My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Time of the Year

Category: For Educators
Source: Next Steps Idaho Ambassadors

College Application Week/Month is both my favorite and least favorite time of year. Some really good work happens during this initiative and students truly overcome barriers to post-secondary education. But how can you take your CAW to the next level? One word, fun.

One of my all-time favorite emails from a student said, “Mrs. Essman, thank you for making such a stressful and scary topic (college applications) fun.”

If you can get the students excited about the activities, they are more likely to engage and prepare. Of course, we can’t get every student to take it seriously, but hopefully, we can make every student at least consider pursuing some type of post-high school training.

Step 1- Branding

You may be thinking, but it already has a brand, right? The brand is college. WRONG! Some teenagers will be lit up by the idea of college, but many will immediately disengage when they see that word. Think about your audience. What are they into right now? What is popular? Are they all watching a particular show? Is there a meme you can “borrow” and make your own? You can check out an example of what I have done below. Don’t force your way of thinking on them. Find out their needs and wants and cater to that.
CAW is Coming

Step 2- Prepare the Seniors

You need to be talking to your seniors early and often. If your CAW is Oct. 10th, you need to be in their classes early September. I bring a form that I make the students complete with me regarding important dates. You can view an example of the blank form and the counselor cheat sheet below. To encourage engagement, I also do a short quiz at the end for prizes (small things like candy, college swag, misc. Items).

But don’t stop after that, continue to reach out to them via email, social, announcements, posters, etc. Every senior should be able to tell you when CAW is and what they need to have to participate.
Student Email
Important Fall Dates (Student Version)
Important Fall Dates (Educator Version)

Step 3. Involve the Whole School

If you want your event to be successful, get teacher buy in. Some schools do door decorating contests for teachers’ alma mater. At my school, I encourage staff to wear college gear all week long and to share (school appropriate) stories from their experiences in college. The school is full of college graduates! All teachers have experience with college and have some excellent advice to share.
Staff Email

Step 4. College isn’t “College”

Make sure you emphasize that when people discuss college application week that it isn’t just four-year university. It is the traditional four-year degree, community college, trade school, workforce development, military, and career technical education.

Step 5. Get Organized

For this to be treated seriously by your students, teachers, admin, parents, etc. It has to be a bit of a production. Show them how seriously you take it, and they will respond in turn. Below is an example of my breakdown for the most recent CAW. Start planning for this well in advance. Ask for help! This is a daunting task so reach out and get help!
Next Steps Resources
CAW Checklist Example

CAW Schedule:

Monday/Tuesday – CAW Checklist in government classes
Wednesday – Scholarship presentation during mentoring and Alt. Routes fair at lunch
Thursday – College field trip, FAFSA Night
Friday – Catch up day for students who were not in government or don’t have government

Step 6. Have fun

Get the community involved and turn this into a party.




Written by Mallory Essman, Region 3 Next Steps Idaho Ambassador (2021-2022)


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