Spring break is a high school milestone. For juniors and seniors, life-altering changes loom. The person tasked with helping students manage those changes by shaping college and career dreams knows the holiday is a green light for juniors to start the application process in earnest and seniors to finish strong. It’s all about positioning, and our top spring break tips for college counselors are designed to help them position students for success.
Reconnect with the Basics, and Enhance Your Program
The College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center defines eight components of college and career readiness counseling. They are the basics of the profession, and they are:
- Inspire college dreams. This is about reaching out to all students and exposing them to the ideas and means that lead to college and the confidence to choose that path.
- Direct academic planning for college and career. This is about showing students how to choose an academic path that helps them discover and nurture college and career dreams.
- Spur growth outside the classroom. This is about helping students explore extracurricular activities that round them out as people and build a strong résumé for the college application process.
- Inform college-career exploration and selection. This is about showing them what’s out there and helping them find a good fit academically and career-wise.
- Promote college and career assessments. This is about “preparation, participation and performance in college and career assessments by all students.”
- Show students, families how to finance college. This primarily is about cost-cutting strategies, financial aid, and scholarships.
- Guide the college application-admissions process. This is about handling the never-ending flow of paperwork and the tasks the application process entails, from essays to letters of recommendation.
- Serve as a bridge from high school to college. Help students find school and community resources to “overcome barriers and ensure the successful transition from high school to college.”
Adding or perfecting tactics in your strategy for being the best possible counselor will enhance your program. Here are some ideas you can work on during spring break.
Help your juniors hone the skills they’ll need to ace the application process, from college essay writing to compiling a résumé or researching colleges.
Set up workshops you can run, or find professionals to hold them. Recruit:
- An English teacher to sharpen your students’ writing skills
- An admissions officer to explain what the schools want to hear
- A volunteer coordinator to discuss ways to strengthen a community service portfolio
- A college student to talk about transitioning to college life.
Make College Decision Day an Event
Keep the application process in the limelight by scheduling a College Decision Day event. Celebrating the generic May 1 deadline for picking a school once had proponents in the White House, which launched College Signing Day, a celebration designed to “rally around students who have committed to higher education.”
Keep it simple and cheap – snacks, inexpensive prizes, and camaraderie – or look for community sponsors who can underwrite something more formal and elaborate.
Plan a College Fair
Be sure they know how to make the most of the fairs they do attend.
Work on Social Media Skills
Are you social-media savvy?
- Do you know how to help students create or polish a LinkedIn account?
- Can you help them clean up their social media?
- Can you show them how to use social media to research a target school?
- Do you know where they can find informative blogs?
- Have you considered blogging?
Create a Newsletter, Handbook, Blog
Imagine being able to reach out to seniors once school ends and before college starts. Imagine being able to discuss obstacles in the enrollment process before those obstacles make your seniors victims of summer melt.
A handbook distributed before the school year ends and/or a newsletter to connect with students and their families before and after school ends are great communication tools to keep seniors on track and focus juniors on the college hunt.
Your school website likely could accommodate that blog you’ve been meaning to start and digital versions of a handbook and newsletter.
Spread the ‘College-Going Culture’
A 2018 report on high school counselor-student ratios in the U.S. put the average ratio at 479-to-1. The odds are good that someone at the elementary or middle school level in your school district could use a little help inspiring college dreams.
Arrange a visit so you can tell students what they can expect in high school and how college can be part of their future. Those same children could be coming to you as high school students.
As College Board puts it: “Lead a systemwide effort to create a college-going culture in every part of your students’ lives.”
Connect Everyone with the Calendar
Spring break is the pause before the push to the end of the school year. It’s a good time to evaluate and plan, particularly for juniors and seniors. Knowing what to do and when to do it is critical.
Timeline for Juniors
The application process timeline for juniors rolling into spring break looks like this:
- Winter: Keep building extracurriculars portfolio, organize college research information, begin winnowing list of potential schools, prepare/register for standardized tests, explore financial aid opportunities.
- Spring: Launch scholarship hunt, find people to write letters of recommendation, plan for summer job or internship.
- Summer: Visit colleges, organize financial aid information, start college application essays, start application process for early option
Timeline for Seniors
The application process timeline for seniors rolling into spring break looks like this:
- Winter: Act on early option choices, follow up on submitted applications, submit financial aid forms.
- Spring: Compare financial aid options, prepare for any final standardized testing, choose a school, follow through on financial aid options, complete enrollment paperwork.
If USF is a target for your students, the school’s Counselor Toolkit can help you help them. If you need additional help, the Office of Admissions is ready to engage. Contact us online, or reach us by phone at 813-974-3350.
About Joe Emerson
Joe Emerson spent 30 years as a magazine and newspaper reporter, editor and copyeditor who turned to freelancing after 20 years with The Tampa Tribune, which closed in 2016 after 125 years of serving the Tampa Bay area. Writing and delivering valuable information remain his passion.