Michigan 4-H improves college interest and readiness – Part I: 4-H Exploration Days

Thousands of teens across Michigan increase college interest and readiness through 4-H Exploration Days participation.

Exploration Days 2013Youth involved in Michigan 4-H have access to programs that expand their horizons, allow personal growth and provide career exploration to get them on the right track for their post-secondary education goals.  Youth development and experiential education are research-based foundations that enable 4-H to prepare youth for a successful transition to adulthood – both academically and socially.

Through 4-H, youth gain life skills needed to stay, and succeed in post-secondary education. This is part 1 of a series that will provide evidence from 4-H pre-college program evaluations, college attendance tracking data and a college transition study. 

4-H Exploration Days is an MSU pre-college program offered by 4-H Youth Development of Michigan State University Extension on the Michigan State University (MSU) campus. It’s annually attended by 2,500 participants from across the state. It gives youth ages 11 to 19 an authentic collegiate experience as they explore interest areas and career options, increase their interest in and readiness for college, and develop decision-making, independence and teamwork skills. They also have fun and make friends with people from different backgrounds and areas throughout Michigan. 4-H volunteers and staff are on hand to provide oversight and guidance.

4-H Exploration Days participants from the high school graduating classes of 2009-2012 are attending college at a 31.5 percent higher rate than their Michigan peers. This information comes from 2012 Student Tracker Data obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). The NSC database contains student enrollment records for 98 percent of all students in public and private colleges and universities across the United States.

2013 4-H Exploration Days survey results from 1,718 youth showed the program increased participants’ interest in, and readiness for, college. Highlights include:

  • 94.7 percent plan to attend college.
  • 85.7 percent said the program better prepared them for college.
  • 85.3 percent said they’re excited to go to college.
  • 81.2 percent increased their knowledge of the different majors, career paths and opportunities available at MSU.
  • 75.5 percent are interested in attending Michigan State University.

The top life skills participants indicated they developed by attending 4-H Exploration Days were:

  • 91.2 percent will accept people who are different from them
  • 91.0 percent have the ability to follow through and complete tasks
  • 91.0 percent make decisions/choices
  • 90.3 percent improved communication
  • 90.2 percent improved their time management
  • 90.2 percent developed independence
  • 90.2 percent adapted to new living arrangements
  • 88.9 percent can socialize and make new friends

Participants rated the following as top program highlights:

  • 86.9 percent:  Educational sessions
  • 84.6 percent:  MSU facility tours and activities
  • 82.9 percent:  Living at MSU

Testimonials that reflect views expressed by many include:

  • “I learned more about subjects I am interested in and discovered what career path I want to take,” Grand Traverse County youth.
  • “It helped me meet many new people, develop respect and socialize with people that are different from me,” Branch County youth.
  • “I’m now more independent, confident and responsible,” Iosco County youth.
  • “It made me more open and willing to try new things,” Dickinson County youth.

Learn more about 4-H Exploration Days by reviewing the one-page 2013 Impact Summary and the full 2013 Full Evaluation Report. The next 4-H Exploration Days will be held June 18-20, 2014. Part 2 of this series will focus on MSU attendance by 4-H alumni.

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