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Guidance Activities

Below are a variety of college-planning activities that you may want to use as you work with students.  The overall goal of the activities is to encourage students to think seriously about going to college.  We also hope that the activities will be enjoyable and serve as a springboard for productive college-planning discussion.  Note: you may want to adjust the activities to fit the age group and your own needs and objectives.


Parent Postcards

Divide students into small discussion groups.  Have each group identify the three most important questions that they feel they need to discuss with their parents about college.  Each student then writes down the three questions on a post card addressed to their parents.  Collect and mail the cards.  At a later session, ask students to report on their parent discussions.


College Discussion Prompts 

One simple way to initiate college planning discussion is to ask students to respond to selected prompts.  In small groups or with a partner, students should respond to two or three of the following…

  • An “Aha” moment in your thinking about college
  • A pleasant college planning surprise
  • Something going to college that you are struggling with
  • Something you don’t fully understand about the college planning process
  • Something that you agree with strongly about college
  • Something you learned about college that you thought was particularly interesting
  • Something you didn’t expect as you planned for college
  • An insight or solution
  • Something you want to know more about
  • A question that you have about college

Stand by Your Quote 

Place on the walls around the room thoughtful quotes about college --leave plenty of room between the quotes and make certain the print is large. The quotes should touch on different college insights.

Ask the students to leave their chairs and walk around the room reading each of the quotes (there is no particular order).  Then have them stand by one quote that they particularly like.  When all participants have selected a quote (you can have more than one person by a quote), have them explain to the group what they like about their quote.   Note: This is a good activity to lead into college goal development.

Below are some college quotes that you may want to use:


 Sticky Note “Success” Brainstorming

Divide students into small groups or pairs and have them brainstorm the following question:  What are the three most important characteristics or habits that will help a student to be successful in college?


Groups should write down their three best responses on sticky notes and then paste them on a given area on the board.  Convene the full group and have them first, sort the sticky note responses and second, place them in priority order. Are there any characteristics that seem to be vital for success?


Discussion Dance Card

In this activity students mix with the full class and sign up the names of three other participants on a counselor prepared “Discussion Dance Card.”  Then at your signal students move from partner to partner (their “dance partners”) to engage in a short one-on-one discussion.  Below are three discussion questions that you may want to consider:

Dance One: Why do you want to go to college?

Dance Two: What factors or influences are shaping your college choices?

Dance Three: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?

Sample Dance Card


My Partners

Dance One: Why do you want to go to college?



Dance Two: What factors or influences are shaping your college choices?



Dance Three: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?



College Terms

During the college planning process students hear lots of new terms.  We sometimes make the mistake of assuming that they know all of them.  This activity not only helps students find a working definition, but it also gets them thinking about college.   


Divide your students into pairs and give each a list of college terms they may not know.  Have each pair write short definitions for the ones they know or think they know.  Then have the pairs connect with others so they can fill in blanks and/or check the accuracy of their definitions.  If there is a term that no pair can define, you may want to define it for them or ask someone to look it up and get back to the group.  Build your own list of college terms or use the terms from “College Terms Matching” provided below (of course omit the definitions).

College Terms Matching: Match the term with the best definition.

College Terms


1.     Alumni

A.    Federal form required for federal aid.

2.     Advisor

B.    An approach to learning that includes volunteering and other experiential events.

3.     Commencement

C.    A student’s primary field of study

4.     Course Load

D.    The cost of college classes

5.     Dean’s List

E.     A graduation ceremony

6.     FAFSA

F.     A graduate student who helps a professor

7.     Major

G.    The credit hours for which a student is registered.

8.     Provost

H.    The Chief Academic Officer

9.     Registrar

I.     A job that is part of your financial package

10.  Resident Adviser

J.     College graduates

11.  Resident Coordinator

K.    They typically oversee a dorm

12.  Service Learning

L.     A student in a dorm to help with college life questions and issues.

13.  Teaching Assistant

M.    A course overview provided by the professor

14.  Tuition

N.    An official record of a student’s grades

15.  Syllabus

O.    A faculty member who helps guide a student through course selection

16.  Transcript

P.     Heads the office where class schedules and academic records are managed

17.  Waiver

Q.    A requirement that is passed over

18.  Work Study

R.    Recognition for high grades


Add your own here


Add your own here


Create a Poll

Sometimes it is reassuring to students to find out that their concerns about going to college are shared by others.  Divide your students into pairs and have each pair construct a short “going-to-college” poll. (Note: polls should be multiple choice with no more than seven options.)  Each pair should then poll at least ten fellow students, calculate the results, and subsequently return to the full group to find out what they have learned.  Below are some possible poll topics (It is a good exercise to have students brainstorm for their own poll topics):

  • How many colleges are you contacting for information?
  • How many colleges are you applying to?
  • What type of college are you interested in?
  • Of the seven listed college characteristics, which one is the most important to you?
  • How many colleges are you planning on visiting?
  • Of the listed college goals, which one is most important to you?

My College Interview T-Shirt

Students may enjoy creating a “College Interview T-Shirt.”  Ask students to imagine that they are going to interview at their top college choice.  Their task is to create an interview t-shirt that announces the one or two things that they want the interviewer to know about them.  Students may add relevant or symbolic images.  You may want to enlarge a t-shirt graphic so students can write their messages on a t-shirt picture or, if you are really ambitious, you may actually provide t-shirts and magic markers for a hands-on activity.


