It's not enough to tell kids to go to college. You have to invest them in the idea, too.
Teachers always tell students to "go to college" but if the kids don't know anybody who's actually gone, it can be pretty tough to sell them on voluntarily heading somewhere that seems unfamiliar and abstract. So Tobie Lynn Tranchina, a fourth-grade English as a Second Language teacher at Terrytown Elementary in suburban New Orleans, came up with a brilliant solution. She solicited college brochures and applications from a slew of schools and created an innovative project to familiarize her kids with college and invest them in continuing their education.
Tranchina first assigned each of her students a college—in-state schools like Xavier University and the University of New Orleans, and out-of-state schools like the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and Duke University in North Carolina. Tranchina told Nola.com she then had the students "look at three different schools and compare tuition, classes, location and extracurricular activities." That's a smart move because students who aren't familiar with college often don't have a clue how much it costs, what a wide variety of classes are available (Tranchina's students had no idea there was a such thing as a criminal science major), how gorgeous many college campuses are, and how much fun you can have in extracurricular activities.
After comparing the pros and cons of each school Tranchina—and this is what's really brilliant—let each student pick the school they wanted to attend and then had them pretend to be recruiters for the school. In their recruiter role, the students had to write a persuasive essay designed to convince their classmates to attend their school. If you can explain to someone else why they should go to a particular college, that means you've internalized exactly why you should go to college. "If they can start thinking like this now, at 10 years old, and have a positive mentality towards college, then it becomes a lot easier for them to reach their goals," said Tranchina. Her college project is probably one lesson her students won't forget.