Student Recruitment Plan Developer

Computer science (CS) should be for all students. One way to ensure you are including all students is to aim to have your CS classroom look like the cafeteria. The demographics of your school should be reflected in your classroom. This page and the following activities will help you achieve that goal.

A Guide for Creating a Computer Science Student Recruitment Plan:
Leveraging Strategies to Influence High School CS Course Enrollment

You have accessed the National Center for Computer Science Education's (NCCSE) Student Recruitment Plan Developer. The purpose of this page is to guide you in creating a computer science (CS) student recruitment plan that is unique to the challenges within your school. 

Note: This activity is designed for high school CS educators but could potentially be modified for other grades and organizations.


How this Page Works

NCCSE has identified stakeholders and factors that often impact student recruitment into CS courses (below). After completing the reflection activity below navigate to the recruitment influencers that apply to your school. Then, commit to make an impact and use the Google form to develop an action plan.

Within each category we have included "Strategies That Can Be Used." We challenge you to implement at least 1 strategy within each area as it applies to your school. 

Why does student recruitment matter?

Course enrollment should reflect school demographics and provide equal participation opportunities for all students.

Reflection Activity

Identify Recruitment Challenges

Select Strategies You Will Use

Develop an Action Plan

What influences CS course enrollment?

After completing the reflection activity, scroll down to learn more about the influencers -- stakeholders and factors -- of CS course enrollment and student recruitment. Click each section to see more information. When you're done, come back here to the top and complete your action plan.

Influencers | Stakeholders:

Peer Students as CS Recruiters


Representation and peer involvement can influence whether or not students decide to participate in CS courses. A teacher’s actions and words can go a long way in making students feel empowered, especially when exploring a new and different subject, such as CS. 

What do students think about computer science?

Stereotypes about who belongs in CS may influence whether or not students decide to participate in your course. Students who do not see themselves as “techie,” “geeky,” or “nerdy” may not think that CS is for them or a course that they will enjoy. Not only should the content of your curriculum be designed to appeal to a broad range of students, but the classroom should also appeal to all students as well. Encourage all your students to see themselves as creators of technology not just consumers.

Strategies That Can Be Used

Invite to Class   |   Teachers can empower those who may not have previously considered a CS course. Teachers have the power to show students that they too can be a computer scientist. Directly approaching students and invite them to your course.

Try Saying:

Encourage Students to Bring a Friend   |   Encourage students to ask friends to visit or join the course. When students promote the course, others will have an opportunity to hear authentic stories and experiences about CS. 

Try Saying:

Gallery Walk or Public Project Sharing Event   |   Students enjoy the opportunity to share their class projects and opportunities with their friends and family. Use your students’ excitement to help promote your course.

Try This:

Try Saying:

Role models   |   Find local community or organizations members who will come speak to your class about their experience with CS. Use diverse examples and stories in your assignments or activities. Allow students an opportunity to explore a variety of individual’s CS experiences.

Learn More at the links below:

Counselors as CS Recruiters


In this section, you’ll learn strategies for partnering with your school counselor(s) and gain access to tools that can be shared to make promoting CS less stressful and more productive.

What do counselors think about computer science?

School counselors play an important role in supporting students and their class selections. However, some school counselors may not be aware of how CS courses can serve all students regardless of background, experience level, or ability. School counselors can benefit from information on how CS courses in high school can support multiple career pathways and an understanding that intro CS courses are designed for ALL students. Providing counselors with an opportunity to learn a little about CS through an activity, observing a class, visiting a student showcase day, etc. will help them understand CS better.

Strategies That Can Be Used 

Host an Information Session   |   Information sessions that highlight the potential of computer science and the skills students will develop from taking the course are valuable in helping counselors understand the course better. Consider inviting students to share their experiences and the apps they have created so that counselors can hear how the course impacts students.

