Applying to College 2: Writing the Essay I What is the college essay and how can it help me get into college or land a job?

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UNIT 2 Applying to College Lesson Descriptions Applying to College 1: College Application Basics What do I need to complete a college application? (And why should I care about this if I m not planning
UNIT 2 Applying to College Lesson Descriptions Applying to College 1: College Application Basics What do I need to complete a college application? (And why should I care about this if I m not planning on going to college?) Applying to College 2: Writing the Essay I What is the college essay and how can it help me get into college or land a job? Applying to College 3: Writing the Essay II Which personal strengths do I want to highlight in my essay, and what experience reflects these strengths? Applying to College 4: Writing the Essay III Which facts and details of my experience will create the most clear and compelling essay? Applying to College 5: Writing the Essay IV What are the most important things to remember when organizing and writing my essay? Applying to College 6: Writing the Essay V What do I need to consider when I proofread and revise my essay? 49 PLANNING PYRAMID GRADE 12, Unit 2, Applying to College Some Students Will: Solicit help from a parent or teacher to proofread their college essay and make recommended changes. Most Students Will: Complete an online college application. Understand the difference between a good and poor college essay. Identify personal qualities that would appeal to an employer or college admissions officer, and provide evidence of the writer s character. Write and revise a college essay, or an essay suitable as an answer to a tell me about yourself interview question. All Students Will: Undertand the elements that may be included in a college application: transcript, SAT/ACT scores, essay, letters of recommendation, portfolio, and application fee (or fee waiver). Understand the purpose of a college essay and the kinds of questions typically asked. 50 Grade 12 Family Newsletter Applying to College College Admissions 101 Roads to Success is a new program designed to help middle and high school students prepare for their futures. This newsletter will keep you posted on what we re doing in school, and how families can follow through at home. Congratulations on being the proud parent of a high school senior! There s a lot to do in the year ahead, particularly if your student plans to go to college in the fall. The decisions are big, the stakes feel high, and every step may be filled with drama. Here s a list of what to expect and resources to help you cope. how each campus feels. Completing Applications Applications are usually due in late fall or early winter. Some schools have rolling admissions, and accept applications throughout the year. Check college websites for details. triggered by the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and parent info is required. You can begin the application on January 1. State deadlines and more info can be found at (Some schools also require families to complete the CSS Profile. See for details.) For more information about Roads to Success, please visit our website: Did you know? Of college freshmen surveyed at 4-year schools in 2008: 61% attended their first-choice college. 43% considered financial aid offers to be very important or essential in choosing their schools. SOURCE: The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2008 Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA Choosing Colleges If your teen isn t sure what school she wants to attend, now is the time for further research. Free online tools like can help narrow her search. Students sometimes sort college choices as reach, match, and safety schools to rate their chances of getting in. Applying to at least one of each is recommended. Research shows that students often do well at the most difficult schools that will accept them, so it s good to aim high for at least one (reach) school. If possible, students should visit their top choices to see Grade by Grade Note: Encourage your teen to write all deadlines on a calendar, and refer to it often. Finding Financial Aid Students should not reject a college choice because it costs a lot. Expensive schools often have financial help available, so it s definitely worth applying. It s good to have a cheaper option in mind as a backup. All needs-based federal and state financial aid is Following Through College acceptance letters arrive in March and April. If your student has applied for financial aid, he will also receive a letter from each school explaining what s being offered. Students have until May 1 to accept or reject a school s offer of admission. Then, they ll send a deposit to guarantee a spot for fall. During the summer, the school will provide information about housing assignments and freshman orientation. For more info... Roads to Success seniors receive a College Application Tracker to chart the admissions requirements at their chosen colleges and plan their progress for each. All students try an online application to a local school, and write an essay suitable for a college application or job interview. 51 College Application Basics 1 Applying to College The BIG Idea What do I need to complete a college application? (And why should I care about this if I m not planning on going to college?) AGENDA Approx. 45 minutes I. Warm Up (5 minutes) II. Application Review (10 minutes) III. Complete an Application (25 minutes) IV. Wrap Up: Next Steps (5 minutes) OBJECTIVES MATERIALS q Portfolio PAGES: Portfolio pages 3-4, College Application Tracker (from Introduction unit) q STUDENT HANDBOOK PAGES: Student Handbook page 8, What s My College Application Status? Student Handbook page 9, Websites and Passwords q FACILITATOR PAGES: Facilitator Resource 1, College Application Chart q Overhead and LCD projector q Laptop with Internet connection During this lesson, students will: Review what they need to know, and what they need to do, to complete a college application. Understand the similarities between a college and work application. Complete an online city or state college application in class. 