Dr. James T. Minor, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs in the Office of Postsecondary Education, said it best: “College Signing Day events are significant because communities come together to signal to students the importance of college-going, they transmit expectations to enroll and complete college, and perhaps most importantly, they celebrate all students, not just star athletes and valedictorians.” Often in our society, we only take time to celebrate athletes who have been recruited or the very top achievers within the senior class. For me, Decision Day is significant for ALL high school students who have chosen to continue their education!
With the significance of College Signing Days in mind, I was excited to implement Decision Day at R.L Fike High School in Wilson, North Carolina. Fike High School is a brand new partner school with the Carolina College Advising Corps, and the counselors and I worked hard to design a celebration worthy of our seniors’ accomplishments. We went with a theme, holding a “Fike to the Future” Decision Day Celebration on May 1, the national deadline for students to commit to the college or university of their choice.
In the weeks leading up to Decision Day, the counselors and I made it our mission to reconnect with the majority of our 264 seniors and talk through their college choices. At Fike, we also have a large population of seniors who are interested in the military so our team made sure to connect with the JROTC students, as well as military recruiters for those who had yet to finalize their enlistment. Many students knew 100% where they would attend, while others used this opportunity to sit down and talk through their offers and financial aid packages before deciding. I am fortunate to work with such committed counselors who were on board with the celebration and helped track down seniors who needed support in solidifying their plans!
After ordering pizza and cake, assembling goodie bags, and gathering raffle prizes, we were ready for Decision Day to arrive! The students came down to the library for their lunch on May 1, many sporting their college gear! The seniors were able to enjoy each other’s company and take part in a few different activities. With music, food, a mini photo booth, a goal setting station, and a raffle, there were plenty of things to keep the college-bound seniors occupied!
Since everyone loves to take a “selfie,” the decision day photo booth was a huge success! Students were using Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook to share their funny pictures. What really surprised me was that the photos and food weren’t their favorite part of the day; they loved the “Fike Footprints” station. Fike Footprints were an opportunity for seniors to reflect on their four-years at Fike High School. Seniors were charged not only to reflect on the impact they had on the school, but also to set a personal goal and plan for the future. They each loved decorating their “footprint” in various colors and designs and thinking of something creative to say about their high school experience.
There was such a positive atmosphere in the library where the celebration was held. Students were talking about their future majors, who their roommate would be, and finding other students who would be attending their respective colleges. There was chatter about boot camp and summer orientation. Seniors were reflecting on the friends they met and the teachers who nurtured them along the way. They spoke of clubs they joined, blood drives they diligently worked, and fundraisers they held. Seeing them think critically about the impact that they left during their high school experience also made me think about my impact during my first year as a college adviser.
The students didn’t want to leave the celebration, (This may partially have to do with senioritis officially kicking in!), but when the time came for us to actually send them back to class, I received countless hugs and thank-you’s. A counselor even overheard a student say, “This is cool. I bet they aren’t doing this at other schools!” It was then that I realized this year’s stress was worth the reward of seeing my Golden Demons take big steps towards their futures. I left them with a goodie bag displaying a quote from one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future:
“You can make your future whatever you want. So make it a good one!”
Class of 2015: I believe in you! Always remember to dream BIG! I cannot wait to see what you all will do in the future!