Conference Exhibition Fee: $2,100

Ticket to Houston: $600

Food & Lodging: $1,000

Meeting people in person: Priceless!

We had an amazing time at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) in Houston, TX. Not only is NACAC one of our favorite conferences, but Houston is also one of our favorite cities. And an in-person NACAC in Houston – nothing could be better!

It was great to be out in real life and meeting people, not only from all over the country but all over the world. NACAC conference is a sweet spot for Cirkled In and is one of our favorite conferences. It is one of the few events where dots are connected between high school and higher education. Conference is attended by both high school counselors and college admission officers with similar excitement.

This year, bigger than any prior year, there were over 6000 attendees. There was a specialness around meeting together, in person after these COVID-years. The crowd seemed confident about the current state of  COVID and comfortable that even if they get COVID, they will be alright. There was hardly any hesitation among crowds. For many, it was our first time in a large conference, and to be honest, it was very refreshing.

Here are some of the trends that we noticed are most-talked about and gaining ground in the market. Some that are new, some have been around for a while, and some that are emerging as key topics in the market.

1. K-12: Bringing Career Readiness Back in “College and Career Readiness”

On the high school side, there seems to be a lot more acknowledgement and focus on the overlap  between education and employment. We observed more attention and demand for career tools including internships for high school students. We welcome this trend that holds significant promise in not only helping students with hands-on opportunities for learning AND also preparing them better for clearer future pathways

2. K-12: Making Students’ Lives Easier with Multipurpose Offerings

Resulting from the previous trend, there is now increased demand for one-solution-for-all-needs. There is recognition of simplifying students’ lives with one platform to find all overlapping educational and employment opportunities. One hub for all opportunities discovery is a welcome thought. Additionally, the need for students to have one online professional persona that can be used for all their college and career readiness seemed to be in demand.

3. Higher Ed: Welcoming Self-Reported Grades for Applications

A new trend that emerged just recently is seeming  to gain a lot of traction. This is self-reported grades and assessments by students to colleges. With a continued movement away from SAT/ACT test scores and towards a more holistic review of candidates, many more colleges are looking for self-reported applications by students for initial processing and decision making. Colleges may still require a formal transcript for admitted students, but they are very open to making admissions decisions based on data shared by students.

4. Higher Ed: Need For New Ways to Attract a New Generation

Colleges continue to be challenged by declining enrollment, due to many factors we are all too aware of. There is increased acknowledgement of the fact that to attract the digitally-native Gen Z generation colleges need new strategic marketing methods. Spray and pray methods of mass, blind, antiquated marketing techniques will not work on the new generation. Colleges are looking for new and innovative ideas to target the right candidates and personalize their messaging.

5. K-12 and Higher Ed: Staffing Churn and Understaffed Institutions

We feel your pain. Our educators and administrators are overwhelmed by the after-affects of COVID that have hit many of our most crucial sectors. Both K-12 and Higher Ed have been hit with mass retirements, resignations, and geographical shifts resulting in high churn, putting extra burden on current staff and faculty. There are many open positions at every level of the market.

This has created an increased demand for the technology and services sectors to provide solutions that truly make educators’ lives easier. This may take the form of more artificial intelligence and intuitive data processing in college recruitment or engaging high school solutions for students  that require less  monitoring and motivation from educators.

Some Shifts May be Necessary

Overall, the shifts we observed at NACAC, some small and others bigger pivots, continue to support the same things we are focused on here at Cirkled In:

  1. Supporting a new generation of “Future Seekers”

  2. Helping Students, Colleges, Employers, connect with each other holistically and seamlessly. Bringing together the whole ecosystem creates win-win-win.

We believe the education industry is welcoming many technological advances as a result or as a reaction to a post-COVID world. Many changes are here to stay as it’s impossible to imagine moving backwards in time. We are eager to watch and participate as these trends continue to evolve over the coming months.