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12th Grade Events Toolkit

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Learn how to plan events for 12th graders that will help them apply, pay, and go to college.

Provide assistance and celebration for students as they take key steps to follow their plan for education beyond high school.



Why 12th grade events matters


While more students from low-income families are attending college now than ever before, they still make up only 20% of all undergraduate students in the country.

There are many barriers to access, but knowing the process for applying for admission and financial aid should not be one of them. Still, sometimes that process can be confusing for students. Hosting school-wide events to help all students understand and take key steps to apply, pay, and go reduces this barrier.

Research tells us that celebrating education milestones is critical for students, families and educators. Marking occasions matters to the students being recognized, and witnessing the celebrations has a positive impact on younger students who may look forward to receiving future accolades.

These school-based 12th grade events reduce barriers and develop a tradition of celebrating success. All have these four key things in common:

  • They focus on students taking the next step in their path to education after high school.

  • Supportive adults are available to assist students in taking these steps.

  • They happen during the school day.

  • Students are celebrated for their accomplishments.


Who are the events for?

Everyone! All of our 12th grade events are designed to be inclusive, not exclusive. The overarching goal is to increase access to college for students who are from low-income families or who will be the first in their families to go. These events can be fun and helpful for all types of students.

And remember, when we say "college," we mean all formal education or training after high school.  So your events are just as important for the students planning to begin an apprenticeship as they are for students applying to a four year university!

When you register for events, you agree to be inclusive by

  • Inviting all graduating seniors or GED candidates in the school or program to participate.

  • Hosting in-person events during the school day or, in the case of community based organizations, during regular operating hours. Virtual events may be hosted at other times that work best for your school and community. This ensures that all students are able to attend, including those who might have after school responsibilities.

  • Providing assistance and celebration for all post-high school educational pathways.

You may choose to include younger students in your activities. Or you may invite families to participate. Doing so can increase your success and build even greater excitement for your students' futures.

Involve your school staff and community volunteers. Build a team to help you plan and host the events. You will lighten your load and increase support for your students and the college-going culture of your school.


College Application Week


Oregon College Application Week offers students dedicated time and space during the school day to complete college and scholarship applications with the assistance of school staff and volunteers. Schools and community based organizations host events during November, designated as "Oregon Goes To College Month," by Governor Tina Kotek. College Application Week is an affiliate program of the American College Application Campaign.

Help students prepare for College Application Week

When students come to your event prepared, they are more likely to have enough time to submit completed applications to schools that will be a good fit for them. Prepared students generally have a list of which colleges they want to apply to, what they need to submit with their application—and a solid start on things like personal statements or short answer responses, and the information they’ll need to complete the application.

  • Use the It's A Plan: College Checklists and Google docs templates  to help students track their progress as they develop a college list and gather materials.
  • Host admissions visitors in person or virtually. Encourage students to attend these visits to learn more about colleges that already interest them or to explore new options they haven't yet considered.

Make College Application Week your own

Your primary goal is to help students submit the applications they need to go to college, including both admissions and grants & scholarships. How you structure your event is up to you!

Will you have an open lab for working on applications? Will you have workshops to teach students about writing essays or completing their activities resume? Will you offer virtual office hours in addition to in-person workshops? Will you offer on-site or "instant" admissions like Instant Viking at PSU or Instant Wolves at WOU? (If so, you'll want to contact the university admissions office as soon as possible to ensure they're available.)

When you know the types of activities you'll offer, decide how you will invite students to participate. Will you bring entire English classes to the computer lab to work on applications at one time, or will you have drop-in times in the library when students can come on their own? How will you ensure that every student has an opportunity to participate?


Spring Into Action

For those students who don't yet have a plan by April, Spring Into Action provides just-in-time information and assistance. Oregon community colleges offer virtual and in-person activities to help students explore options, apply for admission, complete their FAFSA or ORSAA and submit their Oregon Promise application.

Prepare for the event

Despite your best efforts to include all students during College Application Week, you may have students who simply weren't prepared to apply in the fall. Or you may have students whose plans have changed. Spring Into Action provides an opportunity for students who don't yet have a plan to make one - and to do so in time to be celebrated during your Decision Day activities.

