8 Creative Ideas to Makeover College and Career Readiness at Your School
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8 Creative Ideas to Makeover College and Career Readiness at Your School

Preparing your juniors and seniors for the onslaught of college entrance exams and applications this fall doesn’t always requisite traditional college and career readiness programs and activities. Sometimes it takes a little extra elbow grease and creative thinking to captivate and encourage students to talk about their plans for the future. 

As a former Director of College Counseling, I learned that each school year provides opportunity to consider new ways (And reinvent old exercises too!) of engaging students and parents in the college search and decision making process. Thus, I reached out to a few friends in the field to uncover their creative takes to college planning for students. 

8 Creative Ideas to Makeover College and Career Readiness at Your School

“College Application Parties.  Each fall, we host a number of college application parties (CAPs) in our College and Career Center.  Seniors come in and work on their applications at one of our ten computer stations or they bring a laptop.  While they can come in any time, during a CAP, we have snacks, music, and extra staff around to help answer questions.  Often times, students get help from one another, especially if they are both applying to the same college.”

Chrystal Kelly & Nicole Wilgenbusch
School Counselors
Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins, CO

“During Junior College/Career Week in the spring, we have students do an electronic scavenger hunt. During this activity, they navigate through Naviance and look up important information about colleges and start to think about potential career options.

The scavenger hunt not only gets student's wheels spinning about their future, it also gets them excited about the depth of some of the electronic resources available to them. This is a simple but effective idea for livening up a traditional presentation and making it more of a hands-on activity.”

Chad Terry
School Counselor
Hastings High School, Hastings, MN

“My favorite exercise to do with students starting the college process is a game I call ‘Packing Your Suitcase For College.’ I put a big suitcase in the middle of the classroom and I give each student an index card. I tell them to imagine that it is the night before they leave for college and they are looking around their room planning what to pack.

This leads to a discussion about focusing the college search and selection process on what students value. The message is the greatest gift students can give themselves throughout the college process, college, and life is staying true to what really matters to them. It is also a reminder that the college process is one of self-discovery and self-analysis not perceived prestige, college rankings, and amenities.” 

Kelly Herrington
Director of College Counseling
University Prep, Seattle, WA

“To help our ninth graders understand how colleges will market themselves, we have each student create their own marketing piece for a college of their choice.  They research the college and then prepare a brochure or Powerpoint presentation to share with their classmates.  It gives them a chance to express their own creativity while learning more about a particular school.”

Todd Fleming
Director of College Counseling
'Iolani School, Honolulu, HI

“Throughout the year, we collect any goodies we get from colleges: t-shirts, mugs, notepads, tote bags, and other materials. When we have items from several colleges, we give them away in a drawing at the end of our all-junior meeting. By calling out the college’s name when we give each item away, we expose all of our students to the idea of different schools, and those who win go home with something tangible from a college they may not be familiar with.”

Carol Wasden          
Director of College Counseling
The Hockaday School, Dallas, TX

“The Friday before Thanksgiving Break, we have Popcorn Friday.  Our goal is to get underclassmen into the College and Career Resource Center. Students receive a bag of popcorn if they ask the college counselor a college related question. College swag is raffled off to students who log on to Naviance and complete the Game Plan Survey. “

Dan Gin
College and Career Counselor
Niles West High School, Skokie IL

“We schedule college panels or college speakers a few times a year and invite ALL students and parents, not just juniors and seniors. The best way to start a conversation about college is to make it real. We also invite admissions representatives to address junior English classes on topics such as ‘College Essay Writing.’ In order to start the college conversation, you have to create that culture and start early!”

Fran Swift
Director of Guidance/School Counseling
Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School, NJ

“I recommend to my students/parents to set a ‘date’ by going out to dinner, out to ice cream, a picnic, or cook together in one's own home. The idea is that the student/parent set a meeting with an agenda, just as a business or place of employment might do to discuss the important [college admissions] details, review deadlines, discuss tasks, etc. I have found this to be very helpful to families [because] it helps to give ownership of this process to the student.”

Terri Lewallen
College & Career Center Director
Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Rolling Hills Estates, CA

These creative ideas no doubt just scratch the surface.

Mary Docken

Mary Docken

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