College and Career Readiness
Get ready because College Week is coming! Do you celebrate it in your school? It occurs this year from April 30 to May 4 and its most exciting point occurs on May 2nd, which is College Signing Day. College Signing Day and College Week are special events to celebrate the students who choose to pursue higher education at a professional training program, a community college, a four-year college or university, or the military. The goal of College Week is to inspire all students to continue their education after high school. This year various organizations such as the American School Counselor Association, Reach Higher, and Better Make Room will celebrate this awesome event alongside Michelle Obama and thousands of students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
So, in the spirit of this fabulous week, let’s talk about all the amazing things your can do in your counseling or academic program to highlight college and career readiness!
Keeping Their Eye on the Prize
At this time of year, many students are so busy trying to get through state testing season that future college and career plans may be the last thing on their mind! For this reason, it is super important to share helpful information and motivational anecdotes with students. This helps them to keep their eye on the end goal and the reason they are working so hard to pass the state tests in the first place- to graduate from high school and get to their higher education dream! Depending on your students’ demographics, this college/career info sharing and motivation might look like:
- Reading stories of other students who have entered and succeeded in the college and career world. Try showing these Big Future college student interviews for a start!
- Motivating them to think about their future and what they want to do with it by having them fill out a career interest inventory. One of my favorites is this free one at Onetonline.org.
- Communicating your school’s requirements for students to pass their current grade or class (so they can graduate and actually get to college).
- Discussing with students what documents or tasks they need to complete to obtain college admission or employment. Studentaid.ed.gov has amazing brochures with this type of information that you can download for free in English and Spanish for all age groups.
Guidance Lessons & Group Sessions
Now, let’s talk about how to jump into college & career readiness in class lessons and small group sessions. First, introduce your students to the idea of choosing a career based on their interests by having everyone take a career interest inventory (link above). Next, send them to some online sites where they can research the post high school institutions that have programs of study for the careers they are most interested in– my favorite site for matching careers with colleges is, again, Big Future, but there are so many others options to choose from, too! Finally, teach them about their options for getting higher education DURING public education. It is amazing how many options students have today to earn college credit while still in high school! Take a trip to your high school’s career center or spend a few hours in a sit down with one of your district’s high school counselors; spend some time soaking up all the knowledge about advanced placement (AP) classes, Early College High School (ECHS), Dual Credit options, and more! Then you will be ready to head back to ignite your students’ imagination over all the opportunities they will have in high school!
Personal Graduation Plans
Many states now require that each secondary student (and even some elementary students) make a plan for all the classes they will take leading up to high school graduation; this plan is made along with their parent/guardian and a school staff member such as a counselor or administrator. In Texas we call this a Personal Graduation Plan (PGP) and it is now a legal requirement for schools.
The purpose of a PGP is to guide a child to graduate from high school with the highest level of achievement. The PGP for a middle school student is a supportive plan based on academic needs. Alternately, the PGP for a high school student is a specific plan where the student notates their endorsement (major) and plans out their four years of classes. Again, this is done under the supervision of the parent/guardian and a school staff member. The idea is that the student will make a plan of the coursework required in order to achieve their highest potential in high school. PGPs are working documents used by schools and families to keep track of a student’s completion of their graduation requirements; PGPs might include documented grades, assessments, and other requirements. Together with the program of study (POS), which is an advisement tool where a blueprint for college and career readiness is aligned to an occupational objective, a student can achieve the desired outcome: college and career readiness in their field of interest.
Here is a super cute video clip from San Benito High School to introduce the PGP to your students. Also, here is a template of a PGP from the Texas Education Agency.
Below are some more resources to help you guide your students to and through the college/career whirlwind.
- Texas Education Agency Graduation Toolkit
- Drowning in Debt– This is a fabulous article to share with your middle or high school students on the dangers of college debt.
- Rising Up– This peer mentor program addresses college and career readiness.
- Here’s a college resources guidance lesson you can download for free from my School Counselor Stephanie website!
- Career Smarts – Love this Career Smarts unit for ES students, developed by the School Counseling by Heart website.
- Here’s my own super fun, easy-to-implement career interest inventory that you can implement with your students.
- Here’s an extensive, weeklong college and career readiness guidance unit with both online and paper-based career interest inventories to guide your students in their search for the perfect career.
- Twice the Distance– A fascinating article about real-life stories of ESL students who faced challenges on their way to higher education.
- Career Vocabulary Cards– Use this card activity to teach your very young students or your English Language Learners about careers.
- Word Wall Games– Use these games to have fun while applying students’ knowledge of career vocabulary!
Free College & Career Readiness Guidance Lesson
In closing I’d like to leave you with a free guidance lesson that that will help you kick off your college and career readiness push! Please comment below to share any strategies you have for helping build college and career readiness– the more tools we all have, the better!
That’s all for today, Folks. Hope to see you back here next month for my June post on wrapping up your school year and setting goals for the next year!
School Counselor, TEEN TRUTH