College signing days have been a long-standing tradition across the country. Students wear their college sweatshirts and gather in the school gym or auditorium to celebrate the hard work that led them to the college of their choice.

With the recent focus on career-centric pathways, signing days are becoming more inclusive. Instead of celebrating a subset of students attending college, why not celebrate every student who has made strides to plan their best-fit career pathway – whether that involves a formal educational experience or not?

Building a career-centric culture involves celebrating successes. Here’s how you can create your own inclusive signing day.


1. Ensure Every Student Has a Plan

Each student will leave the doors of their high school to pursue something. Whether it’s a 2- or 4-year college, military experience, on-the-job training, or a gap year – it all needs a plan. With the end goal of a career in mind, help students craft the training or education required, create a resume and cover letter, or connect them with a military recruiter or gap year agency to help them plan the best pathway to career success. Track these plans in a career-centric platform like Kuder Navigator.

2. Determine a Recognition System

Apparel like college, military, or company shirts or hats are always a good idea but might not be accessible to all. Work with the community to provide funding for students who may need it or think outside the box and rely on a graphic design class to create signs for every student. In any event, ensure that all students have a way to celebrate their pathway in a way that makes them feel equal.

3. Involve the Community

Invite community leaders, press, and business and educational leaders to your event. Help them see the diversity in pathways your career-centric programming has led to and create partnerships that lead to work-based learning opportunities, additional funding, and higher education partnerships that last throughout the school year and beyond.

4. Invite Students of All Ages

Students can only be what they see. Inviting elementary, middle, and underclassmen to a signing event allows them to witness all the pathways available to them – including military, work, certificate, technical, service, and college experiences. Encourage them to cheer on all students and discuss the variety of future options available upon completion of the signing day.

Expanding your signing day doesn’t have to be challenging, but it can be highly beneficial to your students, families, and the greater community. Take the time to plan a career-centric experience to celebrate the accomplishments of every student, regardless of their pathway.

About the Author

Kim Oppelt, Ed.D is the Vice President of Career Readiness and Development at Kuder. Dr. Oppelt has over 20 years of experience in career and college readiness, both as a licensed school counselor and in educational technology. Throughout her career, Dr. Oppelt has worked with districts and state systems throughout the country to design and implement successful pathway planning processes, developed products and programming for K-12 students, and has conducted research on the experience of students as they develop their own career pathways. Dr. Oppelt has a B.A.S. in Health Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth, a M.S. in counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and a Doctor of Education from St. Mary’s University.