College Inquiry

CARA’s College Inquiry program works to develop a comprehensive college-going infrastructure for high schools that supports first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color from post-secondary exploration, to application, to enrollment.

The College Inquiry program embeds college and career exploration in all grades through a comprehensive, field-tested curriculum. We work deeply with a school’s leadership, teachers, and counselors’ to build capacity around college access in order to increase students’ enrollment into good match colleges.

Whole School Theory of Change

CARA’s College Inquiry Coaches work closely with school staff  to create a plan for change that is tailored to each school’s strengths. Our flexible coaching approach allows schools to adapt the curriculum and model to fit a range of school sizes and types. After 3-4 years of coaching, schools have built the capacity to continue this work on their own.

View College Inquiry Case Study

College Inquiry Program Model

  • Building staff capacity to support students through early college exploration and the stumbling blocks of the college process is a key part of College Inquiry’s whole-school model.

    • Consistent coaching for team members on the planning and development of college access programming. Coaches are experienced teachers and school counselors deeply familiar with the landscape of New York’s public schools
    • Professional development, both whole staff and for targeted teams, engages staff members beyond those in the school’s College Office
    • Resources to develop administrators’ ability to lead post-secondary work
    • Research-based staff and student surveys to guide programming


    View Table of Contents for Professional Development Tools
    • Flexible, multi-year curriculum
    • Lesson plans available in print and online
    • Engaging, inquiry-based lessons designed for first-generation students
    • Tailored scope and sequence
    • Lessons can be embedded in advisory, college and career seminars, and/or academic classes

    The curriculum develops students’ experiences in four areas:

    1. Mapping the Landscape of College
    2. Understanding the College Application Process
    3. Paying for College
    4. Exploring Careers

    The structure and rationale for CARA’s curriculum is based on current research into access to higher education as well as the collective experience of our staff as practitioners in a diverse range of New York high schools.

    View a part of a sample lesson or a sample curriculum map.

    View our High School Curriculum Table of Contents
  • CARA coaches ground their support of the college office with tangible tools and templates to support enrollment. Our College Office Resources are made by counselors, for counselors, and provide tools for staff to move beyond helping students with access steps, and empower counselors to become true leaders of post-secondary access work at their school. This includes:

    • Putting strong, efficient systems in place;
    • Tracking milestones;
    • Connecting with college professionals;
    • Troubleshooting during the financial aid process;
    • Collaborating with other staff, students, and families
    View Our College Office Resources Table of Contents

Program Rubric

See College Inquiry’s Program Rubric

See our Theory of Change Model

How College Inquiry Works

Identify Space

School administration identifies possible instructional spaces for college access curriculum


School assembles small team of administrators, teachers, and counselors

CARA Coach and team assess existing college access work, identify goals, and create school action plan


Team creates curriculum scope and sequence

Surveys for students and staff examine knowledge and attitudes

Whole staff professional development to build knowledge and engagement


Coach supports the college office, developing their systems and providing tools and resources

PD for large and small staff groups, based on areas of need

Guidance for administrators on supporting and supervising college access work

Reflect and Revise

Mid and end-of year reports and retreats allow for reflection on goals

Annual curriculum map revision

At the end of a 3-4 year engagement, results in a self-sustaining college access program with a lasting curriculum scope and sequence

View case studies of College Inquiry’s work in schools here and here.

College Inquiry Reach

70 Staff being trained in 2022-23
46 Participating sites
5500 Students being served

Sites + Partnerships

College Inquiry Curriculum & Resources

CARA partner schools can log in to access College Inquiry curriculum and resources by clicking the button below.

Access College Inquiry Curriculum & Resources