Grade: Senior
Subject: other

#897. The Great College Search

other, level: Senior
Posted Wed Dec 9 07:21:01 PST 2009 by N Caulfield (N Caulfield).
High School Teacher/Counselor Resource
Anycollege, Moorhead, USA
Activity Time: 2-3 class periods
Concepts Taught: College Preparation

The Great College Search
(Do I Really Have to Think about This?)

Adapted from the lesson plan by: Janine Polla Werner

**There are also several worksheets and a power point presentation to go along with this

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 22
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
 Ask them to picture where they live (at home, in a dorm, in an off-campus apartment,
 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 activities on campus did they attend?
 What kind of reputation did they have among their teachers? What was their social life
Encourage them to think specifically about what they want- not from what movies, etc. have told
them about colleges and what is available. Let them know at college anything is possible.
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.
 Ask volunteers to comment to the class about the differences they discovered in one another's
"ideal" experience. Does one student consider something to be good that another considers to
be undesirable? 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.
Step 1:
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.

Ask them what advice they have heard about choosing a school. 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.
 Explain to students that applications are time consuming and expensive. Application fees
range from $25 to $50, so they should choose carefully, especially with the ease of online
applications now.
Throughout the college selection process, students will need to hone their ability to weigh
advantages and disadvantages of the various types of schools. Give them the Pros and Cons
worksheet and allow them to work on it for about 15 minutes.
Ask if they had trouble coming up with pros or cons for different types of colleges. That would
indicate a strong opinion about that type of college. Discuss answers in class, let them see that
sometimes what is a pro to one person is a con to another. Talk about how different campus
attract different types of students, and often at college they will find many more people with
similar interests.
Fun ending, if time: Look at 20 Myths About Finding the Perfect College and discuss at:
Step 1:
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 and give them the
Steps to Searching worksheet.
When they have entered their search criteria and initiated the search have them explore the
Fast Facts of each school.
When they are finished, explain to them that it's a good idea to choose schools on three levels:
 "Reach" schools that fit interests but 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.)
 "Safe Bet" schools whose criteria they surpass and could easily get into.
Have the students make a list of two schools that would fit into each category, and have them write
three things about the college that appealed to them and one question that was not answered by the
Fast Facts page. Example:
Reach College 1: XYZ University
What I liked about it:
1. Large campus with lots of students
2. I can play on the basketball team
3. Still close to home
Question: How many students are in an average class?
After they have come up with a question for each have them click the small orange "i" next to the
college listings on and send an information request to the college to get their
questions answered. Have them brainstorm other places they could find answers to their questions.
If you have time in two weeks, follow up with this to see if students received an answer to their
question from the colleges.
Step 2:
Talk about the college visit.
 Ask how many students plan to check out college campuses before they start applying. (Show
of hands)
 Talk about the concept of "fit": how a student who feels comfortable in the atmosphere of the
college will do much better than a student who attends a college based on the program
reputation alone, or some other factor. Visiting the campus in person is the best way to tell if
you're going to have a good "fit" on campus.
 Ask the students what are some things to look for on the college visit: (do they like the
classrooms and dorms, do people seem friendly on campus, are they uncomfortable with the
other students on campus, do they feel like they're going to fit in, is the food good, etc.) Bring
up food for students planning on living on campus. It's funny and will make them laugh, but
it's a miserable year if you have to live in the dorms and you don't like the cafeteria food!
 Explain to your students that once they select colleges to which they like and will apply to,
they have to go through many more steps before they can send off the application.
Step 3:
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.)
 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.
 Ask students what activities outside of the classroom they can get involved in between now
and applying for college that would make their application stand out.
 Ask your students what else, according to the tape, most colleges require in an application.
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 but yet, it should be intelligent, well written, and on
the topic.
Step 4:
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/coach recommendations.)
 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 or coaches by not only doing well in classes, but by showing
motivation, cooperation, and effort.
Log on to, 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 and 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.
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 and 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
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.

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