Librarians Can Support the College Admissions Process

SLJ Teen Live August 10, 2016

Interface to navigate the online conference

On August 10th, I spoke on a panel during the annual SLJ Teen Live online conference sponsored by School Library Journal. In the past, the focus of this one day conference was on young adult literature, books and authors, but this year a number of sessions were included dealing with teen programming in school and public libraries. The session in which I participated was called College and Career for the Under-served

I spoke to the 250 attendees over the phone and manipulated my slides on the computer
The college application process has been an area that is near and dear to me. I have been developing quality resources for my seniors for many years. I believe that as librarian I can help support the counseling department at my school in a big way. My school is small with 600 students, and the class of 2017 has only 30 students. Our counselor must assist students with the college process, but she also has to service all the other students in the building, too. For the first time our school will have a part time counselor to work with the middle school students, but the full time counselor will nonetheless still have a full plate. 

Class of 2016 with principal Zapico and assistant principal Higgins
Patrick Taylor Academy is a college prep public school, and we pride ourselves on the fact that 100% of our graduates since the first graduating class in 2009 have entered a four year college or university after graduating. Many of these students are the first in their family to go to college. Also, many of these students cannot attend college unless they get hefty scholarships. 

Where do I come in? First, I can provide print material. There are many wonderful books out there with info about colleges, scholarships, and how to write great essays. I have some of those books in my library. My counselor has purchased new versions of those books for the library. However, there is a huge problem with these books. I can't get many of the students to check them out. Students don't want these print resources, so I have created electronic tools as a substitute for these print sources. The wonderful thing about these electronic sources is that they never go out of date like the books. 

Webpage on the library website

The library has a very robust website which I created in 2009. I am not sure when I added the section on Getting Ready for College, but it was a number of years ago. I have divided this page into several sections including: Louisiana specific sites, searching for the right college, college rankings, finding the best college fit for you, test prep, scholarship opportunities, college essays, and blogs about the college search process. The informational links that I list on this page are updated by the sponsoring organizations. This means students will always be getting information that is current. Sometimes, these websites will become inactive, and I do have to check periodically and delete those links. When I come across a new useful site from my counselor or on Twitter or Facebook, then I can add to the list. This page is a whole lot easier and cheaper to edit than books on the library shelves, and  I can share these resources with everyone in the senior class at the same time. 

Test Prep Livebinder
One tool that I use constantly when I create lessons for my students is Livebinders. I have also used this tool to create a resource to help students as they prepare for the ACT, SAT and AP exams. All the links that I share with my students are free. I know that there are some great resources out there for test prep that cost money, but those can be a hardship for my students. The wonderful thing about Livebinders is the fact that you can copy my binder with test prep here, and then edit it to fit the needs of the teens with whom you work. I share this binder with the students taking ACT prep and ask the counselor to share with our students also. 

Scholarship opportunities Livebinder

The other Livebinder that I have created is one with scholarship opportunities. At the outset, I would use the counselor's weekly newsletter to find scholarships to add to the binder. Eventually, the counselor would just CC me on any emails that she sent to the students about scholarships. I have divided this binder into several sections, but the main sections that students will find helpful are the ones for the national and local scholarships. When I first created this binder, I tried to add the deadlines to each scholarship. This turned out to be a major undertaking because I had to make those edits on every single scholarship each year. I finally decided to give an approximation of the deadlines because I found out that most scholarships close around the same time each year. So I can list that a scholarship deadline will be mid-March or early January and remind readers to check the website for the exact date. Scholarships come and go, and I do need to check this resource periodically to make sure all links are still good. This is a great resource to share with parents. As with the test prep binder, feel free to copy this one and edit to the needs for your library. 

Paris won a Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2014 and attends UNC at Chapel Hill
The other job about the college application process that I take very seriously is assistance with writing essays. During my tenure at Patrick Taylor, I have helped three students receive a Gates Millennium Scholarship. I take great pride in this because of the competitive nature of those grants. Sometimes there is time for me to work one on one with students writing their college or scholarship essays. When there is a time crunch for either me or the student, we have used Google docs to make the editing process work. I love using Google Docs that way because I can make comments, but I can also make suggested edits. Students certainly don't have to follow my suggestions, but if they choose to do so, they can. I find my students have a hard time writing about themselves. Sometimes they get too pompous and explain how they are going to save the world, sometimes they don't tell the story that explains how much they have accomplished. I can help them with this, and I am happy to do it. Over the last couple of years, the counselor has required students to get an adult reader on campus to review their essays before submission. I think this is a great idea. 

Last but not least, I can serve as a sounding board for the students. I am able to listen as they throw out their options and what they are thinking are the best choices for them. I can offer them encouragement and maybe give them some ideas that they had not yet thought about. 

Mark on the left is attending RIT 
A quick story to end this post: A member of the class of 2016 applied to a number of colleges because the counselor requires the students to apply out of state even for those reluctant to leave home. Mark was all set to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a two and a half drive from his home. He visited campus bought his sweatshirt and wore it to school with pride. He was going to receive money from TOPS (Louisiana scholarship program) that would pay most of his costs for school. Then he receives and email from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He had gotten in and was given a huge scholarship. He crunched the numbers and discovered that it was $9000 cheaper to attend RIT than ULL. Now the Louisiana legislature is set to cut TOPS funding which means he would have been responsible for even more of the cost if he had attended ULL. Mark and I talked a lot about the college process over the last year, and I hope that I had in a small way helped to get him out of state for school. 

On Friday, the counselor asked if I would talk to the class of 2017 during the Thursday enrichment hour on September 8th. She wants to attend a workshop that day. I am thrilled about the chance to talk to the seniors as a whole about all the resources that I have curated just for them. 


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