The College Interview, Essay and Readiness: Introductory Class #1
Heather M. Butts, J.D., M.P.H., M.A.
In Class Assignments
Who am I?
Are you committed to applying to college?
Have you started to think about applying to college?
Have you visited a college campus?
When do you think you should start the college
Do you have a timeline in place for applying to college?
Do you have a checklist in place for applying to
Why does college matter?
Is college for me?
2 year vs. 4 year vs. vocational school?
More education = choices (you can be a mechanic or
own the mechanic shop)
More education = access to people you otherwise
would not encounter and exposure to new and exciting
More education = higher paying job (upwards of 98%
more money is earned when you have a college degree)
More education = more education!
Timeline - Junior High School
Create a timeline for the next 4 years
Make sure your grades are excellent
Maintain excellent grades
Start to prepare for transitioning into high school
Find a mentor
Take challenging courses: Especially the STEM areas.
26% of students who do not take geometry go on to
college whereas 71% of students who do take geometry
go on to college: http://www2.ed.gov
Timeline – Junior High continued
Take challenging courses in the arts, computer science,
Start thinking about advanced placement and college
credit courses once you get into high school. Be
prepared to discuss this with your counselor
Talk to your family or your mentor (remember them) If
your family has not started planning financially, start
looking into financial aid, scholarships and grants
(some of this will depend on the kind of grades you get
in high school so plan accordingly)
Timeline Freshman-Junior Years
Do well in school
Cultivate relationships with mentors
Begin to visit schools
Do well in school!!
Start to research scholarships and grant programs
Create your resume
Timeline Freshman-Junior Years
Get involved in extracurricular activities you actually
Review your timeline and make sure you’re on
Create a checklist of “to do” items
Having trouble in a particular area – get help from
teachers, after school programs and mentors
Surround yourself with supportive friends. If your
friends aren’t supporting you then they’re not your
Junior Year/Summer before
Review your resume
Visit as many prospective colleges as possible and
make appointments with admissions counselors and
other counselors (is community college an option?)
List all the colleges you want to apply to
Register for SATs
Take an SAT prep course (I.E.S of course!)
Fall Senior Year
Speak with your guidance counselor and make sure
you’re on track with grades and classes
Complete your college list and make sure you have a
few safety schools and a few reach schools (your
counselor and family will be able to assist with this)
Are you applying ED or EA anywhere? What are you
Start preparing for the college interview
Fall Senior Year
Start identifying who you will need letters of
recommendation from and give them plenty of notice
Take the SATs and make sure you’re having your scores
sent to the appropriate schools
Keep filling out applications. Read read read!
Winter-Spring Senior Year
Make sure your counselor has sent in your grades
Make sure you’ve finished your application and get it
in as soon as possible (some schools have rolling
Keep those grades up – some schools want to see
grades through senior year
Get into schools! Visit schools one final time and
make your decision (wait list issues or no acceptance)
Thank everyone that helped you during the process
(preferably with actual letters)
The College Essay
Distinguish between short answers, direct questions
and general essay/personal statement
What does the school want from you – make sure you
give them what they want!
College Essay Tips
Think about what you want to write about
Do you have a resume? If so take a look at it to refresh
your memory about what you’ve done. What have you
What makes you unique or different?
Do you have a favorite book or movie that has had
particular importance in your life?
Other topic areas:
A trying time in your life that you’ve overcome?
Very substantial extracurricular activities that you have
or are participating in?
Someone who has a great deal of meaning for you and
has been a great influence on your life
Discuss why you want to go to this particular school and
how the school will help you reach your goals/dreams
(and discuss what THOSE are!)
You’re stuck! You need more help deciding what to
Talk with friends, teachers, family members, trusted
mentors (don’t forget about your mentors!)
Keep thinking! As long as you’ve started early enough
you’ll have enough time to come up with a topic
Essay Writing Tips
Write your first draft and the continue to write drafts.
You’ll need several drafts before you can finalize the
Have someone else read it to make sure it conveys what
you want it to convey
Read it once more before considering it final
Take-aways (make sure you do
Make your essay consistent with the rest of your
application (if you have a 2400 SATs and 4.0 average
you’re not struggling in school so don’t write an essay
that says that)
You can use your essay to explain certain parts of your
application, just don’t repeat what’s already in your
Diversity is great – discuss this if it applies to you
Remember – your essay topic says a lot about who you
are and what you care about so choose wisely
Pitfalls to avoid
Don’t try for tricks or something for shock value
The essay should tell your reader something that the
rest of the application does not tell them
Don’t go over the word limit (part of this is to test can
you follow directions)
Don’t make up stories (honesty is the best policy)
In Class Exercise #1
Write 200 words on the following topic:
Tell us about the neighborhood that you grew up in
and how it helped shape you into the kind of person
you are today.
In Class Exercise #2
Pair up with a partner. One of you will take on the role
of the interviewer and one will take on the role of
interviewee. Then you will reverse roles. Ask the
following questions of each other:
1. Tell me about yourself?
2. Who in your life has most influenced you?
3. What do you do in your free time?
4. What is your favorite book?
5. Why do you want to go to college?
Homework Assignment #1
List 5 items that you think should be on your college
Homework Assignment #2
Write down answers to the following Interview Questions.
Practice your answers with someone in your family. Have
them ask you the questions and practice your answers with
1. Who do you most admire?
2. What is your biggest weakness?
3. What makes you special?
4. What high school experience was most important to
5. What historical figure do you most admire?
Homework Assignment #3
Come up with 300 word answers to the following essay
1. Write about a local or national issue that has
personal meaning for you?
2. Select two people that have be role models in your
life and why?
3. Select a technological innovation of this century and
describe its impact on you and your family?