Helping students visualize path to college

Anoka-Hennepin District 11 high schools are utilizing a new tool to ready students for life after graduation.

It’s called Naviance, and it aims to connect learning to life, providing tools for its online users to create a postsecondary plan.

Career and College Specialist Colleen Neary assists Anoka High School senior Angelina Moua as she logs on to Naviance for the first time. Photo by Olivia Koester
Career and College Specialist Colleen Neary assists Anoka High School senior Angelina Moua as she logs on to Naviance for the first time. Photo by Olivia Koester

Students, parents and teachers in all of the district’s high schools are encouraged to use Naviance.

Administrators have been working to bring the program to the high schools for more than two years. Finally up and running this past September, Naviance will be “fully functioning” next school year, according to Scott Arcand, a teaching and learning specialist with the district.

Students in grades nine through 12 can access the program, but this year the focus had to be on seniors since they might benefit the most, using Naviance throughout the college application process, Arcand said. Next year, there will be more of a push for all four grade levels to take advantage of Naviance.

Freshmen take personality tests on Naviance to help them set goals and determine which career fields they may want to explore further.

Sophomores are expected to really hone in on their career interests to ensure they are taking appropriate courses. They can research day-to-day responsibilities, job outlook and wages in a given field.

By junior year, many students use Naviance to “shop” for colleges, comparing admission statistics, program offerings, financial aid options and more, and when seniors are ready to apply for college, they can track their applications through the program.

Going forward, alumni will be able to continue to use the program to keep track of goals, draft resumes and more.

For Eric Feigum, a career and college specialist at Andover High School, where more than 85 percent of the student population has registered for Naviance, one of the program’s more powerful pieces is the profile builder. As students begin to hear back from colleges, Naviance tracks which students get in where and lists their grade-point average (GPA), ACT score, etc.

Offering an example to the board, Feigum presented statistics of Andover High School students who applied to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Before Thanksgiving, 63 students had applied. Of those, eight heard they were accepted. The average ACT score of those students was a 29, and the average GPA was a 4.0. A minimum ACT score and GPA are also tracked, in this case a 26 and 3.85, respectively.

The profile keeps expectations in check and can provide hope to the student who may have below-average scores, but scores that exceed the minimum figure.

“Our kids have really grabbed a hold of this,” Feigum said. “It really does empower them and it gives them all of the resources that they need.”

Associate Superintendent of High Schools Jeff McGonigal agrees. “It’s a pretty powerful tool,” he told the school board at its Nov. 25 meeting.

It’s a powerful tool not only for students, but also for parents and teachers.

Parents can log in and track students’ progress toward their goals.

“As a parent, I would have liked to have had this with my children …,” Arcand said. “It allows you to sit down with them and see what they’re doing and have that discussion [about their future].”

The Naviance Family Connection websites are up and running. Each high school has its own site:

•Andover High School,

•Anoka High School,

•Blaine High School, 

•Champlin Park High School,

•Coon Rapids High School,


•Crossroads Alternative High School,

Teachers can also log in, providing guidance for students. Upperclassmen can submit resumes through Naviance so that educators can draft more comprehensive letters of recommendation as students apply for colleges and jobs.

By determining interests early, hopefully students will start out with a firmer idea of what they might like to do after graduation, McGonigal said.

“A lot of times a student could spend a lot of money pursuing an area of interest and find out the career isn’t what they were looking for or doesn’t pay what they need to even pay off their college,” he said. “We’re helping them – way before they get to that point – make wise decisions.”

Naviance is “absolutely aligned with where this school board wants to go, which is to move more kids into college,” Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]