CARA’s College Inquiry program works to develop a comprehensive post-secondary access 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 post-secondary access in order to increase students’ enrollment into good match colleges and other high-quality destinations.

Whole School Theory of Change
Policy Brief Cover

Organizing for Access: Building School Capacity to Support Students’ Postsecondary Pathways

Report: CARA (2020)

This report is the result of three years of research at 7 NYC public high schools who worked with CARA’s College Inquiry program to improve their postsecondary planning infrastructure. It explores the challenges schools face and surfaces successful practices for curriculum implementation, professional development, and college counseling support.

College Inquiry Program Model

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

    • Consistent coaching for team members on the planning and development of post-secondary access programming. Coaches are experienced teachers and school counselors deeply familiar with the landscape of 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
    • “Connection to Home” extensions to engage and educate families in the planning process
    • 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
    2. Understanding the Application Process
    3. Affording Future Opportunities
    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 high schools and community based organizations.

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

    View our High School Curriculum Table of Contents
  • Strong 1:1 advisement for each student by a knowledgeable, trained staff member is a pillar of the College Inquiry program. 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;
    • Understanding local college systems and pathway programs;
    • 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

How College Inquiry Works

See College Inquiry’s Program Rubric

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

Identify Space

School administration identifies possible instructional spaces for post-secondary access curriculum


School assembles small team of administrators, teachers, and counselors representing all grades

CARA Coach and team assess existing college and career 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 post-secondary 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 post-secondary access program with a lasting curriculum scope and sequence

College Inquiry Reach

70+Staff being trained
44Participating sites
3100+Students being served

Special Partnerships

The 8 Bronx High Schools of the New York Performance Standards Consortium

Charter School Growth Fund

Chinese-American Planning Council

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


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