Helping more Vermont students to be prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education and training

VSAC GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programming) is a U.S. Department of Education federally funded program.

VSAC counselors and staff work every day to increase high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates across the state. From the high school Class of 2019, 96% of the students served through the VSAC GEAR UP program successfully graduated. Of these graduates, 70% enrolled in postsecondary education or training by the fall after high school graduation. 

We also have a strong commitment to supporting school efforts. In the 2019–2020 academic year, we provided resources and support to enhance school efforts involving career and postsecondary readiness initiatives to more than 38 schools and seven state partner organizations.



Through GEAR UP, we serve 7th through 12th graders in 37 middle and high schools across the state. Each year, we serve about 2,500 middle/high school students and 300 students in their first year of postsecondary education or training. We also provide outreach to our student’s families, helping to make sure they have the postsecondary education or training and career planning information—and the financial support—they need to best support their students throughout their education journey.

VSAC’s GEAR UP program also provides resources and support to 7 state partners. These combined efforts serve to enhance local school and state-wide efforts to improve the career and college readiness of Vermont students.

To be served by GEAR UP, students and schools must meet eligibility requirements (one or more of six eligibility requirements as listed below). In some schools, students who meet eligibility requirements are nominated by school staff based on their interest in, and potential to succeed in some form of postsecondary education. All students served under VSAC’s GEAR UP program receive services throughout their time in middle school and high school and through their first year of postsecondary education or training.

Vermont State GEAR UP GUIDE Program

The GUIDE program is a component of Vermont State GEAR UP that aims to improve postsecondary outcomes by supporting high school graduates during the transition into and through their first year of postsecondary education. Read this report for an overview of the GUIDE program, findings from the first two cohorts of participating students (2013 and 2014 high school graduates) and a discussion of lessons learned and future directions; or take a more comprehensive look at the GUIDE program.



We provide services to support students, parents, and schools:

  • VSAC GEAR UP services for middle and high school students:
    • Intensive support, including mentoring, tutoring, career/college counseling, and selection of academically rigorous courses
    • VSAC GEAR UP college scholarship
    • Career and college exploration through information sessions, field trips, 1-on-1 counseling, summer programs, and cultural activities
    • Financial literacy programs and assistance with understanding financial aid, eligibility, and assistance with forms
  • VSAC GEAR UP services for college students:
    • Opportunity to join our first-year support texting platform
    • Academic, social, and personal support with the transition to employment and postsecondary education or training after high school
    • Assistance completing financial aid and scholarship applications
    • Help in making connections with postsecondary education and training support systems
  • VSAC GEAR UP services for parents:
    • High school and college planning information and support
    • Opportunities to participate in educational, career exploration, and mentoring experiences for their students
    • Assistance with college and financial aid applications
    • Support with the transition from high school to postsecondary education or training for their student
  • VSAC GEAR UP services for schools:
    • Curriculum resources on career and postsecondary planning, financial aid, and the transition from middle to high school and high school to postsecondary education or training
    • Professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators
    • Funding aimed at supporting school improvement initiatives



If you're interested in joining the VSAC GEAR UP program, please speak to your school counselor and they'll put you in contact with the VSAC GEAR UP counselor at your school.


  • Students must be citizens or nationals of the United States or permanent residents and residents of Vermont.           
  • Students must be enrolled in grades 7–12 within the identified middle schools or high schools.
    • Students are often recommended by their school counselors as motivated to continue their education or training after high school.

There are many ways for students to be eligible to participate in GEAR UP:

  • eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch 
  • being an English language learner 
  • being the first generation in their families to go to college 
  • experiencing homelessness 
  • experiencing foster care
  • having an incarcerated parent  



We know that our efforts significantly grow when we partner with others to help students succeed. Toward that end we provide both services and funding to many entities that support youth in their career and postsecondary planning success

VSAC GEAR UP school partners:

  • Franklin County:  Richford Junior/Senior High School
  • Chittenden County:  Colchester Middle and High School, Winooski Middle and High School
  • Rutland County: Benson Village School, Fair Haven Grade School, Fair Haven High School, Poultney Middle and High School, Proctor Middle and High School, Mill River Union Middle and High School
  • Windsor County: Green Mountain Union Middle and High School, Springfield High School, Riverside Middle School
  • Orange County: Rivendell Academy (Orford, NH), Oxbow Middle and High School, Blue Mountain Union Middle and High School
  • Caledonia County: St. Johnsbury Middle School, St. Johnsbury Academy, Danville Middle and High School
  • Essex County: Canaan School (Middle and High School), Brighton Elementary School
  • Orleans County: Lake Region High School, Orleans Elementary School, Charleston Elementary School, Brownington Middle School, Barton Graded School, Craftsbury Academy, Albany Community School, Glover Community School, Irasburg Village School, Lowell Middle School, Troy School, Coventry Village School, North Country Junior High School, North Country Union High School

VSAC GEAR UP state and regional partners:

  • Careers CLiC
  • University of Vermont
  • Vermont State College System, including Community College of Vermont
  • Vermont Principals Association
  • Vermont Agency of Education
  • Vermont Afterschool, Inc.
  • Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative

We also offer a wealth of information and guidance for students and parents right on this website. Get more guidance >