Albemarle County Public Schools rolled out a new software program called Naviance this year to make college and career planning easier for students.

“Our counselors have been asking for [Naviance] for quite a while,” said Michael Craddock, a lead instructional coach for the division. “We were doing so many things in paper-based formats … We had no tool to bring it all together.”

Naviance provides college and career planning software to thousands of schools across the country. Craddock said the division expects to pay the Arlington-based company $43,000 annually to use the software in its middle and high schools.

Parents and students can access Naviance at home from the PowerSchool online portal. High-schoolers can link their Naviance accounts to the Common Application used by nearly 700 colleges and universities.

Naviance also enables high school guidance departments to send students’ transcripts and midyear reports electronically to even more colleges, saving postage fees and staff time.

Chris Lennon, a guidance counselor at Albemarle High School, said some teachers trying to upload letters of recommendation for students last fall found the Naviance user interface to be confusing.

“There has definitely been a learning curve … but teachers have a good understanding of it now,” he said.

Starting next year, students will have access to a database of aggregate data such as test scores, grade point averages and admissions decisions for different colleges.

“It allows our counselors to have really data-driven conversations with students,” Craddock said.

Student newspaper articles from high schools in other states have argued that this feature of Naviance causes additional stress for college applicants, and could discourage students from applying to colleges that actually are not out of their reach.

Pat McLaughlin, strategic planning officer for the county school division, said that high schools need to emphasize that the GPAs and test scores visible on Naviance are not always the deciding factor in college admissions.

“[Colleges] are going to look at you as a person and your accomplishments outside of school when they make that decision,” he said.

McLaughlin said Naviance will play a key role in implementing a teacher-student mentoring program for freshmen that the division is planning as part of its High School 2022 curriculum redesign initiative.

While Naviance is most prevalent in the county’s high schools, it is also being used for state-mandated career education in middle schools.

Sixth-graders are using Naviance to watch video interviews with professionals in different fields. Seventh-graders are adding careers of interest to an online inventory in preparation for the annual 7th Grade Career Expo at the University of Virginia.

“[Naviance] is just a tool for exploring,” said Cabell Guy, a guidance counselor at Sutherland Middle School. “It doesn’t pigeonhole kids … It just shows them what their aptitudes are.”

Guy said about 50 students at Sutherland have logged on to Naviance’s career exploration service outside of school-led activities.

“Some of the cooler features of Naviance are a tougher sell for middle-schoolers,” said Guy. “It’s hard to get kids excited about planning for college in seventh grade.”

Seventh- and eighth-graders in Albemarle County use Naviance to create a draft of their high school courses of study. High school guidance counselors will have access to these four-year plans and information about students’ career interests before students begin freshman year.

“We have always done career stuff in middle school, but it often just stopped there,” Craddock said. “Maybe it got put in a file, or maybe it got sent home. Now, high school counselors have … a better picture of each kid that’s coming in on their caseload.”


Josh Mandell

Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.