Both personally and professionally, October is one of my favorite months of the year. When I was little, I always looked forward to it because I got to celebrate both my birthday and Halloween in close succession. While birthdays certainly don’t hold the same excitement they did in my youth, my adult self appreciates October for its beautiful foliage, the cooler weather, fall sports, celebrating my son’s birthday, and my kids’ infectious enthusiasm about all things Halloween. October in the counseling office is full of excitement as well. We focus heavily on our goals of expanding students’ knowledge of post-secondary options and exposing them to a broad range of career opportunities. The events surrounding these goals are some of my favorite of the entire school year and what’s helping this shape up to be the best year ever. Here are a few highlights:
College Month: On October 1st, WLHS joined more than 350 high schools in kicking off College Bound Michigan, which is sponsored by the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN). College, as defined by MCAN, is any credential beyond the high school diploma. The goal of this initiative is that by the end of October, every graduating senior will have applied to college, filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and completed a scholarship application. The theme for the Class of 2020 is Your Future: Level Up. Seniors currently have their own PacMan/Ms. PacMan image displayed in the senior hallway, and as they complete the three tasks, they earn their PacMan accessories: a power pellet for applying to a college, a joystick for completing the FAFSA, and cherries for applying for a scholarship. As they get college acceptances, a ghost with the college’s logo is displayed in the middle of the board. To date, two seniors have already “leveled up,” and I anticipate many more will do the same by the end of the month. When October ends, we applaud our seniors’ efforts and achievements with a fun “on-theme” celebration that we keep a surprise, hence my vague description.
Road Trips: It’s really important for students to start exploring post-secondary options early in their school careers to get a sense of what they like, what they don’t like, and the opportunities available. The more exposure they have to the variety of options, the better equipped they are to choose an appropriate fit. A good college fit translates to better matriculation, persistence, and graduation rates, not to mention improved academic performance. Though we host dozens of college admissions representatives at WLHS throughout the fall and spring, campus tours are a hugely important part of the exploration process that should not be diminished. And since there’s no better time than fall to be on a college campus, we hit the road often in October. Last week, the freshmen toured the University of Michigan, one of the most prestigious schools in the country. Next week, the juniors will be visiting Olivet College, a small, liberal arts college, as well as Michigan State University, a top research university. Later this fall, the sophomores will tour Washtenaw Community College, one of the best community colleges in the state. By senior year, it is my hope that students have a good sense of which post-secondary option is right for them.
In addition to exploring college campuses, we also do our fair share of career exploration in the fall, both at school and in the community. Last week, a group of 30 9th-12th graders participated in Manufacturing Day. They experienced first-hand the high-tech innovations in 21st-century manufacturing and learned about the opportunities available in the field, including welding, prototyping, quality assurance, research and design, robotics, and engineering. Next week, our 8th graders will attend the Just Build It! Career Expo at Eastern Michigan University, a comprehensive construction career exploration program. It provides students with hands-on activities with the skilled trade apprenticeship programs; demonstrations by industry professionals, such as architects and engineers; and exhibits by construction firms, educational institutions and industry organizations. On the heels of that trip, our freshmen will be taking another road trip, this time to Novi, where they’ll participate in MICareerQuest. This career exploration event will feature more than 90 companies, universities, vocational schools, trade associations, labor organizations, universities, and community colleges and will showcase occupations in four distinct career quadrants—Advanced Manufacturing, Construction, Health Sciences, and Information Technology. The focus will be in-demand jobs that have a talent shortage. Each quadrant will have a minimum of 20 exhibitors preparing hands-on, interactive activities designed to showcase the skills and education needed to compete in today’s job market.
YouScience: YouScience is an online career and planning assessment we’re piloting this fall with a group of seniors. It’s designed to help students better understand their natural abilities, broaden their awareness of career opportunities, and make more informed decisions about their individual pathway from school to career. You can learn more about them on their website.
In the first few weeks of school, students completed the assessment, which consists of 16 brain games that range anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes each. These games uncover individuals’ natural talents. These talents are then combined with their interests to create their YouScience Profile. Within their Profile, students can explore their aptitudes, explore personalized career matches, and also learn positive language to highlight their strengths in interviews and resumes. Even if students think they know where they want to go to college and what career they want to pursue, YouScience presents options that might be even more suitable.
I’m excited about the potential of this program for our students and their futures. Early feedback is encouraging. When asked about her experience with the program, senior Linsey Hula said, “YouScience laid everything out in black and white. It told me what careers and colleges fit me without all the other outside factors. It gave me a solid base to go off when I need to make my final decision about college and my major.”
The work I do with students around college and career readiness is one of my favorite parts of my role as school counselor. I love seeing students’ excitement as they step on a college campus for the first time or see a career in action. It’s my hope that the culmination of these experiences over their time at WLHS helps students feel both confident and excited as they leave us to pursue their post-secondary goals.