Mark Ermi, Program Manager, AVID Western Division, AVID Center
Schools can see the benefit of taking sophomores, juniors, and seniors to college fairs. What about middle school students? Field trip money is at a premium, and it takes valuable time to organize. So, should 6th-8th grade students, who are years from making a decision, go to a college fair?
Just like constructing a tall building, it’s all about the scaffolding. When students become upper classmen, so close to matriculation, they narrow their search based on key personal factors to decide where to attend. As a middle school student, the focus is less on the answer to where you want to go and more about the questions that lead to that big answer. What is college all about? What should I be thinking about when I compare colleges? What should influence my decision the most? What do I need to know to begin making a decision?
If your students have the opportunity to attend a college fair, design activities that make this lack of experience and information an opportunity. Short of coming up with your own, maybe you can make use of the ideas below.
Middle School College Fair Activities
- Every student has to collect brochures from at least five (5) campuses. When you are back in class, cover a wall with brochures from colleges around the world. In small teams, students figure out ways to organize the brochures for better understanding. Each week a different team reorganizes and shares how they arranged the brochure wall as a way to compare and contrast schools.
- Help students focus on key factors for making college decisions, including things like size, majors offered, location, campus living, private or public, special considerations (military school, religious, etc) and other ideas. Students create questions for each factor, interview three (3) recruiters in three (3) minute interviews and report back to the class about a university that interested them and why.
- Create a scavenger hunt for students by looking up information about which schools are attending the fair. Items on the hunt might include the college at the fair farthest away from your campus, how many universities at the fair were instate, name a military academy that was in attendance, etc.
- As a class, make a list of schools with recruiters that were not encouraging to middle school students and then have the students write letters to those schools when you return to class. It is hard for students to make the case about why middle school students should be considered credible recruits if students haven’t ever considered reasons why they should be considered credible recruits. Could this be a Socratic seminar to generate ideas before students write? Expect some terrific letters back from universities in response.
- If at all possible, link up with feeder high school AVID classes and have students talk to each other about what to look for and why. Besides a great mentoring moment for the younger set, making the connection helps high school students define their purpose.
Afterwards, reflect, reflect, and reflect. What do you know that you didn’t know before? What do you want to know more about? What schools are you considering and why? Can students compare and contrast themselves pre-college fair to post-college fair?
Take advantage of their lack of knowledge and build towards higher education decisions. Our AVID students are skyscrapers in the making. The more we scaffold, the higher they can go.
How do you recreate the college fair experience without leaving your classroom? Find out next time in a blog coming soon…
Mark Ermi is a Program Manager in AVID’s Western Division serving Oregon and Washington schools. Mark spent 24 years teaching elementary and middle school students in the Mount Vernon School District in Washington State. You can reach him at [email protected]