Promoting College Awareness in the Elementary with March Madness

Each year in our school we use a week of NCAA March Madness to promote colleges. For several years now, during this week, teachers are allowed to wear jeans (always a plus for climate!) while wearing college shirts and take time in their classroom to promote college. This could be talking about wear they went to college and showing pictures/videos online of where they went to college.  In addition, we post signs on all of our doors about where each of us went to college.

Just as many states now have mandates for college/career readiness, the state of Wisconsin also has a requirement for Academic and Career Planning (ACP). The word mandate typically takes on a negative feeling due to the many mandates put on educators, however, I see ACP as creating great opportunities to ensure the best for all of our students. With this new mandate, we increased our college promotion activities.

I started discussion with our staff to revisit our purpose for March Madness week college promotion (it’s not just about wearing jeans!). I asked our staff to reflect back on and discuss:

  • What was your path to aim for college?
  • What role did your parents play?
  • Consider how many of our students have parents having the same conversations at home (and how many do NOT).
  • How can we at the elementary have an impact on our student’s post high goals and school path to that goal?

We then watched this video clip: Age 6 and Applying to College and read this article: College and Career Readiness in the Elementary School Setting.  The discussions and brainstorming was then so incredible that moving into next year we will be having an ACP committee to plan for activities to last throughout the school year so that we have a college promotion culture ALL year and not just during March Madness.

This year’s March Madness week started out with a school assembly so I could introduce our week’s purpose to our students. I used these slides to get students’ attention on their excitement for our UW Madison Badgers that already exists and then talked about how all of the teams in the March Madness bracket are from colleges, how hard the players work at basketball and school, etc. I then shared the following video with them that I was most excited about:

I felt it was the perfect way to kick off our college promotion week activities, for our students to hear from former Dodgeland graduates.  A few weeks prior to this kick-off I had coordinated taking grade level graduation year pictures of our students so we had one for each grade level like this:

How were those pictures taken? Oh, just by conquering a fear of heights getting on the lift (that is used by the custodian to change gym lightbulbs). I call this a #ScaredSelfie:

Along with the prep work to take these photos, contact former grads to create the kick-off video, I also reached out to colleges to get free pennants (super easy-just send them an email and they love sending them to schools!) so I could then create a bulletin board featuring our students in their graduation year pictures, surrounded by a variety of college pennants.

The variety of activities throughout the week in classrooms led by teachers then included:

  • completing individual surveys to determine individual interests and possible careers to pursue.
  • researching a famous person, including the college they went to.
  • researching a career they were interested in, including what post-high school learning would be required for it.
  • completing a college application.
  • classroom visits/skype visits by current college students to talk about what it’s like to go to college.
  • picking/researching a college and creating a college pennant.

These activities resulted in some of these great captured moments and displays throughout the building to have a college bound culture:


During our final quarter of the year our 5th graders will have a presentation from a representative at a technical college and we will take them on their first college tour of UW Madison. This is an annual field trip we started years ago when we learned that students in our district did not go on a college tour until they had already decided to go to college. That is too late! We decided that we want ALL of our students to get to experience multiple college tours before they decide if they will be going to college or pursuing other post graduation options.

I’d love to hear what other schools do to promote college/careers at the elementary level!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Virginia Gills

    OMG. This is exactly why in started following you and reading your blogs. Love this idea and will definitely “professionally borrow” it. Thank you, thank you….sincerely, A new principal learning from the best.

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