The Trip Test – A System for Following Up on Freshmen

The student is called to our conference room. He enters the room and there is a slight hesitation as he sees four teachers and myself sitting at a conference table with an empty chair at one end ready to receive him.

He reluctantly pulls the office chair back and sits down, resisting the temptation to swivel. I start in with an overview of what the team and I have been talking about. Teachers walk through the details from the classroom and specific instances where this young man has acted in a way that compromises his own education.

We conclude the meeting with a short list of expectations for the future. He is released to swivel around and head for the exit.

This meeting in and of itself might be enough. The freshman might head back to class with a couple of ideas he will put into practice. But often times, that is not the case.

What is needed is a Trip Test. This team of adults manages 20 to 30 students in need of targeted feedback and follow-up during any given month. Their ability to corporately remember each of these and come back around is going to have gaps unless something is in place.

Great follow-up is as important as a good initial idea, meeting, or plan of action. Coming back to a student and acknowledging success or reevaluating an expectation solidifies the learning and demonstrates excellence in what we do. Follow-up on our own words and commitments to freshmen is the essence of leading and caring for them well.

A trip test is something that is set in the future that the team will “trip” over during the normal course of how they go about their business.

During what we call Impact Day, teams use a Google Doc to record observations, conversations, commitments or concerns. Each week the team reads aloud every freshman on their team.

In the below example, it’s May 9th. There are a number of notes for today. Additional notes have been placed in the future so as the team goes through the list on those particular days, they “trip” over these additional notes and follow-up as needed.


This type of work is so impactful and important to working with large groups of freshmen.

After a follow-up conversation, I have literally seen a kind of awe on the face of a freshman that they were remembered and held accountable to what was talked about.

Good trip tests keep freshmen walking toward success and do a lot for the reputation and power of a team of professionals.