December is such a busy time of year- why try to add another activity to the list? This year our office planned a senior celebration to be held in early November, to avoid the holiday rush. Due to the early arrival of twin grand-daughters, the celebration was pushed to December.
I worried that it would be too busy, and too hard for parents and student to do a celebration this month. Yet, we had promised it all semester, so we felt obliged to follow through. The celebration was scheduled for Monday, December 19, 2016. Most students in the area had finished school, so it seems the most opportune time.
Six Goals of our Celebration
We had several reasons for offering this celebration, both long term and short term. All built upon the relationships with both students and parents.
1). Keep momentum. Seniors were encouraged to come into the office to work on tasks. Finish January applications. Work on scholarships. Set up college portals. This was popular with parents.
2) Update GuidedPath. Seniors were told to update their GuidedPath accounts. Was their college list correct? Decisions entered in? Scholarships added? Next steps on their calendars?
3) Focus and finish Senioritis is real. We wanted our seniors to keep their focus on finishing strong. They have one more semester to go.
4) Keep us in mind. Often after finishing applications, sometimes students move on and don’t keep in touch. This re-enforced the message to parents and students we want to continue hearing from them through the spring. We are here to assist in financial aid. We want to hear about all admissions decisions.
5) Celebrate admissions. So many students have already received admissions decisions, most with accompanying scholarship awards. Time to celebrate these accomplishments. Also, emphasize more will be coming in the spring.
6) Prepare for Transition. The senior year is a roller coaster ride. Students and parents experience lots of emotions. Preparing for college transition is the focus of seventh semester. This was the focus of a Chinese Take Out Box we gave students.
We used several methods to spread the word and invite students and parents to the celebration.
1) Group email through GuidedPath. It was easy to send one email to all senior parents and students.
2) Mailing of Flyers. Using GuidedPath, I exported student names and addresses. I created mailing labels and sent a physical flyer to each family. Sometimes the old fashioned flyer works best as a communication tool. See example of the flyer: senior seventh semester celebration2
3) Sent texts. A day before the event I texted students/parents to remind them of the event, and get a count of who was coming.
Chinese Take Out Box
Using school related objects, I shared thoughts through tags. I found everything at the Dollar Store. Some were fun and some were philosophical. As I met with the students, before giving them the box, I went through it and explained each message it contained.
|2 writing pens||To share your thoughts.||Use writing to share more about yourself. College is about expressing yourself. Be sure to share your thoughts with others and professors.|
|Highlighter||To study smart||Doing well in college might be tougher than high school. Be sure to take advantage of resources. Learn how to study smart.|
|Post-it Pad||To remember more.||This is a special time in your life. Make and record memories.|
|Small compass||To keep your direction||You have been raised by your parents to have a moral compass. When you are on your own, be true to your own moral compass.|
|Toy whistle||Toot your own horn sometimes||It’s ok to celebrate accomplishments and achievements.|
|Glow Stick||Let your Light Shine||Celebrate your uniqueness. Don’t try to be someone else- be yourself.|
|Balloon||Celebrate and have fun.||College is more than study and majors. Be sure to have fun and enjoy the experience.|
|“Life is a Journey” napkin||None||Remember, Life is a journey- Enjoy the ride. Embrace it and acknowledge both the ups and downs.|
|Starbucks or other gift card||None||As a reward for completing applications, I gave out a $5 gift card.|
During the application season, as an incentive to finish college applications early/on time, I set up an incentive for my students.
- Half-Way There. Finish half of your college applications and get a gift card (Starbucks, TacoBell, or McDonald). Most students received their first gift cards in Oct/November.
- All Done! Get all your college applications in and get a final gift card. This was delivered with the Chinese Take Out Box.
We felt the celebration was a big success, even for the time of year we held it in. Students came to the workshop during the day, working on scholarships, applications, updating their GuidedPath accounts, and opening college portals. Some came back later that day with parents.
The celebration was staged in an “open house” format. Parents and students could come anytime in a 2 hour window. We had students/parents there in groups, and others were the only ones there at the time. It gave me time to talk with parents, connect with students. Questions were answered, encouragement given, rapport solidified.
It was a great way to kick off the holidays for students and for me too. What have you done to encourage students and celebrate their journey?