College Day Speaker Guidelines


Thank you for your interest being a College Day speaker! By sharing your college and education experiences, you will make a huge difference in the futures of students here in Santa Clara County. Noted that “College” refers to post-secondary education, not just 4-year colleges. Below you will find information and ideas to help you prepare for your College Day speaking engagement. During the week of College Day, you will be matched to speak in front of a classroom of 30 students or a school assembly of 300 students! Please let us know your preference when you sign up to be our speaker. 

Once you receive your match, here are the list of guidelines for our speaker before your Speech Day!

Connect with Your Matched Teacher

Be sure to connect with the teacher to whom you are matched. Feel free to ask about class size, students’ interests, and any discussions they have already had regarding college and careers. If you have not heard from him or her, please reach out to us at

Student Grade Levels
  • Adjust your vocabulary and explain acronyms you might use, such as GPA (Grade Point Average), SAT (School Admissions Test), FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), etc.
  • Keep in mind the age and grade level(s) of the students to whom you are speaking.
    • Lower Elementary: careers and college as goals - what is college? What are their dreams when they grow up? Who are role models? Anecdotes and stories work well.
    • Upper Elementary: careers and college as goals. Importance of being active in school, pursuing interests and pushing oneself academically
    • Middle School: careers, value of college. Importance of academic planning, course selection, connect with school counselor, savings
    • High School: career pathway, specifics about college and college life. Importance of academic planning, financial aid and other funding opportunities, connecting with school counselor.
What to bring:

Visuals are great and help bring your stories to life. Consider bringing:

  • Photos from college
  • Your diploma
  • Your mortarboard
  • Photos from work
  • Wear some of your college gear (t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc)
  • Optional: hands-on activity or lesson (please be sure to coordinate this with the teacher you are match with). 
Introduce yourself!

Make sure the students know who is talking to them. You could share:

  • Where you were born
  • Where you grew up
  • Where you went to school (elementary school, high school, college)
  • Where you work now and your role
  • How/why college is a good investment 
  • Why you are here today talking to the students
Ideas and talking points 

You could use some of the points below to build your presentation/speech:

  • College Day themes and key messages: 
    • Challenge yourself in school, find something you love, and get involved! (i.e. working hard in school but also finding and pursuing passions and interests)
    • Ask you teachers and other adults about their college journeys (i.e. talk to people about their experiences and decision making with regards to college. There are so many paths to and through post-secondary education)
    • Explore colleges and career options (i.e. visit college campuses, learn about different jobs and the skills/knowledge they require, learn about different paths to entering a career or field such as 4 year colleges, community colleges, technical schools, etc)
    • Remember: You’re worth it! (i.e. everyone can succeed in college and careers and everyone is worth the investment)
  • College Education
    • Why did you go to college? What did it enable you to do and experience?
    • How long did it take you to finish college?
    • What was your college major and what does it mean? 
    • How did you pick your major? Did you always know what you wanted to major in or did you figure it out along the way?
    • How did you figure out what courses to take in college? 
    • What did you do if a class was very challenging? Were tutors available? Study groups? 
  • College Life
    • What were some of your favorite parts about college?
    • What were some of the hardest parts about college? 
    • Did you live on campus or at home? How and why did you choose?
    • Did you have a mentor in college?
    • What was the first day of college like?
    • What was graduation like?
    • Was it easy to make friends in college?
    • What else did you get involved with in college (clubs, athletics, other programs)
  • Career
    • How did you decide what career to pursue?
    • Have you always done this type of job? 
    • What are you currently doing in your career? (Explain your role and what you do. What does a typical day look like?)
    • What do you love about your job? 
    • What knowledge or experience was necessary for you to have this job?
    • Salary history or range if you are comfortable sharing it. 
      • Interesting fact: College Graduates make $1.34 million more over their lifetime than High School Graduates (source: Campaign for College Opportunity, 2012).
  • Preparation
    • Were you the first one in your family to go to college?
    • Who encouraged you to go to college? Who helped you along the way?
    • How did you pay for college? Was it easy or hard?
      • Students should understand that they can start saving now, and that when they get to college, there is free money (scholarships and grants) and inexpensive money (loans) to help.
      • Interesting fact: many organizations give free money, especially to first-generation students, including: their high schools, all colleges and universities, trade associations to which their parents might belong, charitable foundations
      • Encourage them to talk to their counselors and principals to learn more
    • Did you go to college away from home? How far was it? Why did you choose to move?
    • How and why did you pick the college you went to?
    • How far was your college from home? If it was distant, how far and why did you choose to move? If it was local, why did you choose to stay close to home?
  • Advice
    • Share your top tips about how to succeed in college and/or career

Questions? Email

For more information, please contact the College Readiness Team at