Key Adjectives

Pass out three 3x5 cards to each student in your group.  Asks students to write down three adjectives, one on each card, that capture how they are feeling about the college search process.  Collect the anonymous cards and go through them with the full group.  If you ask “how many of you share this feeling?” and “why,” you will likely generate some productive discussion.


A College Planning Slogan

Have students meet with a partner and reflect on the question, “What does college mean to me?”  Then have each person or pair create a motto, jingle, catchphrase, or saying that captures their answers.  Encourage them to be creative and lighthearted with this.  Some students may even be willing to put together a short song with the theme “Hey, hey I’m off to college.”


Musical Insights 

Play five different musical clips to represent different attitudes about going to college.  For example, the music you select may portray an attitude that is fearful, brash, stormy, indifferent, excitable, icy, divided, aggressive, disjointed, etc.  List the musical titles and play the clips.  Ask students to explain to the group which musical piece best fits their feelings about college.  This should open up some enjoyable discussion. 



Ask the Right Questions

Students work in small groups to develop five different types of questions about the whole process of finding, selecting, and going to college.  Tell them that you want a question for each of five different types of questions.  Place the question chart below on large cards to be completed by each group.  After they are done writing their questions, have groups exchange cards and answer or discuss the questions.


Question Type

Type Definition

Write Your Question Here

1. Open-ended questions

Questions that encourage broad discussion


2. Clarification questions

Questions that help focus a topic or issue


3. Detail questions

Questions that request facts, details, or yes/no


4. Explanation questions

Questions that request descriptions or explanations


5. New direction questions

Questions that move thought into new areas



 Rotation Brainstorming 

Select five brainstorming stations around the room (make sure that each has chalk board space).  At each station, write one of the five statements listed below (or develop statements that fit your students better).  Divide the class into small groups, one for each statement, and place them at the different brainstorming stations.  Each group responds to the question by writing down one to three ideas or responses to the posted statement. At your signal (blink the lights), groups rotate to the next station and add additional key point(s) to the previous group. 


After groups rotate through all the stations, they end up where they started.  Here they review all the responses and identify the three best responses.  Then ask each group to present their conclusions to the class. 

Possible Statements

  • Identify important topics that you should discuss with your parents about college.
  • List some things that you should definitely do or see when you visit a college campus
  • List key questions that you should ask college representatives to learn about their colleges
  • Identify key benefits of going to college
  • Make a list of things that you are looking for in a college


Jig Saw Research 

Divide the class into groups of five.  Each member of the group is assigned one of five research topics.  Give the students time in the computer lab or library to find out what they can about their assigned topics.  After a set amount of research time, the small groups reconvene and share what they have found. 

You may want to use the following research topics:

  • Common myths about college
  • The importance of going to college
  • College costs (current, future, hidden, etc.)
  • Criteria weighed by admission offices(what they look at and stress)
  • The do’s and don’ts of college planning
  • Information about the SAT


Postal Reminder 

Have students write down on a post card their address and three things that they need or want to do to move their college selection process forward.  Then collect the cards and hold on to them until you feel students could use a “’Stay with it’ reminder.”  Then send the cards to their home.   This is a particularly good activity to use after you have discussed a college planning checklist.



We all know that college planning takes a lot of time and energy.  In this activity divide students into pairs and have them complete the “energy” chart below.  On the chart they should list those college planning things that energize them and those that “bust” their energy.



Energy Busters















My Future

Going to college is a gateway to one’s future life.  Your students may want to reflect on their future by completing one of the following creative projects:

  • Write and perform a “My Future” song
  • Assemble a “My Future” collage
  • Write a “My Future” poem or fable
  • Write a description of what the world will be like in ten years
  • Write a description of your ideal job or career
  • Draw or paint a representation of “My Future.”
  • Perform a creative monologue in which you answer the following question asked at your ten-year class reunion “Well, what’s your life like now?”
  • Create a sound collage that represents your future
  • Create a short video entitled “My Future.”


Career Research

Give students time in the career center, library, or computer lab to research careers.  Have them complete the following chart:


My Top Three Career Choices

Key Responsibilities Associated with this Career

Why this Career Appeals to Me















Letter to Myself

Explain to students that going to college is a pivotal life transition.  Have the students write a short letter to themselves in which they address one of the following topics:

  • What does going to college mean to me? 
  • Why I want to go to college? 

Make sure that they understand that no one else will read this letter.  Have them put their completed letter into a self-addressed envelope, collect them, and mail them later in the year.



Building College Goals

In this activity students interview teachers, parents, former students, etc. about their college experiences.  They should ask these adults questions like the following: 

  • What do you remember the most about college? 
  • If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
  • Why did you go to college? 
  • How has college changed you? 
  • What was the greatest benefit that you got out of college?
  • Do you have any college regrets?


Students should take notes and subsequently list three to five key adult responses that they thought were insightful.  After sharing some interesting adult insights, have students write their own college goals.  They should complete the following statement: “I am going to college because I ….”

Counselors and Educators: If you have a favorite college guidance actitvity, we would love to hear from you.  Send us your activity and we will post it here--