Key Takeaways

  • While advisory systems can be difficult to scale and implement, it really comes down to ensuring that each student has an adult that cares about them. 
  • Key, often overlooked, elements of advisory include mentorship, social capital, career exploration and more. 


Imagine schools being safe places that equip learners to fully express themselves with confidence. With support and guidance, strong advisory systems build purpose, help learners explore careers, build their social capital and skyrocket their potential. Strong support and guidance systems are critical for learners to increase their agency and sense of belonging while also helping learners identify where they’re going, how to get there and who can provide support and resources along the way.


Support and guidance systems in schools combine the specialized work of counselors, specialists, and social workers with advisory systems that engage teachers in sustained relationships with small groups of students. Strong support and guidance systems are augmented by community partners that extend youth and family services. Each of these functions increasingly relies on computer applications to deliver personalized support and advice.  

When done well, these systems expand the view of possible futures and empower informed postsecondary plans. They produce student agency, belonging, purpose, and well-being. They enact school culture, illustrate what is valued, and create enabling conditions for academic success. That being said, they are often incredibly challenging to implement well and consistently. Within the structure of advisory are multiple missions and most of them are not credit-bearing. 

Regardless of the challenge, we believe support and guidance systems are the cornerstones of a positive secondary school experience—one that lays the foundation for a lifetime of expression and contribution.  These systems have the potential to result in the following benefits: 

Increased Readiness

Consistent implementation of advisory programs has been shown to positively impact metrics such as course-taking patterns, transcript readiness, and college enrollment. For example, schools that were part of a six-year college readiness initiative that emphasized advisory showed significant growth in college readiness. 

Connection to Peers

A strong advisory program helps students get connected in meaningful ways. Through class discussions, democratic classroom decision-making, Socratic seminars, and other activities, students form bonds with one another and also learn more about themselves in relation to others. 

Connection to Adults

A strong advisory system provides a sustained adult mentorship relationship. Research suggests that strong adult mentorship while in high school increases the likelihood of graduation and postsecondary success.


A strong advisor-advisee relationship means that the student has an advocate in the building. As a result, students feel supported, and if (or when) they face personal or academic difficulty, rather than mentally or physically “checking out,” the student has someone to approach for help, feedback, and assistance.

Personal Growth

Because of the student’s personal connections to an adult, the student can learn more about their academic and personal strengths and areas for improvement. A student’s own self-awareness is critical for success in college and beyond, and a good advisory program can help students become more self-aware through 1:1 discussions with their advisor and time for those discussions as a peer group during the advisory time.


At Boise’s One Stone, the Growth Transcript helps high school learners track progress on 32 competencies (Bold Learning Objectives) from weekly design studios to quarterly student-led conferences through to graduation. Learning Coaches (advisors) meet with learners weekly to gather evidence, track progress and set learning goals. 

Design Principle - Intentional


Students at the Building 21 lab schools are assigned to an advisory that loops with them through graduation. Advisory focuses on personal development through their Habits of Success competencies, building relationships with adults and peers, and supporting the development of students’ personalized learning plans.


Cajon Valley USD is the best example of K-12 career exploration with 72 World of Work immersive experiences that provide learners the opportunity to reflect on how their strengths, interests, and values align with possible futures. Each unit includes Exploration, Simulation, Meet a Pro, and Practice. Through this process, students have the opportunity to learn about careers, receive hands-on experiences, meet professionals, and practice skills needed for that career.  Launch Pad, in partnership with San Diego Workforce Partnership, is a physical and virtual career workshop that provides personalized and localized guidance to middle and high school learners and their parents. 


In the Big Picture school design, each student is paired with an advisor (similar to a homeroom teacher) whom they stay with from enrollment until graduation. Advisors meet daily with this small group of no more than eighteen students to facilitate group discussions, literacy circles, social-emotional learning workshops and support them in developing projects connected to their internship experience.

Support & Guidance

Great for…

  • Guidance Counselors looking to expand their role and impact
  • SEL Teachers who have recieved SEL training but are looking for ways to further embed these learnings in a lasting and positive way
  • Parents who are curious what supports schools could be providing their children.

Key Takeaways

  • The core function of an advisory system is to work alongside counselors, parents and other community members to set young people up for success.
  • Planning is just one role of an advisor, wellbeing and mental health is a huge part of this role.

Advisory systems are a way for students to build relationships, reflect on learning, set goals for the future, explore career options and plan for postsecondary education. This publication makes the case that all schools needs a robust advisory and support and guidance system.

Considerations for Getting Started

Support mental health.

The global state of mental health requires us first to build a culture of care in our schools. The next generation of advisory systems must have seamless support services that connect learners and school faculty to community resources.

Co-author high school pathways.

The ecosystem of learning is changing, putting renewed emphasis on unbundled learning opportunities. Advisors will need to be able to help learners identify and integrate out of school experiences into their individual learning plan. Similarly, the rise of Competency-Based Learning will require advisors to help learners track their progress against an outcome framework and, similarly, support them in demonstrating competence.

Advise postsecondary plans.

The increasingly complex postsecondary landscape is difficult to navigate even with a guide. Advisors will need to show learners the opportunity of accelerated pathways to help them gain both experience and awareness of what they want to do next. Additionally, these advisors need to be able to provide more personalized and localized guidance about alternative pathways. There are more valuable and viable pathways to contribution than ever, and young people must find the one that speaks to them. 

Pilot, adopt, and integrate personalized guidance technology.

In the coming months, a number of AI-powered guidance systems will localize opportunity data and help personalize the development of Individual Learning Plans. Advisors will need to be on the frontlines of seeking, piloting, and helping systems adopt some of the more promising options.