Try Using: Use existing resources to develop talking points and host information sessions:

Computer Science Posters for Counseling Offices   |   Students will see these as they are having conversations about which courses to take. Make sure posters are representative of students in the district and emphasize the breadth of CS careers.

Try Using:

Coffee or Lunch with a Counselor   |   Take some time away from students and offer to buy school counselors lunch or coffee so you can share more about CS and CSP.

Counselors for Computing Workshops   |   Encourage your school counselors to attend one in the area! CS and its practices align with many ASCA mindsets and behaviors for students. 

Try Using:

Parents as CS Recruiters


In this section, we provide teachers with strategies for communicating with parents and encouraging parents to be an ally in student recruitment.

Parents and students overwhelmingly support CS in K-12 schools. Fact is, 9 in 10 parents want their child to learn CS, believing that half of future jobs will require knowledge of some CS. Parental expectations along with an understanding of what a course is can impact the courses students choose to enroll in. It’s important that parents have an opportunity to learn about the opportunities that CS can provide all students, including those students who may not be interested in pursuing a technology career.

What do parents think about computer science?

Perceptions about who CS courses are for may impact whether or not parents view CS as being a good fit for their student(s). CS is no longer a specialized skill that only a few need to know about. CS and technology education has become a necessary skill for success in all fields including but not limited to psychology, medicine, and education. Many CS courses are designed to provide an engaging introduction to CS for all students including those who may have no previous experience. CS education helps students develop non-technological skills such as collaboration, creativity, and communication. CS is for all!

Strategies That Can Be Used 

STEM Family Nights   |   STEM family nights give students, teachers, principals, administrators, counselors, and community members an opportunity to complete science, engineering, math, and CS activities. These hands-on sessions give participants an engaging introduction to the possibilities of STEM while addressing concerns or questions about courses at your schools or STEM careers.

Try Using:

Letters, Newsletters, and Emails   |   Send a letter, email or newsletter blurb to parents in your district. If sending a hardcopy letter, we recommend that you send the letter on your school’s letterhead. 

Try Using:

Host an Information Session   |  Host an information session that highlights the potential of CS and the skills students will develop from taking the course. Consider inviting past students to share their experiences and the apps they have created. Have information pamphlets and cards available for parents to take when visiting your classroom.

Community Organizations as CS Partners


Local organizations are essential to helping raise awareness in the community - whether it is a church, a local business/non-profit, or a start-up company, community organizations can support teachers in recruiting and retaining students in CS.

Many of the lead supporters of CS education come from community organizations, particularly non-profits. CSforAll, CSTA, and, just to name a few, are all organizations that have helped expand access to CS, raised awareness about the importance of CS education, and provided a platform for the CS community. While these organizations exist solely for the advancement of CS education, non-CS organizations can be influential as well. By advocating for and supporting CS, community organizations can influence and support young people in pursuing a well-rounded education that includes CS.

How do community organizations view computer science?

Community organizations that are influential in the CS world often believe and understand the importance of a CS education and how vital it is to the technology-filled world that we live in. 

Strategies That Can Be Used 

Try Saying to Your Students:

After School Clubs   |   There are many great organizations that promote learning CS in an after school setting, including Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Boys & Girls Clubs, etc. Many even offer assistance and incentives to help teachers and students start after school clubs for girls. 

Field Trips   |    Arrange for field trips to local places that are influential in the CS field. Give students the opportunity to see firsthand what a CS work environment looks and feels like.

Try This:

Projects with Partner Organizations   |   Have your students partner with a local community organization for their next project. For example, ask students to build an app for a local daycare center. Have the students contact the daycare and invite them to the classroom to ask for details about the daycare and their needs and/or combine this with a field trip to the daycare.

Mentors   |   Ask for volunteers to mentor students and/or to visit your classroom. Need help finding someone? provides this tool for finding a local volunteer. Alternatively, you could reach out to local businesses and organizations that might have an IT department and/or programmers that might be interested in sharing their experiences. 

