SPECIAL NOTE AT THE OUTSET ABOUT TIMING: The lesson I present here is much too long for most high school class periods, but the elements of the lesson are in an ideal order. You will want to amend this lesson based on the resources at your school. All of the components for beginning the unit (a unit introduction if you will) are detailed in this first of six lessons.
Visit Your College and Career Planning Center
The best way to begin a unit regarding college scholarships and planning, is to take advantage of your school's college center and/or college counselor. If this is unavailable to you then you can cover the key information on your own. (The 10 min. video attached to this lesson covers the basics for starting the process sans specific school-based college planning infrastructure.)
On our visit to the Career Resource Center (CRC), our helpful college counselor gave a detailed presentation regarding the use of the school's resources and the first stages of the process for applying for financial aid, including the search for scholarships. During the course of her slide show, our college counselor shared several helpful insights including this excellent .pdf from the National Association of College Admissions Counselors. She also outlined all of the resources available to students in the Center -- both electronic and print. Her "talking points" emphasized the importance of early completion of the Federal Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA), the nationwide, mandatory financial reporting system, used to dole out Federal Aid (but required in EVERY instance a student receives money for college). She also discussed (in less detail) the completion of the College Board's College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. The CSS is an additional financial reporting document, utilized by private colleges and universities often in addition to FAFSA.
Finally, she shared this helpful handout (from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission) that details good sources for merit aid across a range of providers and for attendance at any college.
Use (for a few minutes at least) Your College and Career Planning Center
After the presentation in our CRC, students had about 10 free minutes to "browse" the resources available at either a computer workstation or by thumbing through actual print books or reading print materials. (I lent assistance as I could during this process, but we mostly relied on the expertise of our college counselor as the "smartest person in the room.")
On the next day, during the next lesson, I followed-up on what students had learned in the CRC with a short review, aided by the attached .png (which is a detail from a webpage, posted by the Department of Education). I also shared the attached .pdf flow-chart, which coupled with the .png seemed to clarify the upcoming process.
(Obviously, if you do not have a CRC at your school then you will amend the structure of this lesson accordingly.)
After seeing these many resources and all of this new information, students could now understand the distinction between university-based and at-large merit aid. Namely, that:
All of this information, then, put into sharp relief the scholarship application as an assignment for my class. Because nearly all public universities award merit aid as an extension of the general application process then everyone of my students accepted to a public school had already in effect applied for a merit award.
I made it clear that they were to search for university-based merit aid possibilities (blue cloud 1 in flow-chart), but they would, much more than likely, be applying for at-large based awards (blue cloud 2 in flow chart).
In point of fact, most students had to apply for at-large merit awards (ones from the private sector) in order to complete this unit; we needed an actual assessment! (As a caveat, at least two of my students did find university-based, application-required merit scholarships, and both of these students used their applications for my unit assessment.)
After the review of the CRC visit and after introducing some clarifying information, it was time to check each accepted university website for POSSIBLE university-based merit aid. We wanted to leave no stone unturned, yes, but I also felt it important for students to understand their full range of options for receiving aid even if their "already applied" status could not be "counted" as an assessment in my course.
With my course Slide show, containing the links I had just shared, open in one tab, I asked students to open a fresh tab and search for the financial aid office of their first-choice accepted school. Once each student had loaded a financial aid office page of his/her choice, I quickly circulated around the room and assisted students with finding the various lists of possible university-based scholarships. (As a caveat: finding these postings is a varied process, as each financial aid office site has slightly different web architecture; use trial and error and common sense, though.) I asked them to repeat this process for two or three additional schools.
Now, with several tabs open, I asked students to look back at the Slide for the day (with my links).
On the day's slide I provided a link to this Google Form (referred to in subsequent lessons as Scholarship Form #1). I gave students a few minutes to fill out all of the fields save the last one. I asked students to stop, before filling in the final field, and wait for everyone to be "in the same place" before proceeding.
Once all students were ready to fill-in the final field, I asked them to post a link for ONE scholarship, preferably at their first-choice-school by reviewing the financial aid office pages in the other open tabs. I asked student -- if possible -- to link to a university-based scholarship that required an actual, separate application. But in the end, only two of 62 total students could find an application-required scholarship. However, I found the process of asking the question and in nearly all instances collecting data that would not directly impact our unit still helpful as providing awareness to students of the range of scholarship options.
Scholarship Form #1 is part of the overall formative AND summative assessment, in any event, so it has value as a part of a larger project that students will receive credit for.