COLLEGE: A CRASH COURSE

DISCUSSION GUIDE

On PBS (Check local listings)

A half hour special from In the Mix, the award winning PBS series

Each year teenagers across the country agonize over applying to college, a process that can seem overwhelming. In College: A Crash Course, teen reporter Andrea goes through the college application process, and we visit Ithaca College freshman, Nathan, and his friends. They provide feedback on what college is really like as Nathan contemplates transferring to a different school. This program and discussion guide provide information on applying to school, choosing the right college, and finding financial aid to help young people make decisions that work for them.

How to Use this Program:

Studies conducted by RMC Research on earlier In the Mix specials have shown that these programs engage the interest of teenagers, deliver information, catalyze discussion on critical issues, as well as promote analytical thinking and a greater sense of self-efficacy among teens. We recommend that you show the entire special in one sitting and then revisit each section followed by discussion. The aim is to encourage thought and allow teens to generate their own creative solutions.

Did you know that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor:

In the Mix Awards

College: A Crash Course contains five major sections:

Choosing a College

Interviewing

Applying

Getting Money for College

Resources and College Preparation Checklist

For information about In the Mix, e-mail us at InTheMix@pbs.org.

College: A Crash Course carries one-year off-air taping rights and performance rights. Check your local PBS listings for airtimes.

Videotape copies of the program can be purchased for $69.95 (plus $5 per order shipping and handling, includes performance rights and Discussion Guide), and can be ordered by sending a check or purchase order to: In the Mix, 114 E. 32 Street, Suite 903, New York, NY 10016. There is a discount of $5.00 per tape on orders of any five or more In the Mix titles.

Other videos of interest to grades 7-12 are available on topics including: Drug Abuse; Teen Immigrants; Depression and Suicide; Gun Violence; Computer Literacy and Careers; Self-Image and the Media; Sports Participation; Media Literacy; Activism; Alcohol and DWI; Dating Violence; School to Work Transition; Careers; Relationships; AIDS; and others. For a complete catalog, call: (212) 684-3940 or (800) 597-9448, or write to us at: 114 E. 32 Street, Suite 903, New York, NY 10016, or visit http://pbs.org/inthemix/ .

c 1996 College: A Crash Course is a production of Castle Works Inc. In the Mix was created by WNYC Radio.

CHOOSING A COLLEGE

Andrea and her college counselor discuss what students should look for in a college and what colleges look for in prospective students. What is the most important thing to do? Start early!

In addition to academic programs, what else should you look for in a college?

Consider size, setting, student body, ethnic diversity, social activities and sports opportunities; make sure the college as a whole is a good match for you

How important is visiting a college campus?

Extremely important; a major factor in helping you decide if the college is right for you

In addition to the transcript, what else is important to admissions officers?

SAT's, the essay, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, etc.

What is a "dream" or "reach" school?

It is your first choice the top school you think you might have a chance of getting in.

In addition to the "reach" school, it is a good idea to apply to six or seven colleges, all selected to suit you, but representing a range of competitiveness and cost

Nathan is transferring. What mistakes did he make in choosing his school?

He looked only at the academic program that interested him, not at the rest of the college; he did not visit the school; he did not factor in his love of a city environment

INTERVIEWING

The Assistant Director of Admissions at Columbia College, Columbia University, interviews Andrea and offers his insights.

How important is an admissions interview?

Although it is not mandatory at most schools, it can help the admissions department get to know you better. If you cannot get an interview on campus, see if you can arrange an alumni interview. You also have the chance to ask questions.

What should you do and avoid doing in an interview according to admissions officers?

Do show them your enthusiasm and the qualities that set you apart. Interviewers like to see you take the initiative. Look them in the eye and don't say "like," "you know," etc.

APPLYING

Andrea gets advice on filling out a college application from a former admissions officer.

What advice does the admissions officer give?

Be concise; follow directions; try to fit everything into the space allotted; check carefully to correct any spelling and punctuation errors; don't use a lot of white out or different color pens. Pasting typed answers neatly into the designated slots is perfectly acceptable.

What can you do if you cannot afford the application fee?

Contact the school to apply for a fee waiver.

How should you approach the application process?

First complete the application to the college you care about the most starting as early as September and give it your best effort. Since many applications have similar components, you are likely to be able to adapt your responses to other applications. Some private schools accept the "Common Application," enabling you to submit a single application to more than one school.

Aside from your academic record, what is the most important aspect of the application?

The essay. That is where you have a chance to differentiate yourself from every other applicant and to show your writing skills as well.

What are some of the reasons to enroll at a community college?

If you do not feel adequately prepared to enter a four-year college, a community college can be a good place to start. They are much less expensive. They can often be a good choice if you want a vocational education. Successful completion can pave the way to a four-year school, although you must research how readily transferable course credits will be.

GETTING MONEY FOR COLLEGE

The Director of College Town at the New York City Job and Career Center gives Andrea advice on the different kinds of financial aid and where to find it.

What are four sources of outside funding for college?

Federal government, state government, your prospective college and outside sources, including scholarships and loans. The student should continue to stay in touch with both their school counselor and the financial aid office at the college of their choice who can often help steer them to sources of funds.

How do scholarships differ from financial aid and where do you find them?

