On-Boarding and the College-Going Mindset: Promising Directions for Community Colleges

By Kathleen Rose

Last Spring, Gavilan College completed a comprehensive Educational Master Plan to focus on the development of an educational blueprint for the college for the next ten years, and to be the basis for a facilities plan to the year 2023. Our consultants looked at an assessment of the community and labor market needs for our 2700 square mile district, including population projections for Santa Clara and San Benito counties.  Central to the study was the improvement of on-boarding services for our feeder high schools and seeking ways to better prepare students to transfer to four year institutions with an emphasis on transfer pathways. Our stakeholder groups on campus held many discussions about what the current gaps were, what was missing with our current outreach services, and what we could do differently to remind high school students in our service area that Gavilan was an excellent choice to begin an education journey toward transfer or in career technical education. We needed to break the community out of the image that the community college was “just” an extension of high school, instead of a versatile open access entry point for learning.  In other words, we needed to demonstrate a new definition of a “college-going mindset” with our high school feeder schools.

It was very obvious to me as the new Superintendent/President that this new definition needed to begin with me, so last spring we decided to do a road show and visit the main feeder schools in our district.  We invited parents and students to come and learn more about Gavilan, meet our faculty and counselors, and participate in small round table discussions about applying for college and financial aid, and choosing a major. Students from Gavilan joined us to share their academic and athletic experiences, and I went from table to table and introduced myself to the parents and students who attended.  It was a very successful, grass roots effort that was combined with additional on-boarding activities throughout the year, including:

  • meetings with high school partners to review the recruitment cycle, changes in policies or processes, support services and special programs.
  • application, assessment, financial aid, and pre-orientation sessions conducted at all feeder and alternative schools in the district.
  • work with disability support staff at the high schools to connect their students with our AEC program.
  • conduct college tours, host bus trips to campus, and hold the annual Transfer Day and Career Day on Campus.
  • host “Super Saturday”, an accelerated matriculation event for parents and students who have not enrolled in late spring after other colleges have already admitted their students.
  • follow up with students who have not fully completed enrollment steps of their financial aid documents to connect students to additional services.

California Community Colleges have made significant advancements in the past five years in the area of student success, transfer and career technical education.  Yet more remains to be done to accelerate the pace of improvement and attract high school students to our campuses. When we take the time to design and decide the focus of initiatives and outreach efforts with the student in mind, students benefit from a seamless transition from one educational system to another with greater support to achieve their educational goals.


Dr. Kathleen Rose is President of Gavilan College in Gilroy, CA.