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Ready, set, apply for college

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Two seniors offered a college application workshop as a senior Creative-Action-Service project (CAS). Kelly Meade and Renae Dela Pena felt students did not receive adequate guidance in writing with their application essays so they invited guest speakers to demystify the process.

Kelly Meade and Renae Dela Pena saw a need and organized the four-part event.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, over 65 juniors and seniors came to a three-hour presentation. They heard Mr. Aubrey Berry, Azusa Pacific representative; Ms. Margareta Drew, Gabrielino High School teacher; and Andrew Castillo, class of 2017, speak about the college admissions process.

A college admission counselor, Mr. Audrey Berry, and a high school English teacher, Ms. Margareta Drew, were keynote speakers.

Mr. Berry, freshman admission counselor at APU and graduate of APU in journalism, encouraged students to research the schools of interest to see they were a good match for the school. In the application essay, he said students should address how their needs and preferences were similar to college mission statement or offerings. Students should be themselves. He said that student should not try to be what they think the college is looking for, but should tell a story about their interests, family or inspiration. Students should attend to the details of the prompts, including word counts.

Attendees watched a video of Andrew, CO alumnus, because he is currently attending Harvard University. He told the students that they should start ahead on their application essays to give time for revision and review. He encouraged students to show, not tell, schools who they are. The personality of the applicant should come through in the voice of the essay. On the common application essay, students should not mention any school in particular because the essay is sent to multiple universities. The grammar of the essay should be impeccable.

Ms. Drew told students that colleges are looking for well-rounded students, not students who have done everything. She said that students should pursue those clubs and extra-curricular activities that make them happy and that they are passionate about. She, too, recommended that students research schools of interest by Googling “common data about X university” to see if the schools are compatible with their interests and future pursuits. She learned the hard way that not all universities have all majors, and she was attending Occidental University before she realized they did not offer advertising.

Ms. Drew said the college essay should tell the story of the individual and show who the individual is. Students should understand that a rejection is not personal. Colleges have only so many openings, and because they want a diverse student body, they may not need another person with an individual’s qualifications. She recommends that students should give teachers three weeks’ notice to write a letter of recommendation so a teacher can write the letter at her convenience, rather than under pressure of a deadline.

Mr. Richard Wiard, economics teacher, told students that their brag sheets help teachers personalize letters of recommendation by giving them information they might not have known about the students. Students should choose a teacher for a letter of recommendation who knows them and who can write positively about them.

The first follow-up meeting took place during lunch on Sept. 22. Ms. Tammy Mazziotti, college/career specialist, and Mr. Scott Higuera, English teacher, helped 26 students work on their brag sheets. The second follow-up meeting took place on Sept. 28, and three committed students came for further help on their brag sheets or to discuss their personal statements.

Kelly Meade and others work on their brag sheet during the first follow-up lunch meeting.

During the final lunch meeting on Oct. 6, four students received one-on-one help with their UC personal statements. Counselors Mr. Greg Solis and Mrs. Crystal Volpe and Ms. Mazziotti reviewed the statements and gave suggestions for improvement.

Lesley Munoz, senior, said, “The CAPE workshop was extremely helpful because it motivated me to set deadlines for myself. The guest speakers definitely helped in seeing what colleges look at, which was nice. Personally, the most important and helpful aspect of the program were the deadlines. Because if I had not had set deadlines, I would have waited longer to get everything done.” All of the speakers recommended that students give themselves time to reflect, write and revise so they would have the best possible essays.

Mark Marquez, senior, receives one-on-one help on his personal essay from Mrs. Crystal Volpe.

Kelly came up with the idea during her junior year when she watched her brother, Chris, struggle to finish his college application essays at the last minute. She thought that more direction should be given to a process that impacts an individual’s future so profoundly. She and Renae worked through the summer to line up speakers and to plan the workshop.

Kelly and Renae expressed appreciation to the Charter Oak faculty and staff who supported them in the workshop. They also thanked the students who used the program to full advantage and followed through with the follow-up meetings.

If students would like to receive notes or a recording of the first meeting, they can contact Renae Dela Pena.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Ready, set, apply for college”

  1. Renae Dela Pena on October 14th, 2017 3:50 pm

    I love the article! Kelly and I are grateful that The Bolt Live expressed interest in our program and publish about it! Keep on writing! 👌🏼


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