Compass FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Compass, our virtual college readiness program for students in grades 9-11

Compass, a College Success @ Perkins program, is a nine-month virtual offering designed to build college readiness skills for high school students who are blind and visually impaired. Through weekly coaching sessions and regular workshops with key players in students’ learning networks—the student, family, and an educational link such as a TVI—students create and implement a plan that builds on their skills while addressing challenges and gaps in skills.

Compass leverages the power of individualized attention in the form of coaching sessions with the student, the parent or guardian, and the educational link. In the coaching sessions, the team assesses the student's strengths and growth areas, then builds awareness of, and a plan to build the skills and strategies that will better prepare them for the rigors of higher education. Specifically created for students in grades 9 through 11, Compass focuses on planning to improve technology, academic skills, executive functioning, career exploration and planning, social-emotional skills, O&M and independent living.

Coaching is a student-centered approach that promotes self-discovery, reflective thinking, and strengths-based goal-setting through intentional and guided support. By participating in Compass, students learn to self-direct their learning and reflect on their growth in order to set and achieve realistic, attainable goals. Compass coaches work with the whole team to integrate these practices into all aspects of the students support network in order to optimize outcomes.

Compass coaches work with all members of the Learning Triad to support the student toward reaching their college readiness goals. In addition to the group workshops, up to one-hour weekly coaching sessions will be available to students, families, and a member of the educational team such as the TVI.

Each session is tailored to address the needs of the individual, with students at the center of every conversation. Data from the College Readiness Checklist, a tool designed to determine students’ skill in eight ECC-aligned domains, will be a guide for many of the coaching sessions. Each individual brings different backgrounds, knowledge, assumptions, and experiences to the sessions; our Compass coaches are ready to meet every person where they are to support the best possible outcomes.

Compass is for high school students who are blind or visually impaired who aspire to go to college, are motivated to succeed, open to feedback, and willing to put forth the effort necessary to reach and complete college. Students in 9th through 11th grades are strongly encouraged to apply (the earlier the better to increase college readiness), but 12th grade students and fifth-year seniors may also be considered.

To beat the odds! Research suggests that the majority of students with visual impairments who start college never finish. Through a team approach and evidence-based practices used in the coaching model, students will heighten their self-awareness, identify goals, and design an action plan that will begin to be implemented during the program and continue through the rest of their high school career with ongoing support from Compass staff.

With the College Readiness Checklist as the driving force behind action planning, students and their teams will share in their understanding of and efforts to support and plan for student growth as they build the skills and confidence required for college and work.

Compass is a nine-month program, during which we both leverage the power of one-on-one coaching (meeting your student where they are, and helping them to grow in their self awareness) and in the Action Plan, which is implemented with the student’s Learning Triad, all over time.

Time allows a few things. It allows changes in understanding in not only the student, but the family as well. It empowers the TVI to learn new skills and to have time and support to develop new structures in a student’s school day. In short, it’s adding time “on” in intentional, constructive ways that lead to growth.

Students who participate in Compass will continue to receive direct services on the ECC from their existing team, which may include O&M instructors, teachers of the visually impaired, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and so on. Compass coaches are not meant to replace these professionals or the instruction they provide. Rather, Compass brings the team together in a student-centered, collaborative approach to build on students’ knowledge and create a plan to move a student forward to greater awareness of the demands of college-level work, and to move a student forward to greater independence and ability to manage the significantly increased expectations inherent in college.

Compass is a virtual program that requires students to participate in tele-meetings and virtual learning. Students should have the skills to utilize one or more devices for word processing, document collaboration and sharing, email, and web conferencing.

Students who rely on assistive technology such as screen readers, magnification or refreshable braille should know how to use these features in conjunction with mainstream tools such as Zoom. Compass staff will be available to provide basic troubleshooting and tech support during the program, but training on the use of devices and software is the responsibility of students’ direct teaching team.

Families are a critical part of students’ learning networks and in ensuring that skills transfer from school to home. Families with a participating Compass student are encouraged to designate one or more family members to participate in regular coaching sessions and workshop activities. The ideal family member is a parent/guardian or other relative who is a significant and frequent support to the student. More than one family member is welcome to participate in the sessions.

A member of the student’s learning network such as the TVI is encouraged to participate in group workshops and individual sessions with a Compass Coach. The role of the educator is to support the student in developing and implementing an action plan that outlines the steps towards college readiness.

Participation in Compass will look different for each student and their team. Some students will have a participating TVI while others may have a different member of their learning network such as a VR counselor, case manager, transition counselor, guidance counselor, social worker, and so on.

Each member of the Learning Triad will have access to up to one hour of weekly coaching sessions as well as monthly workshops lasting 3-4 hours. While this may seem like a large or small amount of time depending on perspective, the goal is to streamline and coordinate efforts of the whole student network, growing the student’s readiness for increasing independence and challenges of college, career and young adulthood.

Compass provides services in all five pillars of Pre-ETS. Visit our Pre-ETS page for more information about how Compass aligns.

Absolutely! Students from all over the nation are welcome and encouraged to apply.

Give us a call! Our admissions team is ready to answer any questions you might have and help you determine if Compass is right for your student.

The cost of the program is $25,000 for the 2020-2021 school year. For more information including guidance on funding, please email CollegeSuccess@Perkins.org or call 617-972-7573.

Compass meets the criteria for Pre-Employment Transition Services. Students who participate in the program may be eligible for funding through their state agency for the blind. Additional funding sources may include support from the student’s school district or private pay. For more information on cost or funding options, please email CollegeSuccess@Perkins.org or call 617-972-7573.