Now more than ever students need to think seriously about life after high school. Eighth grade isn’t too early. For soon-to-be high school graduates, it’s never too late to explore next steps, says Jerron Johnson, director of the Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC).

To help with those important questions, MCAC is offering free online office hours 10 a.m.-noon Tuesdays and 1-3 p.m. Thursdays through May 14. Sessions are open to any Missouri high school student needing support with postsecondary planning and preparation. Eighth graders interested in getting a head start on career planning are welcome too.

Families and students can go to the MCAC virtual office hours page (tinyurl.com/CollegeAdvise) and sign up for a time to speak with an adviser about college planning, financial aid, career or school major exploration, other postsecondary pathways, scheduling virtual college tours and the transition to college.

According to a press release from Johnson, MCAC is headquartered at the University of Missouri and has 48 advisers who serve about 43,000 students in grades nine through 12 on-site in 47 Missouri high schools. Recent college graduates themselves, these “near-peer” advisers can provide relatable and relevant career and postsecondary advice, as well as help students – including many who will be first-generation college students — navigate everything from postsecondary planning and applications to financial aid, testing and more.

When high schools closed, MCAC transitioned quickly to a virtual advising format thanks to resources through its national advising corps network.

A benefit of the online format is that it allows advisers to serve students statewide, not just those in its 47 high schools.

“We realized that many students considering college or already in the pipeline might be cut off from their regular college advisers,” Johnson said. “And there are so many questions students have right now: ‘Where and when can I take my ACT? Where do I find ACT test prep materials? Should I go ahead with my college plans?’ We can help students get the information they need to continue planning for and pursuing a better future. Even if students just have general questions or don’t know where to go, we can help.”

Most students who have been accepted to college or pursued other postsecondary educational options are not abandoning those plans, Johnson said. They understand that additional education may be the best investment in a time when the job market is so uncertain. But for some, their usual go-to resources are harder to connect with.

“Particularly for our seniors, this year is so not normal, and they are missing quite a few milestones,” Johnson said. “We want them to understand that, given the economic impact of this pandemic, it is more critical now than ever to seek an education after high school, whatever your goals might be. Yes, this situation has taken our breath away, but life is still going on. You still have to make good decisions that will impact your next steps and your future.”

For more information about the Missouri College Advising Corps, visit mcac.missouri.edu.

Jerron Johnson can be reached at 573-884-7656.