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Finding Your Best Postsecondary Fit

By Stephen Barker
October 27, 2022

How can we match students with colleges and other pathways that align with their personal and professional goals? Which institutions are supporting the social-emotional needs of students? Where are underrepresented minority students excelling in their postsecondary journeys? How can we make sure more students enroll, persist, and graduate from postsecondary institutions? 

These are the questions that fuel Shalonda Sherman’s work each day. 

Shalonda Sherman, OneGoal’s National Director of Program Learning

“The most exciting thing for me is just seeing something we’ve designed being leveraged in a way that has real impact in real time,” said Shalonda, OneGoal’s National Director of Program Learning. “The data we’re gathering in alignment with this framework provides somewhat of a roadmap that tells us precisely which resources we need to connect with which student,”

“This framework” Shalonda referred to is a brand new, research-based element of the OneGoal curriculum that is revolutionizing the postsecondary planning process in our classrooms called Quality Enrollment (QE). QE was designed to empower students to explore their postsecondary options through a critical lens. Helping students choose the right pathway that fits their unique personalities and goals can be a strong lever in supporting them to graduate.

Building on the success of earlier enrollment strategies that were implemented in New York, Illinois, and bright spots across OneGoal classrooms, the framework is now being leveraged across the entire organization. As Shalonda said, “we learned from the amazing things that were happening across OneGoal regions and the broader college access/completion landscape, codifying those practices into the Quality Enrollment framework.”

So, how does Quality Enrollment help students evaluate their postsecondary options? Sifting through postsecondary options can be overwhelming for students. There are thousands of institutions to consider, and a good fit for one student may not be right for another. The Quality Enrollment framework, which is differentiated based on a students’ profile, supports students to narrow these thousands of options into a shortened “best fit” list.

Shalonda explained it’s best to start by breaking the framework into its four parts, “Through the OneGoal curriculum and one-to-one advising with their OneGoal Program Director, students are supported to reflect on key questions related to the personal fit, academic match, completion supports, and financial fit of institutions—the four components of Quality Enrollment.”

The Four Components of Quality Enrollment

Personal fit

Does this institution offer the academic program, supports, and amenities that interest me?

Academic match

Is this institution the most competitive option available to me given my academic profile?

Completion supports

Is this institution equipped to support me on my journey to post-secondary completion?

Financial fit

Is this institution an affordable option for me and my family?

According to Shalonda, the framework is already being implemented into OneGoal classrooms to help inform the best postsecondary options available to Fellows. Fellows will soon have the ability to leverage a tech-enabled list-building tool to narrow and sort a list of options based on student interest, student academic/financial profiles, and institution characteristics, “our new list-building tool will give Fellows targeted feedback on the quality of a college or other pathway, given their individual academic profile, personal fit criteria-what the Fellow is looking for in an institution, and characteristics of the institution, such as the underrepresented minority graduations rates, costs of attendance, support program available to students.” The new technology will also give the OneGoal Program Learning team the ability to analyze the options students are pursuing, which will inform continuous improvement and innovation.

In OneGoal’s illuminating Root Cause Analysis research brief published last year, Fellows named lack of affordability and misalignment with their professional aspirations as reasons for stopping out of their postsecondary pathway. “Developed in parallel with that analysis, QE directly addresses these concerns,” so that Fellows can take the guesswork out of postsecondary planning and enroll in their ideal institutions, said Shalonda.

“OneGoal has designed a lot of amazing supports that are already in place for Fellows, such as the enrollment grant, regional partnerships with postsecondary institutions, national partnerships with organizations such as GUILD, Beyond12, and Hybrid Colleges,” noted Shalonda. But with the addition of QE, she sees a unique opportunity to ask questions of our Fellows that lead to real-time support, “Quality Enrollment is facilitating the strategic collection and reporting of both qualitative and quantitative data that’s allowing us to easily identify students who would benefit from the enrollment grant and other resources and make the necessary connections and outreach.”

Although QE has just been rolled out for the Year One, Two, and Three Fellows, internal research and outcomes from earlier pilots indicate that students who enroll in high-quality institutions are much more likely to persist and graduate. Shalonda reports that she is watching for certain indicators of success, “We expect to see Fellows producing higher quality postsecondary lists, stronger application submissions, a higher percentage of Fellows landing in quality enrollment seats for their academic profiles, and an upward shift in persistence.”

Currently, OneGoal Fellows graduate at about 1.5 times the rate of their peers from similar backgrounds. As part of our 2025 Strategic Plan, OneGoal aims to increase that to a rate of two times the average, and QE is a critical element of our strategy to achieve that aim. Shalonda added that “we’ve improved our ability to support Fellows proactively to land in higher quality seats and to be responsive to Fellow postsecondary needs regardless of seat quality; the strategic, differentiated support this framework enables us to provide Fellows—that’s the real benefit of Quality Enrollment.”


Watch this space! As OneGoal enhances, evolves, and grows the new QE framework, and as we learn more about the results, we will share our findings and Fellow outcomes on our blog. Be sure to subscribe to the OneGoal Newsletter, Bolder + Better, so you can stay in the know on Quality Enrollment as well as other innovations in college access and success.

Webinar: Four Ways to Support Students to Graduation

Watch the webinar to hear from Shalonda and her OneGoal colleagues on the four ways to support students to graduate from postsecondary. The webinar tackles the factors that are critical to student success in postsecondary and how you can support students to enroll and persist in their postsecondary pathway.

Watch Now →