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Lesson Plans
The Great College Search
(Do I Really Have to Think about This?)
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom.

Load the plug-ins for the Campus Tours Web site at http://www.campustours.com/ by clicking on the "before you begin...get the plug-ins."
When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.
Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Tell your students that they will embark on an imaginary journey for a few moments. (Encourage them to close their eyes as you guide them through. Remind them not to comment aloud or talk to anyone during the exercise.) Ask them to imagine themselves the morning of their graduation from college. They are about 21 years old and have had a wonderful college experience. Before the graduation ceremony, they are reflecting over the past few years, remembering all those aspects that contributed to this positive experience. Ask them to picture where they live (at home, in a dorm, in an off-campus apartment, etc.). Ask them next to picture the campus. In what part of the country is it located? Is the campus large or small, rural or urban? What classes did they enjoy the most and get the best grades in? What clubs and organizations did they have fun belonging to? What kind of reputation did they have among their teachers? What was their social life like?

Step 2:

Distribute the “My Ideal College Experience” worksheet. Ask students to write down the answers to the questions they had been thinking about during their imaginary journey. Allow about ten minutes for this. Then, encourage them to share their responses in groups of three students. Ask them to take notice of the different scenarios they each created. Ask volunteers to comment to the class about the differences they discovered in one another's "ideal" experience. Tell your students that there are colleges and universities to suit individual needs and desires, and that they will be exploring different schools in this lesson.


Learning Activities

Part 1

Step 1:

Ask your students what they think of when they hear the phrase "college admission." What thoughts and feelings come to mind? (Students will probably mention fear, anxiety, excitement, grades, tuition, SAT's, leaving home, etc.) Tell your students that all their feelings are completely normal and go along with this process. Explain to them that they will be watching a video to help them make solid choices about schools.

Step 2:

Insert Road to College into the VCR. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the different aspects of the college process the young man mentions to his parents. START the tape at the young man entering the kitchen to see his parents. PAUSE the tape when you hear the young man say, "That's what they say. I don't even know..." and the picture fades out.

CHECK for comprehension and compare to the students' responses in Step 1. (Students should mention choosing a school and looking through catalogs, standardized tests, tuition, location, choosing a major, deadlines for forms and applications.)

Step 3:

Reassure your students that although the college search and application process can be long and time consuming, it is manageable if approached in steps. Tell your students that they have already taken an important step by imagining what kind of school they would like to attend. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify areas to take into consideration when choosing a school. PLAY the tape when you see a campus montage of West Virginia University and hear music. PAUSE the tape after you hear University of Maryland student Sherri Kelly say, "It's a good idea to find out what kind of student goes there and whether you can fit in."

CHECK for comprehension by asking them what advice they heard about choosing a school. (Answers should include size of campus, geographical location of campus, personal desire to attend, intended major, impressions of campus visit, proximity to home.) List students' responses on blackboard as the students volunteer them. Ask the students if they heard the suggested number of schools they should apply to (about five). Explain to students that applications are time consuming and expensive. Application fees range from $25 to $50, so they should choose carefully.

Throughout the college selection process, students will need to hone their ability to weigh advantages and disadvantages of the various types of schools. To help them along, ask them to work with a partner to discuss the pros and cons of a small school or a large one. On the blackboard, draw two columns – one labeled "pro" and the other "con." After a few minutes, ask students to volunteer some responses as you record them in the appropriate columns. (Answers will vary and may include Pros: more attention from professors, smaller classes, getting to know students more intimately, less competition in academics and sports, feeling at home and secure. Cons: possible lack of diversity, boredom, limited resources and space, lack of cultural events/institutions in surrounding town, seeing the same people every day)

Step 4:

Tell your students that they will be visiting a Web site that can help them research schools according to their personal specifications. Ask your students to log on to Peterson's Education Center at http://www.petersons.com. Tell them to click on "college search" or the adjacent icon of a magnifying glass, which will take them to the College Quest link. Then tell them to scroll down until they see "detailed search" and click on "start search now" (green icon). Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to fill out the questionnaire as accurately as they can. Explain to them to check the "no preference" box when applicable. Also advise them not to enter a tuition range at this point as financial aid packets can be very generous, and they can always turn down a school that does not offer enough aid. When they have completed all the sections, tell them to click on the green "get your results" icon. This will generate a list of the schools that match their criteria.