Scholarships, which are based on merit, come from a variety of sources for a variety of reasons. There are scholarships for academic achievement, sports ability, etc. Students should allow plenty of time to research possible scholarships, talking to their school counselor, using scholarship software, exploring the internet, tracking down the many scholarship books at the local library or book stores.

Should you limit the amount you borrow?

If you are concerned that you will owe too much to pay back easily, consider a less expensive state school or community college. Be sure to apply to a range of schools according to cost. Expensive schools can offer better financial aid packages than less expensive schools - so they may end up costing the same.

RESOURCES AND COLLEGE PREPARATION CHECKLIST

Enormous numbers of resources are available to help you decide on the right college, guide you through the application process, and find financial aid. It takes time and commitment, so start early. Following is a small sampling of resources:

FINDING THE RIGHT COLLEGE:

Books

Check your library and local book store. Choose from hundreds of books, many published by major sources such as Princeton Review, Barron's, Kaplan, and Petersons (Also check for these sources on the Web, see below). Here are a couple of them:

Barron's: Best Buys in College Education, August, 1994. Barron's Educational Series.

Fiske Guide to Colleges, 1997

Web Sites

The World Wide Web is an excellent source of information for any college research. Following are a few sites suggested by the In the Mix college experts.

American Universities Page

http://www.clas.ufl.edu/CLAS/american-universities.html

Includes almost all American four-year Universities, international schools, and some two-year schools.

Petersons Page

http://www.petersons.com

Includes four-year colleges, trade and vocational schools.

Software

(partial listing)

Barron's: College Search Program includes a log for keeping a record of all schools to which you are applying. It can also be downloaded for free from the Internet.

Applying

For help with writing the essay, try:

On Writing the College Application Essay, August, 1987. Harper Collins. Author: Harry Bauld

FINDING MONEY FOR COLLEGE:

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) For information or to get a form, call: 1-800-433-3243

Books

For a bibliography of helpful publications, write to the College Board, 45 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10023. Some examples:

The College Cost Book College Entrance Examination Board

Barron's: Best Buys in College Education, August, 1994. Barron's Educational Series (800-645-3476)

Free Money for College: A Guide to More than 1000 Grants and Scholarships for Undergraduate Study Facts on File, 1994. Author: Laurie Blum

The Scholarship Book J. Prentice Hall, 1990. Author: Cassidy, Daniel J.

The "B" (or lower) Student's Complete Scholarship Book, 1997. Student Services

The Minority and Women's Complete Scholarship Book, 1998. Student Services.

Financial Aid Web Sites

U.S. Department of Education: Student Guide to Financial Aid http://www.ed.gov/prog_info/SFA/StudentGuide.

Provides information on all forms of financial aid.

The Financial Aid Information Page http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/mkant/Public/FinAid/finaid.html

Provides information on financial aid, including legitimate scholarship sources. Also warns about scholarship scams.

http://fastweb.com

A free scholarship search database, used and endorsed by over 500 colleges across the country, containing over 275,000 scholarships.

COLLEGE PREPARATION CHECKLIST:

9th Grade

Plan a strong college-prep academic curriculum. Aim for an ascending level of difficulty.

Get involved in extracurricular activities. (Select a few where you can contribute meaningfully, hold a responsible position and stand out. Don't join too many and spread yourself too thin.)

Start saving money for college.

10th Grade

Take the PSAT for practice. (Also gets you on mailing lists for schools and scholarships. If you cannot afford the fee, request a fee waiver.)

Start your research into colleges and scholarships. (Check your high school counselor, library, bookstores, the internet, talk to friends, relatives, friends of friends, local organizations, churches.)

Start attending college fairs.

11th Grade

Create a list of 7 to 10 schools you think you would like.

Visit as many of those schools as possible. Try to stay overnight.

Enroll in Advanced Placement courses if possible.

Practice taking the SAT on your own, or take a prep course (at school or in your community)

Take the SAT I and II. (Although SAT II tests are required only at some schools, it is best to take them right after completing appropriate courses.) Be sure to take the SAT I at least 8 weeks prior to the deadline for submitting scores to colleges; register five weeks before taking it.

Continue to assess schools. Write for catalogues, applications, and financial aid information.

If you cannot afford the application fee, let the school know. They may be able to waive it.

Continue your search for scholarship money and financial aid.

Retake the SAT if you are not satisfied with your first results.

12th Grade

In September, decide which teachers or mentors would write the best recommendations for you, ask them and give them the necessary forms, with stamped, addressed envelopes.

By September, be sure you have all the applications to all the schools you would like to attend.

Decide if you are going to apply for early admission.

In early fall, start writing the essays required by the application of your "dream" school or your early admission application; modify the essays, if necessary, for other applications.

Complete "dream" school or early admission application, leaving ample time to double check it.

Be sure all questions are answered completely and accurately; ensure that your applications are neat and have no typos.

For Financial Aid...

Explore all financial aid options.

In the fall of your senior year, get a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from your counselor.

File your FAFSA after January 1 of the year you plan to enter college. It will help the government determine how much money your family needs to send you to college. Get it in promptly. Financial aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Some schools require you to fill out a "Profile" form, which provides them with more information. It also costs extra.

Keep in close touch with the financial aid officer at your prospective college.

When your financial aid packages come in, see if you can bargain with your school(s) of choice to increase your aid.

Be sure to accept or reject a financial aid offer by the deadline.