NCWIT Aspirations in Computing/AspireIT   |   The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) offers opportunities for girls and educators in CS to be recognized for their dedication, passion, and leadership through NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards. The high school Aspirations in Computing Awards recipients are eligible to apply for grant-funding through the AspireIT program at NCWIT. The grant-funding can be used to offer CS/IT instruction to their peers in the local community and to create opportunities for partnerships with local organizations. 

Administrators as CS Partners


Administrators help set schedules and determine who will be teaching CS courses, which can influence which students can register for your course. 

Administrators are the decision-makers in many schools, determining who teaches what courses, if courses are added to catalogs and schedules, priorities for organizing school schedules, and allocating or advocating for resources (classrooms, technology, curricula, etc.) It is crucial for administrators to have a basic understanding of what CS is and why students should learn CS.

What do administrators think about computer science?

Administrators may have limited understanding of CS, equating it only with programming or considering digital literacy or educational technology as the same as CS, but can easily understand CS better through brief experiential learning activities.

Strategies That Can Be Used

Try Using:

Complete the CS Visions Unplugged Activity with administrators to help others understand their reasons for including CS in the school. 

Resources Specifically for Administrators

Schedule Courses for Maximum Enrollment & Review Enrollment Numbers for Equity  |   Consider what courses are offered at the same time as the CS course and the conflicts students may have, especially for student groups that you are targeting for recruitment. Review the course enrollment demographics to ensure they match school demographics.

Align Work with State, District, or School Initiatives   |   Many schools and districts will have initiatives that a CS course can support. For example, if your district is looking for strategies to close the achievement gap, some of the teaching strategies in CS can be used in other courses.

Host a Course Information Session   |   Make administrators aware of your work and mission of including all students by hosting an information session. Information sessions are a great way to get students, teachers, administrators, counselors, and parents/guardians on board with CS education. Host an information session that highlights the potential of CS and the skills students will develop from taking the course. Consider inviting past students to share their experiences and the apps they have created.

Empowering Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities face unique challenges when enrolling and participating in CS courses. This section will help you work to make your classroom and course an effective learning environment for all students.

The tools and curriculum content in your course may present unique challenges for students with disabilities. For example, are all text content areas presented in the class accessible to screen readers? Is the font on the screen easy to read? Do assignments require fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging? Do the videos that you show in class have closed-captioning available? Consider the challenges students may face when taking your course and work to make your materials as well as your teaching strategies applicable to all.

Strategies That Can Be Used

REMEMBER: When teachers, parents, counselors, administrators, and curriculum developers are mindful of accessibility, ALL students benefit.

Evaluate your curriculum and content with a keen eye   |   Being aware of how a students’ disability may impact their learning and performance in the classroom is the first step to being inclusive. 

Try This:

Take a look at your course or curriculum and identify problem areas where those with disabilities may struggle. Consider what each assignment or test is attempting to measure. For example, if you are trying to assess whether or not a student understands the function of an algorithm and not a student’s ability to spell correctly, do not dock students points for spelling or grammatical errors. If a question asks students to draw a picture, offer tactile alternatives such as clay or allow students to create a presentation. Adjustments can be made to how information is presented, how students interact with the assignment (i.e. amount of time, space where assignment is completed, type of activity students are asked to complete), and how students present their own work (i.e. how work is shared with teacher and/or classmates). Consider how each of these stages may impact student learning.

Explore AccessCSForAll   |   Familiarize yourself with the challenges students may be facing and work to offer alternatives in your classroom. Do not wait until you have a student who needs accommodations to make changes, you can start now!

IEP Plans   |   Work with your student(s), counselors, and parents to accommodate IEP plans and provide individualized support before the class begins. Revisit the plan(s) often and connect with your student(s) to assess whether or not their needs are being met. Offer additional time to complete assignments and tests. Get creative with assignments and projects. Solicit feedback often about challenges students are facing and consider alternatives when necessary.

