Let's Go to college! Decision Day is a celebratory event first sponsored by the National College Advising Corps (NCAC), which was founded at the University of Virginia. Both the organization and the event are now recognized nationally. Decision Day activities rally support for students as they make their decisions about life after high school. While events have been happening over the past few years at various locations across the state, 2017 is the first year that the Commonwealth of Virginia joins local schools and communities in celebrating the postsecondary choices of our students through Decision Day in Virginia. Decision Day in VA serves as the culminating event for the 1-2-3 Go! initiative.
The goal of Decision Day is to recognize ALL high school seniors for their postsecondary plans and encourage younger students and families to prepare early for postsecondary education. It is important that we celebrate this big step for seniors and involving underclassmen helps to build a stronger college-going culture and informed student pipeline. Decision Day is held annually on or around May 1 and is designed to align with the dates that seniors must notify a college of their plans to enroll.
Why celebrate Decision Day?
− To recognize all students for their postsecondary plans
− To encourage and remind students it’s time to make a decision
− To support the best match and fit for each student
− To motivate and excite younger students about their future college and career plans
− To support a school and community college-going culture
Suggestions for Decision Day Activities
Plan at least one school-wide event where all students can be recognized for their future plans. Following are some ideas to get you started:
Hold an Assembly or Pep Rally
- Have all grades attend to build excitement about going to college
- Involve the marching band and cheerleaders to make it a true celebration
- Invite a guest speaker (alumnus from your school) to share their post high school success and journey
- Invite all faculty, staff, and district office personnel and appropriate community members to attend
- Share some data on the senior class – number of college applications, number of acceptances, amount (in dollars) of scholarship money earned, etc.
- Co-host events with other high schools in your district or region. Engage a local college to provide space and resources. A college cheering squad, pep band and campus DJ can set the tone for a great college celebration.
- See the picture below at ACCESS College Foundation's regional event held on the Old Dominion University campus. Over 2000 students from Tidewater and Eastern Shore school districts gathered to celebrate their postsecondary decisions.
Have a College Signing Day
- Inspired by the NCAA’s National Signing Day for collegiate athletes
- Reinforce the idea that academic excellence should be given the same recognition as athletic excellence
- Have high school seniors sign a banner, letter of intent, or poster to demonstrate their commitment to their future
- Take pictures of students seated in front of a school or Decision Day banner with pen in hand
- Post the signatures in a highly-visible location within your school and on social media
Designate a “College Gear” Day
- Encourage underclassmen to wear their favorite college gear or colors
- Invite teachers and staff to wear gear from their alma maters
- Encourage seniors to wear college gear from their future schools
- Virginia College Advising Corps uses fill in the blank t-shirts. Providing time and supplies for students to personally customize t-shirts is a great activity and may result in some pretty colorful work. See picture below from one of the Corps' celebrations.
Post Acceptance Letters and School Logos
- Encourage seniors to submit a copy of their acceptance letters
- Black-out all personal information aside from the student’s name and post in a high-traffic area for all to see in the hallways
- This celebrates not only each student’s individual success but allows the overall accomplishments of the senior class to be seen
- Use a map or bulletin board to identify where students are going
- See Virginia College Advising Corps' Bassett High School celebration below, with a map of where seniors have been accepted below.
How to Celebrate Decision Day in Elementary and Middle Schools
10 Great Ways to Promote College Exploration
- Write a “Commitment to My Future” pledge for students to sign and recite. Include actions that will keep them on the path to college
- Coordinate a college field trip for students and families
- Host a family college night with information about early ways to prepare for college
- Take photos of students in a cap and gown with signs of what they want to be when they grow up
- Teach a college exploration class. Include students in researching colleges and have them host a student-led college fair where students exhibit and represent researched colleges (middle school)
- Host local high school and college students to speak about their path to college during an assembly
- Design a bulletin board with school staff photos, mascots and a map of where they attended college
- Read students a book such as “Mahalia Mouse Goes to College” to help share and visualize the educational journey (elementary)
- Host a college themed door decorating contest and engage students and staff in the process
- Teach students college chants and perform them together in an assembly or as a competition
Register your event on bettermakeroom.org and request funding (noncompetitive!) for 2017 College Signing Day events. Also find an event guide and templates here.