When you walk into LPS Hayward, a charter high school in Hayward, its unwavering focus on college readiness is immediately apparent. Flags and pennants from colleges and universities decorate every classroom door. Photos of students in graduation caps line the walls. Visitors to the main office see a map of the country with pins marking each university that an LPS graduate has attended. These visual symbols are important reminders for students at LPS Hayward — most of whom are low-income and Latino — of what sort of future is possible for them.

But the staff at LPS Hayward knows that flags and photos are not enough to get students into college. For too many schools that serve students like those at LPS, the commitment to true college readiness doesn’t go beyond these superficial symbols. Across the Bay Area, only 3 in 10 low-income Latino students graduate eligible to attend a public university. At LPS Hayward, 9 out of 10 do.

What sets LPS Hayward apart? The culture at LPS Hayward centers on the idea that every student — regardless of race or income — is college material. Dr. Claudia Aguilar leads the college counseling program. Her team creates a college-going culture by systematically removing many of the academic, cultural, and financial barriers that typically hold students back.

Here are some of the keys to success her team has found, explore each post and watch our video spotlight to learn more.    

  1. Engage students in college preparation early and provide intentional, differentiated programming each year as graduation gets closer.
  2. School leaders must make college counseling a priority and back it up with resources
  3. Keep track of each individual student as they overcome administrative barriers to college acceptance 
  4. Address the cultural barriers that prevent students from entering college by bringing their parents along in the process
  5. Carefully frame community college options

The LPS team also recommends these ten quick tips to jumpstart those five keys to success and systematically change school culture around college readiness.

  • Default students to classes required for college entrance: The school’s master schedule is designed with all students automatically enrolled in the courses required for college eligibility.  
  • Provide freshman orientation: Freshmen start the year by attending a retreat on a college campus. They are intentionally paired with other LPS students as roommates to simulate the college-going experience.
  • Dedicate class time to build knowledge of college: Whether it’s through advisory, class presentations or grade level meetings, there should be a scope and sequence for helping students gain valuable college knowledge.
  • Remove logistical barriers: FAFSA and DREAMer paperwork is meticulously tracked for each student and completed early.
  • Provide options for students to earn college credit in high school: Research shows that “dual enrollment,” when students enroll in college courses while still in high school, increases their chances of attending college. LPS Hayward has developed a partnerships with local community colleges and with Merritt College to give students this opportunity both during the school year and the summer.  
  • Visit colleges: Visits for all students with out-of-town college visits that students must “earn.”
  • College Application Day: Applying to college is difficult, so the school dedicates a day to get students started in the process, in order to increase the likelihood that they will submit.
  • Junior Year: Don’t wait until senior year to get students started. Use the spring to ensure students register for tests, begin their college essays, begin to outline their accomplishments on their “Brag Sheets.”
  • Write college essays early:  As part of the application to participate in overnight college tours, sophomores and juniors are required to write drafts of the application essays required for UC admission.
  • Address cultural barriers: Counselors host periodic platicas, or community conversations, for parents in both English and Spanish to explain the college application process to them and build their general college knowledge of key steps and deadlines. Since many students will be the first in their families to attend college, LPS Hayward staff has found that it is critical to bring parents along in the process.