Empowering Reluctant Learners

Strategies That Can Be Used

Consider different student personalities 

Use ice breakers

Create an "safe to make mistakes" classroom

Influencers | Factors:

Perceptions of CS


In this section, we present tools for approaching and having the tough conversations about who CS is for and who excels in CS. 

CS is for all students. This includes but is not limited to students from low income neighborhoods, those without internet access, students of all racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds, students of all experience and ability levels, students with exceptionalities such as those who are deaf, visually impaired, or with limited mobility. The CS education world and workplace do not see this type of inclusion. Students who enroll in CS courses are disproportionately white or Asian male students. Part of the reason for this is the fact that teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, and even students themselves have perceptions about who belongs in CS.

Strategies That Can Be Used 

Show Role Models in Your Class  |  Use videos, posters, images, etc. that showcase the diversity that exists in CS.

Display Inclusive Posters    |   At your school, display posters and materials that highlight how CS can be used in all jobs.

Explore and Share Existing Resources   |   Learn more about equity and inclusion:

Professional Development Opportunity

Practice responding to perceptions of CS   |   Familiarize yourself now with strategies for tackling perceptions about CS. We also recommend having brochures, pamphlets, and other handouts available to distribute.

   Parents: “My student isn’t interested in fixing computers and wants to be a teacher. I don’t think they’d like a CS class.”

   Example Response: “Nowadays computer science courses are designed to appeal to all students even those who may not have any programming or design experience. In this class we encourage students to pursue whatever field they are interested in. They also develop skills that are applicable to all fields such as communication and collaboration. Here’s some more information.”

   Administration: “These types of classes only appeal to the nerdy or geeky students.”

  Example Response: “I can see how you’d think that but in actuality computer science appeals to all students and is applicable to all fields. Access to computing and what it provides is no longer just a luxury. It’s a basic necessity and skill in our increasingly technology-driven world. Your support of this class would help bring CS access to all of our students. We’re working hard to get all kinds of students involved through active recruitment strategies.” 

Academic Requirements

How do the academic requirements for CS courses impact who can take them? 

Establishing requirements to take CS courses can limit who has access, making it difficult to reach all students.

For example, the College Board recommends that students in Advanced Placement CS Principles have completed Algebra I, though it’s not a requirement. Some concurrent enrollment programs require students to have a certain GPA or class standing to enroll in a course, however, there is often a process for teachers to recommend students that don’t meet the requirements. Data suggest that this may disproportionately affect students of color or students that qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

Strategies That Can Be Used 

Advocate for Students   |   Ask concurrent enrollment partner colleges if there are any special exceptions to requirements. Some programs allow the teacher and school to recommend students they feel can be successful even if they do not meet GPA or class standing requirements. Many states are considering or enacting policy changes for concurrent enrollment; contact your state department of education for more information.

Share College Board Recommendations   |   Advocate for schools not to place additional enrollment requirements on Advanced Placement courses beyond what the College Board recommends. College Board has data that students of all backgrounds can be successful in AP CS courses.

Learn More

Physical Classroom Environment

When one thinks of a stereotypical CS workplace, they may think of images such as Star Wars or someone coding by themselves in a dark room surrounded by action figures and soda cans. This “geek culture” can inadvertently exclude underrepresented minorities and women who may not identify with the stereotypes. This section will provide you with tips and tricks from creating a physical environment that encourages, supports, and welcomes all students.

Reflect   |   Think about a time where you were in an environment where you felt like you didn’t belong or fit in. What was your reaction? Were you able to focus on conversation or learning? 

How does physical environment impact perception of who belongs in CS?

