As a high school counselor, I am always looking for effective activities to conduct with my seniors who seemed to be well…stuck. By the fall of the senior year, you definitely know your students who are struggling with their post-secondary plans and you then feel the pressure from the administration and parents to get them UNSTUCK.  So, if you find yourself working with a group of seniors who are just lost (for lack of a better term) then this may be the post for you!

About a year ago, I was visiting my former high school and happened to venture into the media center.  While I was there, I couldn’t help but notice a higher than usual student volume in a typically quiet space. Since my curiosity was killing me, I finally asked one of my peer leaders what was going on and she told me that the College Adviser was conducting Senior Reality Checks.  Intrigued, I walked over and stood behind a bookcase to listen to one of the conversations.  When the student left, I popped out from behind the bookcase (startling everyone at the table) and greeted the College Adviser.  “Hey Ms. Smith (not her real name)! Can you tell me about what you are doing with the students?  That sounded amazing!”  After she recovered from her coronary, she told me if I could come back another day she would afford me an interview.  It was a date!!

What is a Senior Reality Check Activity?

About a week later, we sat down for our interview and she informed me about a new initiative she was involved in with the College Advising Corp called “Real Spill.”  The purpose of the senior meeting was to meet with students who met the following criteria:

  • 2.4 GPA or lower;
  • In danger of not graduating in four years;
  • Failed to indicate to their school counselor that they had a plan after high school.
Here is how the Real Spill Program works…

During the initial student meeting, the College Adviser introduces herself and describes her role.  She explains to the student that she will be conducting a series of meetings with seniors over the next several months to discuss their goals during the year and after high school.  At the end of the first meeting, she gives the student a goal sheet to complete and the student is to bring back the form in their next meeting.  Here is a snapshot of the initial meeting form.

Real Spill Goal Worksheet

When the student brings back the worksheet, they discuss the student’s goals for the year, goals after high school, and how the adviser can assist the student. During this second meeting, the adviser tells the student that they will be meeting each month to see if the student is accomplishing his or her goals.  The following meetings will involve checking on the student’s grades, attendance, classroom performance, and to answer the student’s questions.

In subsequent meetings, the College Adviser will focus on different topics and issues that the student brings to her.  In one particular meeting, the College Adviser will focus on grades and possible options after high school.  In this meeting, the adviser gives the student a handout called “Reality Check” where the student has to research and answer the following questions:

1.  Determine your GPA/College Entrance Exam Score
If the student does not know this information, the College Adviser will help the student locate it on his or her transcript and permanent folder.  If the student has not completed the SAT or ACT, the adviser will give the student the testing information and dates.  One special thing that Ms. Smith did for the students was to use peer leaders to take them to the computer and help them register for the exam that day.

2.  Conduct a college plan on and explore post-secondary schools
Students are to bring back information on the schools that interest them and meets their current GPA and College Entrance Exam Score.

3.  Place schools you are interested in into 1 of 3 categories
These categories include:
Safe School (1 to 2 schools): You EXCEED minimum admissions requirements.
Target School (around 3 schools): Your credentials fall into the “average” range of the school’s admission requirements.
Reach School (1 school): Your credentials are below that of the average admitted student, but  you may have a slim chance of getting in based on essay strength, extracurricular involvement, life experiences, recommendations, etc.

Reality Check Handout

Based on the information gathered from this form, the College Adviser then generates a plan for the student. Some of the goals in this plan can include:  assigning the student to a peer mentor, providing lists of extracurricular activities, setting the student up to see the College/Career Adviser for assistance with essay writing, encouraging the student to go to tutoring, and/or setting up a parent/student/counselor meeting.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Ms. Smith to share her thoughts about the Real Spill student meetings and she said the response from the students had been extremely positive.  What impression she left with me was that students who were “at-risk” needed that additional support and hand holding.  I could not agree with her more!!

If you want to hear more about how College Advisers assist with college admission, check out this NPR interview

Career and Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day

Another great idea to think about conducting with your students, who may not be recognized at award nights, college signing days, or honor ceremonies, is Career and Technical Letter-of-Intent Signing Day.” At this ceremony, students and company representatives signed letters of intent regarding conditions of the students’ employment, training, and compensation. Want to know more about the benefits of this program? Listen to Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” explain more about this ceremony.

Credit: Henrico County Schools

I hope this post gave you some additional ideas of how you can help your students who may need additional support in their post-secondary plans.  If you have any ideas you wish to share, please feel free to let me know so I can share with other school counselors!! Also, here are some past posts and additional resources for working with seniors.

From the For High School Counselors Blog

Over 70 Resources to Help School Counselors During the Senior Year

50 College Resources for High School Counselors

College Decision Day Ideas

National College Application Month

Reconnecting Disconnected Senior Parents

Whose on First: List of School Counseling Resources and Tools to Help First Generation Students Reach College

Other Senior Resources:

12th Grade College Planning Timeline

College Application Bootcamp

College Signing Day Kit

GPA Calculator

Navigating the College Admissions Process

Senioritis Presentation


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