4 Ways to Teach College and Career Readiness

4 ways to teach college and career readiness in the secondary ela classroom.

As a high school English teacher, I feel that it’s important to make sure my students are ready for life outside of high school. I usually teach freshmen and sophomores, but this year is my first year teaching senior-level English, and it is eye-opening. My students are so aware, so mature, and so afraid. In several short months they will receive their high school diplomas and walk their last steps on the high school campus which they’ve called home for the last four years. While teaching literature, literary analysis, and grammar is essential for all English teachers, we also have a responsibility to prepare these kids for life outside of the academic world. Here are a few ways to teach college and career readiness to our students.

Teaching students how to write an exceptional personal statement is important because it is so versatile. Students can transfer those skills to writing college admissions essays, scholarship essays, and cover letters. When I teach this skill in my own classroom, I emphasize the use of anecdotes. My students determine which positive attributes they want to convey, and then they prove how they embody those traits with an anecdote. To practice this in the classroom, we use some of the University of California admissions prompts for practice. This way my students get to work on a meaningful prompt they will get to use when it comes time to apply for colleges.

Dedicating a day or two for a mock interview is a great way to help students gain confidence in their interviewing skills. The more students practice answering on-the-spot questions about their background, their work ethic, and their skills and abilities, the more confident they will be during an actual interview. When I conduct mock interviews in my classroom, I also teach soft skills. We discuss appropriate interview attire, we practice nice, firm handshakes and maintaining eye contact, and we talk about what it means to be a good employee.

There are a couple ways to incorporate a mock interview into your classroom. Despite which format you choose, the most important aspect of this exercise is to have students reflect on their experience immediately afterward. Students need to analyze what went well, what didn’t, and how they plan to improve for their next interview.
You can download a free reflection form here.

  • Mock Interview
If you want to provide your students the opportunity to experience a longer, more in-depth interview, host a mock interview in your classroom. Instruct students to dress the part and bring a resume to class that day. When I conduct mock interviews in class, I have my students partner up  and have them sit at the tables across from one another. One student is the interviewer, and the other is the interviewee. After 20 minutes, they switch roles. What I like about this set-up is that students get to practice their interview skills in a small, intimate setting. They also get to see how their partner responds to the same questions they have been asked.  similar questions.  

  • Speed Interviewing
If you are looking for a fun twist on the mock interview, try speed interviewing. In this scenario, you will have students placed into two groups: interviewers and interviewees. Similar to the mock interview, they will sit across from one another, but after 2-3 minutes, the interviewees will rotate and begin the entire process over again. After 20-30 minutes (and this will depend on how long your class periods are), student roles will switch so that everyone has an opportunity to practice their interviewing skills.
Free mock interview reflection form


Another way to get students thinking about life outside of school is through research. This year my seniors completed a career research project and, according to them, it was one of the most valuable assignments they’ve completed. For the project, I had students research careers they were interested in. They researched the qualifications, advancement opportunities, locations, salary range, and general responsibilities required for that particular career. As part of the assignment they also completed a self reflection where they evaluated whether they felt like their chosen career was a good fit for them. For a few students, this assignment made them realize that the career they chose wasn’t suitable or practical to their needs or wants.
To incorporate speaking and listening into your career research paper, add in a presentation requirement. Students can use a variety of digital tools including Google Slides, Adobe Spark, or Piktochart to create a visual element to present to class. This also benefits all of the students in the class because they will be exposed to a variety of professions.

Here are additional resources for teaching career and college readiness:
Career/Job Exploration Project - The Classroom Sparrow
Career Readiness Bundle - The SuperHERO Teacher



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