It has been some time since I have blogged and a lot of great things have happened and are happening. Since it is college application season, it is appropriate to write about my experience while teaching students how to write a personal statement.
College Seminar is an elective for high school seniors. While an ideal set up would be that ALL seniors take College Seminar, it is still an effective venue for the seniors who are currently enrolled. I wanted the students to have experience in writing the personal statement for college. Now, this should have happened in junior year. Realistically, it happens during the college application season. I took the time to create a brainstorm activity using a mind map and finding example college admissions essays. I found example essays on the web and from the FISKE book called Real College Essays that Work.
1st Activity: Brainstorm, as a class, what makes a good personal statement? This is what we came up with.
Group Brainstorm: Students are given two mind map graphic organizers and two personal statement examples. The groups identified the parts of the personal statement that worked and what needed improvement.
Individual Brainstorm: Students are asked to choose topics that they would like to write about. Topics should be what the student feels comfortable sharing and nothing that would get the student in trouble.
Rough draft and Final Draft: Students submitted a rough draft and I had individual meetings to discuss the topic. Although I am an English teacher first, I read the personal statements from a counselor perspective. It is great when an English teacher reads them, but colleges are looking for content. I do not like to crush students’ dreams and tell them that their story is not good enough (yes, I have witnessed this!). How can I tell a student that their life is not worthy? I am counselor! Instead, I give suggestions on how to “spin” the story. Yes, it is wonderful that a student gets straight “A’s” but so does every student applying to College A. One story that stands out is a story written by a student who has not experienced tragedy. She loves and appreciates her family and helps out her mom when she can. Her “spin” was deviating from the sad story. It was fresh.
Students had the opportunity to choose which personal statement they would write because every student is different. In California we have 2 public college systems. The California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) and many of our students will apply to California private colleges that are on the Common Application. Students chose their personal statement based on which system they would submit applications.
The CSU and UC application will close on Saturday, November 30th. Every year the UC system crashes and every year I remind students to get in their application BEFORE November 30th. Right now, I am checking that students submitted college applications (the luxury of working at a small school) and will begin writing letters of recommendation for private colleges and EOP recommendations for the CSU. I enjoy this part of application season. I get to brag about the student.
Students are already receiving acceptance letters from the CSU and I can’t wait to celebrate this huge accomplishment with my caseload of students. Usually, when I receive a copy of an acceptance letter (I require that students submit this to me) I jump up and down and scream and students look at me like I am crazy. I always tell them that this a huge accomplishment and not everyone gets accepted to college. They continue to look at me strangely. I do not care because I will always jump up and down and scream for my students. I am also a cheerleader by heart.
I can’t wait to blog about Red Ribbon Week, our 1st Coffee with the Counselor and the College Spotlight.