaps should be a core focus of any partnership.


At leadership convenings in May of this year, PSCCN presented the opportunity to join workgroups, which would develop and deepen existing institutional partnerships while using best practice strategies to support the transition of Class of 2020 into their postsecondary plans.

PSCCN Postsecondary Transition Work Group Member Institutions



  • Highline Public Schools

  • Fife School District

  • Clover Park School District

  • Bethel School District 

  • Franklin Pierce

  • Highline College

  • Tacoma Community College

  • Bates Technical College

  • Pierce College

  • Clover Park Technical College 

  • Pacific Lutheran University 



Learning Summary

Key strategies the workgroups used included:

  • Meet Regularly
    • Create a meeting cadence with partners across institutions who have student-facing expertise and can commit institution resources to the group's strategies.
  • Simplify and Consolidate Student Facing Outreach
    • Especially with virtual outreach, use joint marketing for collaborative events that give students a central entry point.
    • Regional/joint webinars, messaging and more are great opportunities to maximize your reach out resources.
  • Give Students a Face and a Name Behind the Warm Handoff
    • Identify a key student-facing contact at the college or university for prospective students to minimize the burden of navigating multiple offices and touchpoints. 

Best Practices to Implement- Partnerships

  • Build handoff focused relationships with seniors and college enrollment staff well before spring.
    • As early as late fall, districts and colleges should be deepening connections between students and key college staff, to equip students with contacts and enrollment support that will carry beyond financial aid and application completion. 
  • Develop individual and institution success markers
    • As a college, district, or CBO, identify what your outcomes could look like individually and collectively with partners in transition work. Be clear about the partnership’s shared student population, how the group’s strategies will support that student population, and be prepared with institution/organization-specific strategies to identify and support students, not in the shared partnership scope.
  • Build-in ample time to learn about partners to develop a strong foundation
    • Early on, prioritize building relationships, and learning about what each partner brings to the table - staff capacity, expertise, and strategies already being utilized, known challenges, and hopes for the partnership. Build-in this necessary time so the group understands their individual and collective starting points of the work and can develop achievable goals.
  • Data and racial equity come first
    • Using data, identify which students the group is focusing on, using a lens of which student populations historically and currently have not been well supported by the systems
    • Develop a shared process to access student-level data, using existing data-sharing resources and systems first, then building new processes as needed.
  • Tend to the Trees and the Forest
    • Develop a shared expectation that partners will look for and develop systemic responses to barriers and ongoing challenges that the partnership comes across.

Best Practices to Implement- Student Support 

  • Senior surveys are incredibly important
    • The survey will provide guidance for senior year and post-graduation support strategies, so plan to send out and analyze in early spring. Consider asking for post-high school contact information so students can be reached over the summer. 
  • Start the explicit transition handoffs in spring
    • Co-create with partners a communication and strategy timeline that identifies where districts are leading the work, where it is shared, and where colleges lead.
      • Also, if counselors and student facing staff are not available over the summer, plan for what support will look like.
  • Consider students and student facing staff (HS, CBO, College) as expert guides in the partnership
    • Engage both student and student facing staff to identify what is not working as they navigate the enrollment process - from paperwork barriers to connecting with campus resources, etc. Be prepared to find ways to bridge these challenges in the short term, while also building a commitment to address systemic challenges in the long term.

PSCCN is deeply grateful to our workgroup partners for sharing their time and commitment to learning together over the summer, and we encourage the broader PSCCN community to share your own best practices with us so that we can amplify those as well. We are committed to continuing the transition work throughout this year, both through high touch support and creating opportunities for shared resources and learning across the region.