When they are finished, explain to them that it's a good idea to choose schools on three levels: "reach" schools that may be a bit difficult for them to get into, but would like to try nonetheless; "fit schools" that make a good fit with their profile (GPA, activities, honors, etc.); and "safe bet" schools whose criteria they surpass. This will ensure that a student has a chance for his or her "dream school," while still remaining realistic. Advise them to complete a detailed search like the one they just did three separate times for their "reach," "fit," and "safe bet" schools. Of course, this will be done on their own time.

Step 5:

Distribute the “College Tour” worksheet. Ask your students to choose one of the schools appearing on the results list from College Quest and write it down in the space provided on their worksheet. Ask your students to log on to Campus Tours at http://www.campustours.com. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to take a virtual tour of the college they selected. Tell them to scroll down to the search box and enter the name of the school. This will take them to an options chart on which they should click "tour." Tell them to take notes on their chart as they explore a few of the links on the page, including admission requirements, faculty, campus, activities, student life. Encourage them to make a note of anything that captures their interest (for better or worse).

When students have completed the chart, divide them into groups of three and ask them to share their findings with one another. Ask them to verbalize the advantages and disadvantages to this particular school and then tell them to write them in the appropriate place on the chart. Encourage your students to follow this methodology for each tour they take, as details will become harder to remember the more schools they research. Also encourage them to e-mail or call the admissions office to request a catalog for the schools that most interest them. Explain to them that most colleges have on-line applications as well as paper applications.


Part 2

Step 1:

Explain to your students that once they select colleges to which they will apply, they have to go through many more steps before they can send off the application. Before they start sending off applications, tell them that almost all four-year schools require that all students take a standardized test. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the three exams mentioned. Insert the tape Road to College 2001 into your VCR. PLAY the tape when you see teacher Margaret Sturm at the chalkboard and hear her say, "Work on your verbal skills." PAUSE the tape after you hear Kimberlee Gibson say, "If you're taking the ACT, try this site" and see www.act.org on the screen. CHECK for comprehension (The three exams mentioned are the PSAT, SAT, and ACT).

As a follow-up question, ask your students to distinguish between the PSAT and the SAT. (PSAT is the Practice Scholastic Aptitude Test, taken early in junior year as an indicator of results on the SAT, the Scholastic Aptitude Test). Explain to them that the ACT (American College Test) is also accepted by most colleges and universities. The ACT covers more subject matter (what they actually learned in high school) than the SAT does.

Explain to your students that they should familiarize themselves with both tests to see which one they feel more comfortable taking. They can take both exams more than once, if they choose, but this can become expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. However, they should consider this option carefully, and discuss it with their parents.

Have students log on to the College Board verbal area at http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/sat/satguide/SAT_Verbal.pdf. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to examine sample questions for the verbal section of the SAT and formulate an opinion on the kinds of questions asked. Ask them spend a few minutes with a partner looking over the analogy, sentence completion, and reading comprehension components of the test. Encourage them to try one or two questions from each section with their partner. (Answers will vary. Some students may be baffled by the analogies, while other, more linguistically inclined students will find them fun.)

Have students log on to the College Board math area at http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/sat/satguide/SAT_Math.pdf. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to examine sample questions for the math section of the SAT and formulate an opinion on the kinds of questions asked. Ask them spend a few minutes with a partner looking over the multiple choice, quantitative comparison, and student-produced response components of the test. Encourage them to try one or two questions from each section with their partner. (Answers will vary.)

Have students log on to the Sample ACT site http://actrs8.act.org/aap/testprep/samples2.html. Provide them with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to examine sample questions for the English, math, reading, and scientific reasoning sections of the ACT and formulate an opinion on the kinds of questions asked. Ask them spend a few minutes with a partner looking over the different sections of the test. Encourage them to try one or two questions from each section with their partner. (Answers will vary. Some students might say that the questions more closely resemble what they have learned in school.)

Suggest to your students that once they decide which test they will take – some may opt for both – they should spend some time taking complete practice tests for both exams to prepare.

