Student Success

What Is A Guided Pathway And Why They Matter

Motivating students and encouraging them to find their right academic path can be difficult. Guided pathways can be a potential solution. Student-guided pathways are designed as a collaborative effort between academic centers and students to create a clear, concise guide to follow for their first year of college. 

In this guide, we will explore what student-guided pathways actually are and why they are so beneficial for student retention and success.

What Is A Guided Pathway?

Guided Pathways is a new reform movement in higher education that tries to reorganize students’ journeys to increase college completion and student achievement. Many colleges have begun implementing this method to assist students in selecting an area of study and constructing a strategy to either transfer to a four-year college or acquire a decent job with a two-year degree.

Pathways programs frequently include strategies, procedures, and sub-majors that allow students to pick a larger course of study to explore career alternatives, as well as rigorous advising to assist students in developing these plans.

To put it simply, guided pathways are a framework that combines what has been discovered about good educational practice, yet it necessitates continual evaluation to guarantee that the support given is delivering beneficial outcomes.

The 4 Concepts Of A Guided Pathway

There are four main components of a good student-guided pathway:

  • Bespoke intake processes: Effective intake processes can assist students in selecting and enrolling in a program of study most quickly and effectively. Before a student begins their studies at a particular school, the intake procedure begins. It can include first-year experiences with advisors and first-year experience courses, as well as new student orientation, summer bridge events, and career evaluations.

  • Improved curriculum maps: Students benefit from a more regimented approach to their academics. Faculty analyze their programs to examine general education alternatives, course sequencing, elective choices, and other factors to give this. Faculty create curricular maps, which serve as default academic plans, based on such reviews. 

    Curriculum maps show pupils how to go through an academic program clearly and concisely. The emphasis is not on individual courses but rather on the curriculum as a whole and how courses fit within that framework. Students are then better able to establish connections across classes, understand the purpose of the curriculum, and comprehend how the program aids them in achieving their objectives.

  • More effective developmental education: One way that Guided Pathways can assist students in completing their degree in a shorter amount of time is by creating curricular maps. Another way to do this is to transition students more successfully from developmental education to college credit-bearing courses or onboard them. 

    Over half of community college students are enrolled in developmental education courses. Many students have traditionally found developmental education classes to be a stumbling obstacle; students who take developmental education courses are less likely to obtain a degree than those who proceed straight into college-level courses. This gap should be narrowed by improving the effectiveness of developmental education.

  • Progress tracking: Advisors will be better equipped to track student progress and proactively handle any deviations from a student’s selected academic path, using a guided pathway that includes progress tracking. This is helpful by being included in many academic success centers’ online advisor platforms.

How Do Guided Pathways Benefit Students?

There are many benefits to using guided pathways for new students.

First, it can increase engagement and interest in their potential majors. Having a clear-cut path for students to follow can make college less mysterious and scary, as students can simply follow their guided pathway list toward their major of choice.

Guided pathways can also offer a bit of variety for students who are not 100% sure of their dedicated major yet, allowing wiggle room with some structure for their first year of college. With a student-guided pathway, students can take on their first year of college with a structure that is not overwhelming, resulting in better retention rates for the college. Many colleges use guided pathways as part of their TRIO Application Grant request to help fund the resources they need.


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