Middle school students are my favorite! All that energy and enthusiasm. They are like sponges, just soaking up new ideas and wanting to know more! According to recent research, middle school is the prime time to promote college and career readiness. Getting students to envision their lives five or ten years down the road is a challenge. The unique role of school counselors enables us to provide experiences and resources that will help students see the future. So, what can we do to help middle school students have fun and learn about themselves?
Encourage students to get involved. Middle schoolers like to stay comfortable. Extracurriculars provide opportunities for students to try new things. They can develop skills that are not learned in a classroom. Interest inventories help students to begin thinking about what they like to do. Education Planner has a great college and career section that is interactive and has a variety of activities.
Students need to see the purpose in their academics. Connecting academics to related careers can help with that. Work with classroom teachers to identify ways to promote careers in their subject area. I organize a college and career expo to introduce students to a variety of careers. Guest speakers and job shadowing are other ways to give students hands-on experience.
Give students opportunities to learn about careers. There are online websites for students to learn about career pathways, career fields, and career clusters. To provide a virtual career fair, students research their favorite career and create a presentation for the class. Use learning centers, choice boards, and bulletin boards for interactive career exploration. This Careers Choice Board learning center activity is a great introduction to careers.
Learn About Colleges
Some students have never seen a college campus, nor thought about what college to attend. Teach students about all things related to college. I use a college fact sheet that explains the different types of colleges, vocational schools, and degrees. The fact sheet compares the cost of public and private colleges. Students locate college admissions info online, where they can do virtual tours of college campuses. Local college recruiters attend our annual college and career expo, providing students admissions and scholarship info.
Transition to High School
Connect with your high school to create a student shadow day. Students visit the high school for a few hours, allowing time to attend classes and interact with older students. Another transition activity is a parent info night, providing course selection information and a question and answer session with the high school counselor. Similarly, invite high school students to lead a panel discussion about what to expect their ninth-grade year. Finally, encourage students to attend high school sporting events, concerts, and other types of performances to get a sense of the school culture.
There are so many ways to address college and career readiness with middle school students. It should be fun, interactive, and low pressure. Provide students with resources and experiences and they can do the rest.
More on College and Career Activities: Check out this post to help students set college and career goals.
What do you do to get middle school students college and career ready?
I’m a school counselor, former special education teacher, and adult educator. I am an advocate for students and implement a comprehensive program based on the ASCA National Model and the TN counseling model. My hope is that all students reach their full potential without limitations.