The feeling of not belonging can be intimidating and debilitating. This is why it is important to work to create a welcoming physical environment in your classroom. The changes for doing this are simple and start with you approaching your classroom with a fresh set of eyes. Think about the stereotypes surrounding CS (lone coder, dark room, science fiction, geeky or nerdy images) and look around your classroom to see if the space reinforces any of these stereotypes. If you are unsure whether or not your classroom is welcoming, ask a colleague, friend, or parent to visit your classroom and make a note of what they noticed. Ask your visitor to share how the space made them feel. After this exercise, use the strategies below to make changes to your classroom.

Strategies That Can Be Used

Replace science fiction images and posters with art, natural items such as plants, with student projects, or with advertisements for CS courses and opportunities:

Arrange the desks, chairs and computers in a way that encourages collaboration (i.e. do not have all stations along the wall where students are forced to have their backs to one another and/or the instructor). 

Lighting is important. Make sure that there is enough light in the room.

Talk about diversity and equity in the classroom and CS field. Speak to your students about the importance of having multiple viewpoints and how diversity can make everyone better learners. Be careful not to call out students for their gender or race (see more about stereotype threat). 

Label items in your classroom in both English and another language for ELL students. 

Professional Development Opportunity

Review NCCSE's Teaching Strategies   |   Learn more about Creating a Welcoming Physical Environment.

Explore these resources to learn more:

CS Pathways

Introducing CS early and often can help increase interest and participation of all students later in CS pathways.

How does lack of CS exposure impact interest in computing?

The experiences students have with computing at elementary and middle schools provide an opportunity for students to experience CS before taking a year-long course. It is important that these early experiences are engaging and connect to student interests, helping them feel like they belong in future computing courses. These pathways of experiences could take many different forms, from Hour of Code in elementary classrooms, to middle school rotations with technology/CS specialists, after school clubs, external partner programs, etc. Many of these are also opportunities for AP CS students to help out and provide near-peer mentoring. For example, high school students could help run elementary Hour of Code events.

Strategies That Can Be Used 

After School Programs   |   After school programs can provide low stakes exposure to specific student populations. Consider launching one of the following:

School-wide Events   |   A school-wide event encourages everyone to participate and provides a low stakes opportunity for students to explore computing. 

Elementary and Middle School Curriculum

Elementary curriculum options include:

Middle school courses such as CS Discoveries, Google CS First, Project GUTS, MyCS, etc. are also available and could be used as standalone courses or integrated with middle school technology or other courses. 

Early High School Curriculum

Exploring Computer Science (could be used as late middle school or early high school course before an AP or concurrent enrollment course)

CMU CS Academy and CodeHS also provide free curriculum that can be used for shorter, more introductory computer science courses. 

Teachers as CS Recruiters


Partner with colleagues at your school to reach all students and combat misconceptions about what types of students belong in CS.

What do teachers think about computer science?

You can work with colleagues at your school to inform them of the opportunities CS offers to all students, including the potential to develop problem-solving, computational thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration skills. Some teachers may feel that high school students within their schools have equal exposure and opportunity to learn CS and thus do not see these as reasons for lower participation, meaning they may not make extra efforts to promote CS and encourage students to learn it, especially students who do not explicitly show interest or experience (source). 

Strategies That Can Be Used 

Try Saying:

Collaborate with Colleagues   |   Try creating a classroom project that allows students in CS to work with students and teachers in other subjects. 

Try This:

Ask Colleagues for Recommendations   |   Everyone should be learning about CS! What many still don’t know is that CS is about problem-solving and computational thinking skills. Reach out to other teachers in your school and share information on CS. Then ask them if they know any students that display those strengths. A good start would be with the Math teachers, but don’t overlook those creative, out-of-the-box thinkers in the Art and English classes either!

Use Inclusive and Effective Teaching Practices   |   Start small, try new activities, and be open-minded. 

Not sure where to start? Check out NCCSE’s resources. Alternatively, you may want to try this online course

Join the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)   |    CSTA is a member-focused non-profit organization that is committed to equity and education. The organization has member-led chapters across the nation and offers opportunities for professional development and networking.