Community colleges will do the heavy lifting for this event, planning and hosting their own activities to assist students. Your role is to identify the students who may need this additional assistance and ensure they are aware of the opportunities. Spring Into Action began as a virtual effort, but some colleges may choose to add in-person activities if possible. Some will host these events on their campuses, but others may request an opportunity to meet with your students at the high school. In this case, your role would include helping to schedule the time and space for these activities.

"Spring Into Action is a fabulous opportunity for high school seniors to get the information they need to finalize their college choice. This means less stress over the summer because you know that you're on track and prepared for college!" Ariane Rakich, Admissions & Recruitment Coordinator, Clackamas Community College


Decision Day

Oregon Decision Day is a celebration of students' plans for continuing their education or training after high school. Successful activities focus on celebrating 12th graders' decisions with opportunities for including families and younger students in honoring the graduates. Schools may host events any time between mid-April and early June, with most hosting events to coincide with the National Candidates' Reply Date of May 1st. Decision Day supports the Better Make Room's Reach Higher initiative.

Help students prepare for Decision Day

Celebrating students' plans is only possible when students have made plans. Deciding where to attend college in the fall can be both exciting and stressful. Provide tools to help students and families finalize their post-high school plans. Help them explore the importance of finding a good fit college, including academic, social and financial factors. Teach them how to understand all college costs and compare financial awards.

Gather information about students' plans to prepare for your event.

Make Decision Day your own

Your primary goal is to celebrate students' decisions. Activities can be as big or small, splashy or subtle as you like. Choose options that make sense for your school community. We suggest the following, all of which have been successful in Oregon schools:

  • Post graduates' photos in prominent places, with information about their future plans.
  • Recognize students on social media.
  • Host a signing day.
  • Send seniors to the elementary school for a grad walk.
  • Sponsor college cohort dinners.

Students put on caps and gowns for their grad walk at the elementary school, where younger students cheer for them.


Plan your events

Use the 12th Grade Events Planning Calendar to plan and schedule activities throughout the year. Remember to build in time before for activities that help prepare students for your events. Keep these key timelines in mind:

  • College Application Week: choose one week in November. You may need just one day or the full week.
  • Spring Into Action: colleges will offer activities during the month of April. Your local community college will provide specific dates in early spring.
  • Decision Day: choose dates in April through June that allow you to celebrate as many students as possible.
  • We also recommend participating in OSAC's FAFSA/ORSAA Challenge and including activities for this on your 12th Grade Planning Calendar.

The details of each event will be different, but your steps for planning will be the same.

Before your event

Get ready

  • Add the event to the calendar.
  • Reserve space. Do you need a computer lab, library, classroom, auditorium or gym? Do you need a clear bulletin board or other space to post displays like an "I Applied" or "I'm Going" wall?
  • Print any required materials.

Get help

  • Recruit volunteers from the school staff or community.
  • Use guest speakers, especially for topics you are less comfortable leading.
  • Ask faculty and staff how they would like to get involved.
  • Ask local businesses to donate door prizes.

Spread the word

  • Remind students and families about your event. Use your school's most effective means of communicating important information. Remember to include suggestions of ways families can help their 12th grader prepare for the event.
    • Send special invitations to families if they are welcome to attend.
  • Remind teachers and staff about your event. Encourage them to participate and to reinforce the importance of participating with their 12th grade students.
  • Hang posters and other signs around your building to advertise the event.
  • Send a press release to your local media if your event is open to the public or will include the participation of the majority of your 12th grade students. Consider inviting them to send a reporter to cover the event.
  • Invite elected officials to observe or be volunteers.

During your event

Prepare your space

  • Decorate for your event or activity.
    • Include informational signs to help students complete any required tasks. For example, during College Application Week post signs with the school address & phone number, CEEB code, etc.
  • Set up the room to make it easier for students to meet the objective of your event. Include a place for students to sign in so you know who is participating.
    • Make it easier: print a complete list of your senior class to use as a sign-in sheet during your event. Include space to ask if they have met the objective.
  • Greet volunteers, give them a nametag, and assign them a job to do.

Do it

  • Provide assistance.
  • Celebrate students.
  • Post photos to social media and tag Oregon Goes To College. Use #IApplied or #IDecided

After your event


  • Debrief with your planning team and volunteers. What went well? What will you change for next time? What follow up do you still need to do with students?
  • Complete the coordinator survey: College Application Week, Decision Day

Follow up

  • Help students prepare for the next step.