53 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics OVERVIEW... Students review the different components of a college application, and how they figure into admissions decisions. Then, they begin an online application for a local city or state university. PREPARATION... q List the day s BIG IDEA and activities on the board. q The following handout needs to be made into an overhead transparency or copied onto chart paper: Facilitator Resource 1, College Application Chart q Consult with your school counselor on the execution of this lesson, including her recommendations regarding the use of state or local websites listed below, fee waivers, and procedures for requesting transcripts and letters of recommendation. You ll also want to discuss any system already in place for tracking college application activities, share Portfolio pages 3-4, College Application Tracker (from Grade 12 Introduction unit), and determine how you can best combine resources to avoid duplication of effort. q Prior to class, create your own account on your local or state application website, and familiarize yourself with the entire application process. (See BACKGROUND for specific sites.) Be prepared to supply students with the web address and instructions for completing an application in your own state, as described for WV in Activity III, Complete a College Application. q If you are unable to project the online application using an LCD and laptop, you may wish to make transparencies of the application pages. BACKGROUND INFORMATION... RTS students are encouraged to apply to at least three colleges a reach, match, and safety school. Many college access organizations advocate more as many as 10 to 12 applications to maximize opportunities to find a good match. Completing multiple applications and keeping track of all the components can be a daunting task. One way to economize on effort is to complete application forms accepted at more than 54 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics one school. Students should be made aware of this option for city and state schools, as well as those accepting the Common Application. Examples: 1. To apply to multiple public colleges in the same state: NY: SUNY Online Undergraduate Application PA: Pennsylvania Mentor (online applications) WV: College Foundation of West Virginia (online applications) NOTE: Some schools require their own applications, so students should make sure the state school to which they are applying is listed on the state website. 2. To apply to multiple public colleges in New York City: NYC: CUNY Online Undergraduate Application 3. To apply to multiple selective private colleges: The Common Application: IMPLEMENTATION OPTIONS... In Activity III, you may choose to focus on a single popular college choice instead of state/local application websites, depending on your school counselor s recommendation. The College Foundation of West Virginia ( also provides an online Practice Application. You may prefer to demonstrate its use rather than selecting a specific WV college. 55 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics ACTIVITY STEPS... I. Warm Up (5 minutes) 1. [As students enter, ask them to complete the Do Now on Student Handbook page 8, What s My College Application Status? Give them 2 minutes to complete the activity.] 2. [Invite volunteers to share what they wrote down.] 3. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: If you re feeling a little stressed out over college applications, take a deep breath. Over the next six lessons, we re going to tell you everything you need to apply to college. As you just saw, there are several parts of the college application. Some of you are already pulling these together, and others are still figuring out the next step. Wherever you are in the process, that s okay for now. In this unit, we re going to walk through the application process together, answer all your questions, and help you get started. And if you re not planning on attending college, this unit should still be very helpful. Many people decide to return to college after entering the workforce, and understanding the application process gives you a head start. There are also many similarities between applying to college and applying for a job. I ll point these out as we go along. It s all about knowing how to highlight your experience, your skills, and qualities that make you stand out. 4. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Here s a quick overview of what we ll do over the next six weeks. Today, we ll review the different components of the college application and how each one should be completed and sent to the college of your choice. Then we re going to walk through an online application that can be used for most colleges in your city/state. In weeks two through six, we ll work on a piece of writing that tells the world who you are your college essay. If you re not applying to a college that requires an essay, this will be a good exercise in thinking about what you have to offer a school or employer. 5. [Have students turn to the Portfolio pages 3-4, College Application Tracker, from the introductory lessons.] SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Already feeling a little overwhelmed? To help you keep track of the requirements at each school, and remember where you are in the application process for each, you can use Portfolio pages 3-4, College Application Tracker, to help you keep track. 56 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics II. Application Review (10 minutes) 1. [Project Facilitator Resource 1, College Application Chart on the overhead projector.] SAY SOMETHING LIKE: If you re applying to colleges, you re probably wondering what the admissions people are looking for. Well, this chart takes a look at the eight main factors considered by admissions teams in colleges across the country. Let s take a closer look at each component, why it s important, and how you ll send it to the colleges of your choice. 2. [Review the chart with the class.] 3. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Remember, not every school will require each of these components, but all schools will require some of these at minimum, a high school transcript, and often standardized test scores as well. Large public colleges often have fewer requirements they have too many applicants to carefully consider extra materials from each person. Colleges that have more resources for screening applicants will require more. 4. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Now you know the main components of the college application, but how do you get started? The first step is to find the application for each school you re interested in. This is usually pretty easy to find on the school s website under Admissions or in catalogs you received in the mail. The application asks for basic information about yourself, your school, and your activities. It also specifies which components are expected, such as the essay, recommendations, and interviews. 5. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Now if you re worried about filling out lots and lots of applications, I have good news: In many cases, you can fill out one application that can be used for several colleges. For example, many states have online applications that can be used for all the state schools. Similarly, the Common Application is a website providing one application that can be used for over 300 private colleges and universities. Please take note: Even if a college uses one of these sites for its online application, you should always look carefully at that college s website to double-check admissions requirements. Some have additional forms that need to be completed. You may have to pay a separate application fee for each school. (Check the rules in your city or state.) III. Complete a College Application (25 minutes) 1. