Opinion
Teaching Profession Teacher Leaders Network

15 Tips for Getting Students Focused on College and Careers

By Jennifer Barnett — March 26, 2013 4 min read

Last year, Childersburg High School in Talladega, Ala., embarked on an initiative to make students more college- and career- ready. As a teacher at Childersburg, I’m proud to be involved in this college and career program, which requires bold action, targeted initiatives, and a fresh approach to teaching and learning. And the program is working so far.

We’ve found that students at Childersburg High School want to be at school. This year, since we’ve increased our focus on careers and college, dropouts have declined 86 percent. Tardiness has declined 19 percent, and more than 80 percent of students are involved in clubs, sports, and other school organizations.

Here are 15 ways we’ve created a college- and career-focused culture at our school. Which ones might work in yours?

1) Host a mock-interview day. Recruit volunteers and have them interview every student in your school, not just upperclassmen. Arm your students with the tools they need for this important scenario: résumés, cover letters, communication skills, business attire, and professional attitudes!

2) Establish a speakers series. Invite the world to your school. Our students have learned from college recruiters, career specialists, community activists, recent graduates, and others with unique skills, talents, and information. Expose students to the world through those you invite to school.

3) Plaster college pennants everywhere. Never underestimate the power of a visual message!

4) Decorate classroom doors with teachers’ alma maters’ décor. Students want to know more about teachers, and sharing this information can establish great connections to higher education possibilities.

5) Create a college-checklist bulletin board. Provide handouts for each grade level with “to do” lists. Be sure to share with parents as well.

6) Build a fully functioning college and career library. Students need a space to explore careers and colleges more deeply. Provide brochures, pamphlets, books, online resources, ACT practice packets, and financial aid information to your students.

7) Create ambience. If possible, play classical music in hallways to create a professional feel in your building. Students should feel like they are coming to a professional workplace.

8) Create ID badges for students and staff. These communicate a workplace feel. Give special privileges to students who have their card with them at all times.

9) Dress the part. Have “professional dress” day at least once a month. Reward students for their participation, and be sure to set guidelines and inform parents and students with plenty of notice.

10) Hold a spring interview day. Hold real interviews for actual positions at school such as science-lab assistant, college and career student counselors, library and office assistants, and SWAT (Students Willing to Assist With Technology). Unlike mock-interview day, this time the interview really counts.

11) Establish a college-campus tour program. Offer tours once a month to area colleges and universities. If you can, include a teacher on staff who graduated from that school. Also, arrange for former students from your school who attend that college to have lunch with your students. Students like hearing from recruiters, but they love hearing about a college from their friends.

12) Go to college in high school. Organize an opportunity for students to conduct research for term papers in a college library. Arrange assistance from the university’s education majors. Be sure to allow time for a campus tour while there.

13) Start a “College Day.” Dress in college colors, play college fight songs in the hallway, and have students sign “pledges” listing their schools of choice.

14) Hold a nontraditional career day. Ask seniors to invite someone in their field of interest to school for a morning. Each student sets up a station with a project board of information about that career. Arrange the stations as if in an exhibit hall. Other students walk around, allowing the seniors to play host and answer questions.

15) Use digital portfolios. Tools like Google Sites allow students to share coursework, reflections on learning, and other products from their studies. If all teachers require students to share their work in the portfolio, students will place great value on the tool. Consider creating senior projects or requiring seniors to present their complete high school portfolio prior to graduation.

Students care about their futures and will respond with great passion and enthusiasm when the adults in their life show them how much they care as well. In a recent survey we administered to students, one student wrote, “I am most happy to see the increase in student involvement and how students are more intrigued with school.” Another student shared, “I was glad to see the change in students’ attitudes when they got to school and saw all of the work the teachers, student leadership team, and others had put into it. I’m excited to see CHS have a complete turnaround!”

You can download more information about these initiatives here. What other ideas do you have for preparing students for college and careers?

Events

School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Nearly 9 in 10 Teachers Willing to Work in Schools Once Vaccinated, Survey Finds
Nearly half of educators who belong to the National Education Association have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site set up for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa., on March 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.
pavel_balanenko/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion Should Teachers Be Prioritized for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Not all states are moving teachers to the front of the vaccination line. Researchers discuss the implications for in-person learning.
6 min read
Teacher Lizbeth Osuna from Cooper Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Chicago public school teacher Lizbeth Osuna receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a school vaccination site last week.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP