|Source: The White House|
For those who follow college sports, “signing day” is a longtime tradition and source of excitement. On that day, highly regarded athletic recruits across the nation officially announce where they’ll attend school and play football, basketball or their sport of choice.
But choosing a college isn’t only exciting if you’re an athlete. For every student, committing to a college is a life-changing choice that’s worthy of celebration. That’s why, in 2014, the White House’s Reach Higher Initiative announced the first-ever national College Signing Day -- and why, on Tuesday, April 26, Scholarship America will join with students, schools and organizations around the nation to celebrate College Signing Day 2016.
What is College Signing Day?
Simply put, College Signing Day is a day for students to proudly declare their college choice, and for families and alumni to celebrate along with next year’s freshmen.
College Signing Day is a part of the Reach Higher Initiative, founded by First Lady Michelle Obama “to inspire every student across the country to pursue and complete a postsecondary degree, whether at a traditional 4-year college, a 2-year community college or through an industry-recognized training program.” The event coincides closely with the traditional May 1 deadline for admitted students to submit a letter of intent to their chosen school. According to the White House, in 2015, "more than 600 Signing Day events [took] place to honor graduating seniors who will go on and continue their education at a 2-year college, a 4-year college, a community college, or a certificate or credential program."
One of those events last year was the first ever citywide Signing Day, hosted by the Detroit College Access Network. Michelle Obama addressed the gathering, which featured 2,000 college-bound students along with cheerleaders, music, games and more. This year, the First Lady will join students at the Harlem Armory in New York City; Scholarship America is proud to be among the national education organizations that will be part of Signing Day 2016.
How can I get involved on Tuesday?
If you work with students, encourage them to share their current or future college colors on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Reach Higher is hoping to make a social splash to get students excited about their futures -- especially those who have just chosen a college. Next year’s freshmen are encouraged to post a #SigningSelfie when they receive their college acceptance letters. The #BetterMakeRoom and #CollegeSigningDay hashtags became national trends last year, and can help your students become part of the wider conversation. (You can also join in online, in your workplace and out in your community by wearing your own college colors!)
It’s also a great day to sit down with students you may know and go over the main pillars of the Reach Higher initiative. Think about what you can teach a young person about college and career opportunities, financial aid or summer planning -- or how you might be able to help your local high school counselors reach more students.
Finally, you can download a sample email to send to school and community leaders, explaining College Signing Day and encouraging them to get involved this year and in the future.
What can my community do to celebrate?
You can do a lot on your own, but College Signing Day has a bigger impact when communities come together to get involved.
To get started, check out the Reach Higher website, which features a College Signing Day Toolkit for communities. The toolkit features sample social media posts, examples of the more than 600 Signing Day events around the country, and ideas for starting an event in your community. No time to get something together by Tuesday? That’s okay, too! The First Lady’s event serves as a kickoff to the nationwide celebrations, but there’s no bad time to recognize and celebrate your community’s college-bound students. (You can fill out the pledge form at reachhigher.gov to let the White House know about your event.)
There are also a few ideas for things you can do on short notice: challenging local high school students and staff to wear college T-shirts, encouraging local businesses to support college efforts by offering incentives to students that commit to higher education, and creating Signing Day posters and certificates to promote and commemorate the day.
Whatever you, your community and your family are able to do, College Signing Day is a unique chance to celebrate students for making a commitment to higher education. We invite you to join the celebration on Tuesday!