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Career Exploration | Career Readiness | Student Engagement

3 Top College and Career Readiness Activities for Middle School

November 10th, 2022 | 5 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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Are my students prepared? It’s a question every career readiness teacher asks. In today’s work environment, it’s more important than ever that students are aware of college and career opportunities and the steps they need to take for success.

And if you’re like most middle school teachers, you need new ideas to improve engagement and mix things up in your classroom.

Thankfully, plenty of college and career readiness activities are available to ensure students are ready to take the next step toward their dreams.

In this post, you’ll find three of the best college and career readiness resources available:

  1. California Career Resource Network
  2. School Counseling Essentials
  3. National Association for College Admission Counseling

After reading, you’ll better understand the resources available to help you decide what will work best with your students.

1. California Career Resource Network

CalCRN California Career Resource Network

The California Career Resource Network (CalCRN) is a division of the California Department of Education dedicated to helping students explore career options and teaching general career management skills.

CalCRN offers career readiness lesson plans for learners in grades 5-12. The lessons are designed to work in distance learning environments, but teachers can adapt them for various learning environments.

Some examples of college and career readiness activities for middle school include:

  • Evaluating Websites Lesson Plan (Grade 7)
  • My Future Lifestyle Lesson Plan (Grade 7)
  • Workplace Skills Lesson Plan (Grade 7)
  • Possible Careers Lesson Plan (Grade 7)
  • Preparing for My Future Lesson Plan (Grade 8)
  • Exploring Military Careers Lesson Plan (Grade 8)
  • How to Succeed in Life Lesson Plan (Grade 8)
  • Where Am I Going? Lesson Plan (Grade 8)

In addition to these resources, there are several other activities to choose from at each grade level, giving teachers plenty of options to fill multiple class periods. The website also has more general resources for teachers, including an educator’s guide and English and Spanish-language glossaries.

How Much Do These Activities Cost and Who Are They For?

All of the resources available from CalCRN are free and include handouts and videos. 

Overall, these college and career readiness activities are great for teachers searching for materials specific to their grade levels. Since the materials are standards-aligned, you can be confident that you’ll have solid materials for your audience.

However, teachers who want a complete college and career readiness curriculum may need additional materials to use with their students.

2. College and Career Readiness Bundle from School Counseling Essentials

School Counseling Essentials Teaching Resources | Teachers Pay Teachers

School Counseling Essentials is a reputable seller on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT), the internet marketplace where educators can buy, sell, and share curriculum resources.

School Counseling Essentials offers an expansive bundle of activities for college and career readiness that apply to students in grades 6-12.

The bundle includes 23 activities that help students discover career options and the steps needed to achieve their goals. Some of these resources include:

  • College and Career WebQuests
  • Worksheets
  • Career Exploration Activities
  • Career Soft Skills Card Game and Worksheets
  • Career Soft Skills Interactive Game
  • Career Cluster Lessons

One of the interesting things about this bundle is that it includes activities specific to each of the 16 major career clusters, including Health Science, Business, Education, and more. This gives teachers the flexibility to pick the most relevant resources for their students’ career interests.

How Much Do These Activities Cost and Who Are They For?

The School Counseling Essentials bundle for college and career readiness is priced at $65. The bundle is a good value if you use all or most of the content in the package. If you need just one or two activities, however, you can also purchase each of the 23 activities individually.

These activities are great for teachers looking to teach career exploration or share options in each career cluster with their students.

On the other hand, teachers who are looking to emphasize the college search process will want to look for additional materials to supplement their lesson plans.

3. National Association for College Admission Counseling


The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is an organization that supports university admissions counselors and helps prepare students for college.

In collaboration with the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO), the NACAC created Step by Step: College Awareness and Planning. This resource is a middle school curriculum filled with college and career readiness activities perfect for an intermediate audience.

The materials encourage students to consider college as a postsecondary goal. Students explore the steps they need to get to college through five curriculum sections:

  1. It’s All About Me: My Future Goals
  2. Should I Go to College?
  3. There Is a College for Everyone!
  4. How Do I Get to College? (Part One)
  5. How Do I Get to College? (Part Two)

In addition, the guide includes a sixth portion with a Parent/Guardian Workshop and other resources to help families guide students to success.

How Much Do These Activities Cost and Who Are They For?

The NACAC activities are free as part of the Step by Step: College Awareness and Planning Guide. The 84-page PDF guide provides everything you need to use in your classroom.

As a step-by-step plan, you can use these activities as a program for your middle school students to work through over a series of classes. This makes it a solid option if you want a regular program you can implement over a more extended time in your college and career readiness lesson plans.

Conversely, college isn’t for every student, so you might consider supplementing your college readiness materials with resources emphasizing other career opportunities.

Prep Your Students with a College and Career Readiness Curriculum

Many middle and high schools emphasize ensuring students are prepared for college and career opportunities. But without the proper curriculum and engaging activities, students are at risk of not receiving the content they need to make an informed decision about their futures.

Any of the college and career readiness activities contained in this article will help you mix things up in your classroom and improve student engagement. Which activities you choose will depend on how much you want to emphasize individual career clusters and how much you want to consider college compared to other post-high school pursuits.

However, if you’re looking for a solution that includes activities as part of a comprehensive college and career readiness curriculum, consider Business&ITCenter21 from AES.

With AES, your students will receive a consistent, comprehensive curriculum that prepares them to take the next step through lessons in job-seeking skills, professionalism, critical thinking, career development, and more.

To learn more about AES and whether it’s a good fit for your classroom, explore the career readiness catalog page:

Explore the Business&ITCenter21 Catalog