ICAP 101: Preparing for Life After High School

By Laura Latta, Ph.D.

Preparing for life after high school can feel like an exciting adventure and also a challenging obstacle course. There are many steps that students must take to prepare themselves for their post-high school college, career, or military dreams. In 2019, an Oklahoma bill was passed to help students plan for post-secondary success early in their school careers. Starting in 9th grade (or earlier) every Oklahoma student must complete an Individualized Career Academic Plan (ICAP for short) to help ensure that they have a plan and are prepared for their journeys after high school. 


What is an ICAP? 

The ICAP is an Individualized Career Academic Plan that helps students map out and take the necessary steps to be successful after they graduate high school. Starting in 9th grade, students work with their school counselors to do things like: 

  • Create a plan that leads to college and/or career goals
  • Learn about potential careers that match a student’s interests 
  • Enroll in the right courses (like AP, dual enrollment, or internships) that align with the student’s goals
  • Stay on track for graduation
  • Prepare for college or workforce programs (enrollment, financial aid applications, etc.)
  • Participate in in-service learning and work place environment activities during high school 


ICAP tasks are completed and submitted digitally and instructions for submission are provided by the student’s teacher, college and career coach, or counselor. 


Learn more about what ICAPs include, access the Oklahoma Edge website, hosted by the Office of College and Career Readiness at the Oklahoma State Department of Education [OSDE] (2020a). Click here for a one-page ICAP overview.


Who has an ICAP? 

Starting in 9th grade (and sometimes earlier), all Oklahoma students begin completing ICAP tasks. Students are required to complete their ICAP by Senior year in order to graduate. Teachers, Counselors, and College and Career Coaches support students as they submit tasks digitally to an online tool provided by the student’s school. The digital tool also serves as a resource with “career quizzes, scholarship information, resume-writing tips, and many other activities,” that support a student’s journey after high school (OCCR, OSDE, 2020a).


Where did the ICAP come from? 

The ICAP came from a few different pieces of Oklahoma Legislation including HB 3218, HB1255, SB 1171, HB 2535, SB 1269, and SB 929. For more information about these bills, go to 

https://www.okedge.com/about/legislation/. Oklahoma is not the only state that requires students to complete an ICAP before graduation. In fact, at least 43 other states have individual learning plans similar to the ICAP (US Department of Labor, 2016).


Why is ICAP so important? 

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, “studies show that Oklahoma currently faces a large work skills gap. In 2016, approximately half (46 percent) of the Oklahoma workforce had either attained only a high school diploma or dropped out of high school altogether. However, by 2025, 77 percent of Oklahoma jobs will require some form of education beyond high school.” (OCCR, OSDE, 2020b)


The reality is that students will need to get some sort of a degree, certification, or credential after high school in order to get a job. 


How will an ICAP help students prepare for life after high school?

The ICAP is more than just a “graduation checklist” (OCCR, OSDE, 2020d). It is a guide that students, teachers, counselors, and families use collaboratively to build a plan for high school and beyond. According to the Oklahoma Edge (2020) website, the plan includes, “a variety of academic and career development activities. Insight gained from these activities will result in a personalized roadmap [students]  can use when navigating college or career plans after high school.” The ICAP helps students learn about their post-high school career options, understand what steps should be taken to have access to those options, and develop goals and plans for success and attainment of wealth-generating jobs in fields like Aerospace & Defense, Agriculture & Bioscience, Energy, Information & Financial Services and Transportation & Distribution, and more.


When do students complete an ICAP?

The ICAP process formally starts in 9th grade (although some schools and districts start as early as 6th grade) and students complete ICAP tasks during each year of high school. Though the formal ICAP tasks begin in 9th grade, some school districts choose to help students get a jumpstart on their plans in middle school. Students and families can begin preparing for their futures as early as elementary school. 


How can I support students’ ICAP completion?

Helping students prepare for life after high school takes a village! Business professionals, post-secondary institutions, and community leaders alike can support students as they complete their ICAPs. By offering internships, job shadow opportunities, job talks, and industry tours, businesses help students envision themselves in jobs. This is also a great way to prepare and expand a business’ workforce. Colleges, universities, and businesses that participate in college and career fairs spark the interest of students while also bolstering their recruitment efforts. Go to the OKEdge website to learn more about supporting students as they complete their ICAPs.


Where can I learn more about ICAP?

A wealth of information about the ICAP for students, families, educators, colleges, and business leaders can be found at https://www.okedge.com/ or you can click here for a helpful ICAP resource.


The journey to life after high school has many milestones and checkpoints. With the ICAP, students don’t have to face those checkpoints alone, but develop a plan for themselves to stay on track for graduation and post-secondary success. Rather than waiting until Senior year to start preparations, students are now able to develop a plan for themselves early on, ensuring that they have all of the tools and experiences necessary to succeed and achieve their goals and dreams. The ICAP ensures that students are not alone as they prepare for these goals but are supported by their teachers, counselors, and community members. 



Office of College and Career Readiness, Oklahoma State Department of Education [OSDE](a).

(2020). A competitive edge for college and your career. Oklahoma edge.


Office of College and Career Readiness, Oklahoma State Department of Education [OSDE].

(2020). College & Career Readiness. Oklahoma edge. https://www.okedge.com/about/college-career-readiness/

Office of College and Career Readiness, Oklahoma State Department of Education [OSDE](b).

(2020). Legislation. Oklahoma edge. https://www.okedge.com/about/legislation/

Office of College and Career Readiness, Oklahoma State Department of Education [OSDE]b.

(2020). Students & Families. Oklahoma edge. https://www.okedge.com/students-families/

United States Department of Labor. (2020). Individualized learning plans across the US. Office of

disability employment policy. https://www.dol.gov/odep/ilp/map/


Summaries and Articles of Legislation


Oklahoma House Bill 3218 Summary: https://sde.ok.gov/hb3218

Oklahoma House Bill 2155: http://www.okedge.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/HB2155-ICAP_0-2.pdf

Oklahoma House Bill 2535 https://sde.ok.gov/sites/ok.gov.sde/files/hb2535.pdf

Oklahoma Senate Bill 1171: http://www.okedge.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/SB1171-INT.pdf

Oklahoma Senate Bill 1269: https://sde.ok.gov/sites/ok.gov.sde/files/sb1269.pdf

Oklahoma Senate Bill 929: https://sde.ok.gov/sites/ok.gov.sde/files/sb929.pdf


Handouts and Guides


ICAP Overview: https://www.okedge.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ICAP-Overview-1.pdf

Service Learning and Work-Based Learning Guidance: https://www.okedge.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SL-WBL-GuidanceDocument-2.pdf