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Let s take a look at an online application for our state. 57 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics Chances are, many of you will apply to a state school in our system, so we re going to spend the next 25 minutes or so completing this application. If you re unable to complete the application today, you can save it and return to it anytime. 2. [Using a computer and LCD projector, show students a website that allows your students to apply to several colleges in your state or city. (See Preparation above.) For example, in West Virginia, the website is: Demonstrate how to navigate the website. Explain that each student will need to create his or her own account. Once this is done, students can use their username and password to complete the application, save their work, and return to the application any time: Step 1: Click College Planning at the top of the page. Step 2: Click Applications, then Apply to College and Track Your Applications. Step 3: Click Create an Account. [Give students a few minutes to complete their own account. They ll need to input personal information such as their name, birth date, address, school, etc.] Students should use Student Handbook page 9, Websites and Passwords to write down their Username and Password. Step 4: When they ve completed the account, click Click here to continue. 3. [At this point, students will see the Apply to College page. Now walk through the process of completing an application: Step 1: Select a college they re interested in from the menu and click Apply. Step 2: Have students carefully read details about application procedures for that school. They may wish to print out this page, and can return to it from within the application as well. Remind students that many schools waive application fees for low-income families. (They should check with the school counselor for details.) Also advise students to check the individual college website for the mailing address if additional materials are needed. Remind students to use Portfolio pages 3-4, College Application Tracker to record each school s requirements. Step 3: Click Begin application for [school name]. Before students begin completing their applications, click through the four main screens so they are familiar with the information that will be requested. To do this without filling in the form, you can select a screen from Skip & Jump to among the left-hand navigation buttons. Briefly review the information on each of these screens: Screen 1: Personal Information (student name, address, , phone, citizenship information) Screen 2: Application information (enrollment information, residency, high school information) Screen 3: College Information 58 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics (for students who have previously attended college) Screen 4: Emergency Contact (name and contact information for parent, guardian, or spouse)] 4. [Also point out these buttons on the left-hand side: Introduction (to see the first page of this school s application) Save (to save work) 5. [Next, point out the button Submit Your Completed Application. ] SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Keep in mind that you will not be able to submit an application until all the information is complete. If you have completed the application, this button will take you to a final screen called Application Submittal. You must sign this page by typing your name to verify that all the information is correct. (Please make sure you re seriously considering this college before you hit submit. )] 6. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: After submitting your application, you will see an application agreement statement. Remember that you must print this agreement and mail it to the school s address with your application fee. 7. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: If you ve finished, take a moment to check off the box on your College Application Tracker that shows you ve submitted your application. Don t worry if you did not complete the application today, or if you want to send this application to another school as well. You can return to this website anytime, type in your username and password, and work on your application for this or other schools. IV. Wrap Up: Next Steps (5 minutes) 1. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: You ve done a great job today getting started on the college application process. The main thing I want you all to come away with is the big picture of a college application. 2. SAY SOMETHING LIKE: Next week, we ll take a look at another part of the college application the college essay. Over the next few weeks, we ll review lots of sample essays so you know what s required, and you ll also get a chance to write your own with a little help from your classmates and me. 59 Grade 12, Applying for College 1: College Application Basics Facilitator Resource 1, College Application Chart College Application Chart How are admissions decisions made? No single factor determines a student s admission to a given college. Here are some of the factors schools consider: What They Look At Why It s Important Who Provides This High school transcript Admission Test Scores (SAT, ACT) Essay Activities Letters of recommendation Interview Audition or Portfolio Application Fee The high school transcript (the four year report card) is always the most important factor in evaluating an applicant. The transcript includes: Grades received, courses taken, teachers comments, attendance and lateness record, as well as effort in studies. Most colleges will have a range of SAT or ACT scores that they would like to see from an applicant. Few colleges have a cut-off score. Most colleges require the SAT or ACT and like to see two attempts at the test. Some colleges require the SAT II (subject area tests) as part of the application. See these website for instructions on sending your scores: ACT: School counselor, at your request ACT or SAT, as directed by you SAT: sending.html Included on many college applications. The essay is You evaluated for content as well as style. Often a strong essay will make up for the weaker transcript or SAT score. Colleges want students who will get involved on campus. You They look for high school and community activities such as athletics, volunteer work, student government, summer experiences
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