Increase K-8 College Aspiration: Participate in MI College Application Week

 Show me the money
 This bulletin board is one of many college-themed items on display during Harbor Lights Middle School College Application Week.

High schools from throughout the state of Michigan will be celebrating College Application Week Oct. 26-30. It is a week developed by the Michigan College Access Network and modeled from a national effort, that encourages  all seniors to complete and submit at least one college application. Many Michigan colleges reduce or waive application fees for this week to make it even easier for students to apply. At Harbor Lights Middle School, we have seized the opportunity to design experiential and developmentally appropriate activities that tie in to this week and capitalize on the attention generated by West Ottawa High School’s participation as a host site.

In the daily announcements, students learn the definition of a different college-related vocabulary word. On Friday, students in homerooms compete in a quiz game using a shared Google spread sheet to test their learning of these words. The words might be scrambled, or clues may be given so classes guess at the answers, then type them into the sheet—all in a live format that each class is following on their projector and screen.  Homerooms also create college-themed doors for a door-decorating contest.  Some have chosen to highlight the students’ goals, a specific college, or college rivalry. The ideas for doors are endless. College-themed swag prizes are awarded to several participating classes at the end of the games and contest.

 Every Harbor Lights Middle School staff member has been asked to display a sign outside their door or office that advertises where they went to college. During College Application Week, we ask teachers to specifically talk about their signs, college experiences, ways that they paid for college, as well as answer questions that the students may have.

Another fun day during College Application Week is a college-apparel day.  Students and staff are asked to wear their college gear. This is a great conversation starter for teachers to again talk about college access, their college experience, and answer any students’ questions.

In March each year, we host College Week, which involves a few more age-appropriate activities. This week includes a day in which all three of our grades participate in college- and career-focused activities that we call College, Career and Life Ready Day. During our school’s most recent event, homerooms were assigned a college that was playing in the NCAA basketball tournament and asked to create a door around that theme. A bracket was created and hung in our main hallway and updated as the games progressed. We titled our bracket display, “College Knowledge Championship.”

Another activity that gets Harbor Lights students involved is a college-related Bingo game that is played like a scavenger hunt. Students are asked to find one person for each of the descriptors in the square.  Examples include, find someone who went to college out of state, find someone who received a scholarship to help pay for college, etc.  Students turn completed Bingo cards in to the office and a random drawing is held with college swag as the prizes for the winners.

There are so many options for promoting college aspiration among students in grades K-8. In addition to the ideas above, schools might consider a college-apparel rivalry day.  Students and staff could wear attire that represents their favorite college rival, and homeroom teachers could tally up the “votes.”  At the end of the day, the counselor or principal could announce the winner by playing the fight song over the P.A. system. If you have a daily or weekly video announcements show for students, work with that teacher or class to develop segments about your college activities; interview your school’s college adviser if you have one; or consider speaking about your own college experiences.

With middle school and elementary school students, exposure to basic college-access information and terminology, coupled with engaging and fun experiences, can begin building their college aspirations and growing their college knowledge. Together we can Reach Higher!

Join Ann and MCAN for a Twitter Chat about K-8 College Aspiration!

Would you like to learn more about building college awareness and aspiration among students in grades K-8? Do you have experiences to share, or questions about the topic? Join MCAN Director of Statewide Initiatives and Special Projects Christi Taylor, and Harbor Lights Middle School Counselor Ann Harris for a Twitter chat about K-8 participation in College Application Week.

The discussion will take place Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Plug in using the #K8CAW hashtag.

To send us your questions in advance, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Ann HarrisGuest Author: Ann Harris, MA, LPC, NCC, and proud member of the first cohort in MCAN’s School Counselor Postsecondary Planning and Training Course, 2013-14

Posted: Oct. 13, 2015

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