Friday, September 27, 2013

Inspiring Students to Think About College

One of our goals at New Milford High School is to present as many college options as possible to our students if that is the direction they want to pursue. When hiring some new guidance counselors a little over two years ago I asked them during the interview process how they would increase access to higher education options upon graduation. One idea that was developed by Michelle Harle, who is now in her third year at NMHS, was to organize and hold a college fair during the school day for all students to attend if they choose. not only did Michelle present the idea, but she was able to elicit the support of the Guidance Department.  Working together they have been able to implement and sustain an opportunity for all of your students in grades 9-12.


The best part about this college fair is that students do not miss any class time to attend, as we hold it during all three of our lunch periods.  Since lunch is 48 minutes, students can decide how quickly they want to eat and how much time they want to spend at the event.  In terms of the school day the college fair runs from 10:30 AM until 1:15 PM.  No student is forced to attend, but I can tell you that the main gym is jam packed with students eager to learn more about their options after high school.  I just got back to my office and was proud to see the gym packed with students engaged in conversations with college reps and each other about future learning.  On a personal note I was excited to see both my alma maters, Salisbury University (B.S.) and East Stroudsburg University (M.Ed.), in attendance.

The event was a huge success.  There were well over 100 colleges in attendance and the atmosphere was electric.  You can view the entire program that was distributed to our students HERE (I had to add a separate link for the front and back covers).  This was developed by my Guidance Department and includes information on all of the colleges that attended, as well as, a college fair cheat sheet.  Click HERE to view a Instagram video of the event. The following are some things my Guidance Department had to do, as well as, some pointers, if you want to organize a similar event:

  • Begin outreach to schools months before.  Michelle began doing this last May.  The key is to provide as many options for students.
  • Make sure you have enough tables for the reps.  We rent these and have them delivered the day before.
  • Organize a schedule where students do not miss any of their classes.
  • Reserve parking for the reps and communicate this to your students early on.
  • Provide food for the reps in the area where the fair will be held.  My counselors arrange for pizza, salads, and cookies.
  • Let your parents and other stakeholders know about the college fair in advance.  We email out a list of attending colleges, as well as, invite them to attend the event.
  • Create a program for your students that provides pertinent information on each school (location, website, majors).
  • Encourage your staff to wear apparel from their alma mater the day of the event to build excitement and pride in the event.
  • Have students on hand to help direct the reps where to go.
Having a forward-thinking guidance department at NMHS is providing our students with the right guidance to make informed decisions about their future. 

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