Introduction to the Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission
Students’ stories matter.
One reason they matter is that their personal experiences and background can help them demonstrate their strengths and capacities to colleges and potential employers. Let students know that the purpose of today’s warm-up and lesson is to get to know one another and to discuss how their stories are sources they can draw on when applying to college. In this lesson, students explore the relationship between work done in StoryCorpsU and their goals, especially the connection with the Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission (Common Application).
- Objective: To understand the relationship between work done in StoryCorpsU and their goals, especially the connection with the Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission (Common Application)
- Standards: Applicable Common Core Standards
- Time: 45 minutes
- Preparation: Review The Common Application learning object and other lesson materials; make any student copies needed for the lesson
- Materials: Student copies of the Building Community Grid, The Common Application learning object (see below), “Making It” animation, students copies of the Listening Activity, computer, speakers, Internet connection, and projector or Smart Board
Extended Warm-Up: Building Community
10-Minute Face-to-face Activity
- Distribute the paper copies of the Building Community Grid to the students.
- Provide the following instructions to the students:
- “Using the Building Community Grid that I have provided to you, you will need to walk around the room and ask each other questions, such as ‘Can you talk about an achievement you are proud of?’ If the person says yes, write his or her name underneath the question. If the answer is no, move on to another question or go to someone else and ask the same question. Each question should have the name of only one of the people in your classroom, and nobody’s name can be used more than once. If necessary, you should ask your interviewee to spell and pronounce his or her name.”
- Model the activity by approaching a student while holding the Building Community Grid and asking a question from the grid. For example, you might ask, “Do you practice and/or play a sport for more than five hours per week?” If the student says yes, write his or her name on the page.
- Students circulate until they have written an answer for every question (or time runs out).
- Ask students to move their chairs into a circle.
5-Minute Face-to-Face Activity
- Ask students, “By a show of hands, how many of you filled in every square?”
- Choose three or four questions from the Warm-Up and invite students to call out the name of someone who answered yes to that question (e.g., “Raise your hand if you found someone who participates in a school club on a weekly basis,” “Who did you find?,” and “Snap if you also wrote (his/her) name down for this category”) and invite the student to share more (e.g., “What club are you a part of?”).
Activity: The Common Application
15-Minute Digital Learning Object And Face-to-Face Discussion
Explain to students that they are going to explore the Common Application through the Common Application learning object. Students can view this learning object individually, in small groups, or a whole group as a guided activity using available technologies.
This interactivity explores the Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission that is used for getting into some colleges; also known as the Common App. By completing this standardized college application just once online, students are able to use it to apply to multiple colleges that use the Common App. The stories that students share in the StoryCorpsU lessons can help with the essay section of the Common App. Click the player button to begin.
Download a printable version of the interactivity.
As part of the interactivity, students have ranked the essay questions found on the Common App and written brief story summaries. Ask students if any of the questions in the “Building Community” Warm-Up relate to the Common Application essay prompts.
Activity: Noe’s Story: “Making It”
10-Minute Digital Learning Object, Listening Activity, And Face-to-Face Discussion
- Tell students they are going to watch “Making It”, a StoryCorps animation of 19-year-old Noe Rueda being interviewed by his former teacher Alex Fernandez. Noe reflects on his childhood growing up in Chicago and talks about his first business venture. Ask students to listen for elements of Noe’s story that he could write about if he were writing his Personal Essay for the Common Application. The students can view this animated clip individually, in small groups, or a whole group as a guided activity using available technologies. There is also a printable version of “Making It” available for students to read.
- Invite a volunteer to summarize the animation. Ask the rest of the class if anyone would like to add to the summary provided.
- Distribute the paper copies of the Listening Activity to the students. Ask them to select one or more prompts that Noe could respond to if he were writing his Personal Essay for the Common Application, and to cite evidence or summarize details from Noe’s story that could be used to respond to the prompts they checked off.
- Review each prompt and ask volunteers to share the elements of Noe’s story that relate to the prompt. Examples include the following:
- If Noe talks about his experience of beginning to work at a young age, his work experience links to the essay prompt regarding a “story … central to [his] identity.”
- If Noe talks about stereotypes in which neighborhoods are deemed to be “bad,” and the people who live in those neighborhoods are assumed to make money selling drugs, his perspective can be linked to the essay prompt regarding challenging a belief or idea.
- If Noe talks about his mother as a hard worker and source of his motivation to go to college, this story could be linked to the essay prompt regarding an event that marked his transition from childhood to adulthood within his family.
4-Minute Face-to-Face Activity
Lead a short discussion with the class using the following prompts:
- “Does any of Noe’s story remind you of something in your own life? If yes, how?”
- “How do you think Noe’s experiences growing up could help him get into college and be successful?”
Closing: Arms Up If…
1-Minute Face-to-Face Activity
Close the lesson by reading a series of prompts. Direct students to: “Raise your arms if …”
- “you believe that your personal history can help you get into and succeed in college.”
- “you can think of one experience or accomplishment that demonstrates a strength you possess and could help you get into college.”
- “you already have an idea for one of the essay questions on the Common Application.”