AVID: College Readiness and Career Prep for High School Students

By Edward A. Mainzer

Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) is a program founded in California in 1980 by high school English teacher Mary Catherine Swanson who was concerned that her students—particularly those from minority and low-income backgrounds who could be the first generation to attend college– were not successfully transitioning to higher education. Today, AVID is a nationally recognized program for identifying students as young as elementary school and providing them with the skills to succeed in high school and transition to competitive four-year college programs. Although they may be “in the middle” academically, these students are seen by their teachers as having what it takes to succeed with their school’s most academically rigorous work.


AVID Program in the Schools


By 2010 AVID was serving over 400,000 students in some 4,500 schools in 45 U.S. states and 15 countries, but AVID has historically been seen as a college-prep program. Indeed, their 2010 30th anniversary slogan was “Decades of College Dreams.” However, there is an increasing realization that AVID’s focus on the skills required for success with rigorous academic work means that it is also about preparing students for successful careers. Indeed, writing in the Fall 2010 issue of ACCESS, AVID’s Educational Journal AVID’s Executive Vice President, Rob Gira identified “college and career readiness” as “two concepts that should be more closely linked.”


At the school level AVID is centered around a daily advisory class for all AVID students, led by a teacher who has attended AVID professional development trainings and is part of a school AVID site-team. AVID seeks students and their families who voluntarily commit to the extra work required and agree to a rigorous course of study, including taking Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses where available. The core skills AVID emphasizes are:

  • reading,

  • writing,

  • inquiry and

  • collaboration,

The last component is realized in part through twice-weekly tutorials with trained volunteer tutors who are a critical part of the AVID methodology.


AVID’s Impact in Underrepresented Communities


AVID’s impact is demonstrated by the success of its graduates at both the high school and college levels, particularly when their numbers are disaggregated for underrepresented populations such as African-Americans and Hispanics. AVID research reports that more than one-third more AVID students go on to college than local or national averages, and that the impact of AVID is particularly noteworthy for young people of color. AVID data also shows that the longer a student participates in AVID the greater is the program’s impact. And when in college, the data indicates that AVID students have greater staying power than similar non-AVID peers. “In short, the capital that students bring with them into the program does not seem to be as important as the capital that the students accrue while they are in the program.” (“Research,” Retrieved from http://www.avid.org/res_research.html)


Increasing Minority Representation in STEM fields: Impact of AVID Program


AVID incorporates both knowledge and skills that are critical to career success, and its mission to serve underrepresented populations is one that dovetails with national initiatives designed to increase minority representation in critical careers such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields which have been the focus of efforts by groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Science Foundation, National Governors Association and U.S. Department of Labor.


Many of the core AVID principles, developed to assist students succeed with rigorous academic studies, are also applicable to success in competitive career tracks. These include helping learners develop successful organizational skills and study habits, practicing effective questioning as active learners, and the ability to collaborate with others and synthesize information. As AVID Executive Director Jim Nelson has written, “the skills needed for college prep might be better described as ‘success prep’—necessary for anyone who wants a stable, fulfilling career.”


Joining AVID

AVID Central in San Diego, California, maintains tight control over the use of its curriculum materials to assure consistent quality among practitioners and services to students. Only schools that have fully committed to the program may send staff to the required (summer) trainings necessary to begin implementation. AVID also performs regular site-visits and engages in on-going data collection to assess program effectiveness. One distinguishing feature of the AVID model is its requirement that multiple members of the school community, including teachers and counselors—and not just building or district administration—“buy in” and become trained before it may be implemented.



AVID is about assuring that as many young people achieve as much of their potential as possible. As AVID has developed over the last three decades it has become increasingly clear that this mission ultimately means supporting students’ transition not only into and through high school and college, but also into the world of work.




AVID Research, retrieved from http://www.avid.org/res_research.html November 26, 2010.


Gira, R. (2010). “Book Review: College and Career Ready—Helping All Students Succeed Beyond High School.”ACCESS AVID’s Educational Journal, 16(3), 15-16.


Nelson, J. (2007). “AVIDly Seeking Success.” Educational Leadership, 64(7), 72-74.



Edward MainzerEdward A. Mainzer, EdD, LMHC, has served as a teacher, administrator, adjunct professor and school, college and mental health counselor for over 30 years. He is currently a school and college counselor in the NYC public schools. He has also served as an AVID Preparing for College trainer and AVID National Conference speaker. Contact Edward at emainze@schools.nyc.gov



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Deb Jarmer   on Tuesday 05/03/2011 at 10:13 AM

What information do you have that shows the Carl D. Perkins grant supporting the AVID Program? How do AVID and Career & Technical Education Cluster Pathways work together when each are vying for some of the same students who have to make choices in a schedule.

Mila Asperin-MCC,CA   on Tuesday 05/03/2011 at 04:18 PM

Sometimes hermetism kilss a great program initiatie. That, I feel, is the case with AVID. Locally, I have repeatedly approached school faculty and counselors with an offer to collaborate in presenting topics about the changing academic scenario in college, career development as opposed to career "selection" with minorities in HS, etc. to no avail. They are not open to outsiders in the field who may contribute hard data about these issues affecting transition from HS to college and eventual success in academics at that level.

My request is that they facilitate our intentions and be assured of richer Programs for their students.

Edward A. Mainzer, EdD, LMHC, School Counselor   on Wednesday 05/04/2011 at 06:25 AM

Deb, thank you for your interest. With the caveat that I do not work for or represent AVID (for official information from AVID contact AVID Center at the web address in my article), I am not aware in my own work of any conflict between Perkins and AVID. AVID is a systemic intervention that a school and district select to make; it encourages student participants to pursue any major of interest with an emphasis on attending four-year college programs. While as you saw in my article I argue that AVID has potential to build career readiness, it is oriented primarily to building academic and college readiness skills.

Mila, again, thank you for your interest. As I indicated to Deb, I do not represent AVID, and equally, any local school official who you may have worked with does not represent AVID, they represent their local school district which like all districts must make choices about which outside speakers and organizations to bring in. In a program with 1,000's of sites nation-wide it is important to recognize that our own local experiences may not reflect what's going on overall. I know that the AVID involved high school of which I am a part welcomes college admissions officers and other speakers through-out the year, in addition to taking students to actually visit colleges every year, and certainly has a career day where a wide variety of vocational experiences are represented as part of a comprehensive school counseling program that involves multiple interventions touching on many topics. I hope that as a counselor I see the strengths of each program I encounter and avoid personalizing the experience, just as I seek to do with each client I serve.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.