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Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is GEAR UP?
A: GEAR UP-Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs-is a federally funded program designed to better prepare middle and high school students for college through academic preparation programs, professional development activities for educators and college access information for students and parents.  GEAR UP programs are designed to include many partners including colleges, school districts, community organizations and businesses.  These partnerships create the teamwork needed to accomplish the GEAR UP goals.

Q: How long have GEAR UP programs been available?  How many programs are there in Washington State?
A: The national initiative began in 1998 to encourage more American youth to have high expectations, stay in school, study hard and take rigorous courses to prepare for college.  The first GEAR UP programs in Washington State were funded in 1999.  Currently, there are over ten GEAR UP programs that serve districts throughout Washington State.  Those grants are directed by the HEC Board, University of Washington, Washington State University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Evergreen College, Yakima School District, Wenatchee School District.

Q: Are there GEAR UP programs in other states?  Are they similar?
A: All but two states operate GEAR UP programs.  All GEAR UP programs have the same major goals and activities, although they are streamlined to meet the specific needs of their communities.  They all begin early outreach with students no older than seventh graders and they follow those students for a period of six or seven years to ensure that they are prepared to enroll in post-secondary education when they graduate from high school.   

Q: Why does GEAR UP start in the Middle School?
A: For many low-income students, no one in their families attended college or any post-secondary education program.  High school is often too late to begin talking about college, since it requires a paradigm shift for students to begin thinking of themselves as potential college students.  To effectively change this perspective, it takes a planned curriculum of information and experiences to prepare students for post-secondary education.  Students need to plan for a rigorous high school curriculum well before they enter ninth grade.    Many educators believe that this education should start even earlier than sixth grade to have a positive impact.

Q: Why do you keep talking about college?  Not everyone is going to college.
A: In the past, many careers did not depend upon a college education.  Today, most good paying jobs do require some level of college education.  Students need to be prepared for a wide variety of options for their futures, especially since they will likely be changing careers several times during their lives.  Even if they do not intend to go to college, they should be prepared to do well should they decide upon college after high school or later in their lives. 

Q: Is what GEAR UP does the same as what school counselors do?
A: GEAR UP partners with school counselors to achieve the GEAR UP goals.  Since a counselor’s responsibilities go well beyond college and career preparation and because they serve all students in the school, their time is limited.  Together, teachers, administrators and counselors assume critical roles to provide a well-rounded program of services for all students. 

Q: Why is it important for students to go on field trips?
A: Field trips are essential for exposure to college and /or careers that our students would never know about otherwise.  Many students have never been outside of their local communities.  It is important for students to experience the college environment from an early age, so that they become comfortable in this setting and begin to see themselves as future college students.  Information about college is not enough.  It requires time spent on college campuses or a technical institution, which helps students feel what it is like to be there.

Q: What is available for parents?
A: GEAR UP programs provide parents an opportunity to learn about post-secondary programs that are available for their children.  GEAR UP programs provide information on high school requirements, financial aid opportunities, and the need for early planning.  Parents also participate in educational programs such as ESL, computer literacy, and parent support strategies.

Q: What happens after GEAR UP is gone?
A: GEAR UP was deliberately designed as a five or six-year project to give schools time to develop sustainable programs and activities after GEAR UP funding expires.  GEAR UP directors work with schools to develop sustainability plans so that the work for preparing all students for college continues.  Some districts have combined efforts with Navigation 101; others have implemented college preparation and leadership activities through advisory programs.  For every GEAR UP activity, this question should be asked:  “how will we sustain this after federal funding is gone?”

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