Step 2:

Explain to your students that most college applications require the same kind of information, so it's important to make themselves stand out from the rest. The stronger their application packet, the better chance they have of being admitted. Ask them how they can set themselves apart from other candidates. (Some possible responses are taking challenging courses in high school, maintaining good grades, activities and teams, high SAT/ACT scores, strong recommendations, etc.) Tell them that the next portion of video will help them with assembling a competitive application packet. Explain to them that colleges don't only look at grades, they look for well-rounded people who are active in clubs, teams, and charity and community work. The next segment deals with activities.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them how they can make the most of their in-school and out-of-school activities on an application. PLAY the tape when you see Robert Skinner, Director of Admissions for West Virginia Wesleyan. PAUSE the tape when you see Michael Curry and hear him say, "This will make those things come to life and jump off the page." CHECK for comprehension. (Students should include both activities in school and in the community and make sure not to just list, but describe activities.)

Ask your students what else, according to the tape, most colleges require in an application. (Appropriate answers are essay, recommendations, and official transcript.) Suggest that they think of their essay as a photograph of themselves in words. Like a great picture, the essay should provide a sense of their personalities and always show them at their best. It should not be too stiff and formal. On the other hand, it should be intelligent, well written, and on the topic.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking the students to determine why the second essay introduction is stronger than the first. Ask them to be specific in their responses. PLAY the tape when you see "The Essay" on the full screen. PAUSE the tape when you see Sally Rubenstone and hear her say, "...I had special thoughts about this day that I was still keeping to myself." (Answers will vary and should include that the second one gave a personality to the writer, shows an observant, sensitive, intelligent person with a sense of humor. It illustrates the writer has friends. It has a mystery to it, so it makes the reader want to keep reading.)

Step 3:

Ask your students how the college admission officials can be sure that all the wonderful things you say about yourself on your application and in your essay are true? (Teacher recommendations.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them why they should get recommendations from teachers who know them well. PLAY the tape when you see "Recommendations" on the full screen. STOP the tape when you see Priya Natarasan say, "...and to get someone who will write you a good recommendation. (Answers should include that they will have specific comments to make, not general ones that can fit a lot of people; they will feel confident about the letter, and the tone will reflect that.)

Ask your students to take a moment to reflect over their high school years and identify teachers who know them well and would have positive comments to make about them. If some students seem disconcerted, tell them it's not too late to start forming better relationships with their teachers by not only doing well in classes, but by showing motivation, cooperation, and effort.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1:

Distribute the “College Planning by Flow Chart” sheet. Since the college application process requires that students remember and keep track of a multitude of personal information, they need to get organized. In addition, the more organized the student, the easier the job of the college advisor and guidance counselor. For the next activity, students will create a flow chart on which they organize their college search using all they have learned from the lesson.

Step 2:

Direct them to fill in the flow chart in a way that makes logical sense to them, starting with the first step they will take in their college search. Encourage them to work with a partner or small group to ensure they do not forget any important step. They can use the space in the box to jot down details related to the step. Remind them that they can revisit this sheet to make adjustments and additions whenever necessary. When they have completed the sheet, ask for volunteers to share it with the rest of the class.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

ENGLISH
Log on to http://www.essayedge.com, which provides original and edited versions of college essays. Review and discuss the originals and the revisions. Have students gather various college applications and share the required essay topics with one another. Or, if they are sure of the colleges they want to apply to, have them write their essays according the requirements of those colleges. Encourage peer reviews and drafts.

Log on to http://www.collegeboard.com and http://www.act.org and assign groups of students to complete sample questions from each exam. Ask them to compare the difference between the questions of the exams and determine which test suits them better.

MATHEMATICS

Research tuition and room and board of different public and private universities and perform a comparative statistical study.

A few weeks after students file for financial aid, they will receive a Student Aid Review (SAR) summary. Students can check the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) against any federal grants or loans the student is eligible for and determine how much tuition may need to be paid out-of-pocket or though loans.

Log on to http://www.collegeboard.com and http://www.act.org and assign groups of students to complete sample questions from the SAT and ACT exams. Ask them to compare the difference between the questions contained in the exams and determine which test suits them better.

BUSINESS/FINANCE/ECONOMICS

Review the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with students and discuss terms such as W2, 1040A, 1040EZ, net worth, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.


Community Connections
  • Visit local colleges and universities on a fact-finding mission. Make reports to the class.

  • Invite a college admissions counselor into a class to discuss how college life differs from high school life.

  • Interview college students from various colleges to learn from their experiences. Ask them what they would have done differently in their college application process if they could do it again.