I asked the guidance office to print copies of transcripts for students, which cover through first semester of their junior year. To complete the data set to the best of their abilities, I will ask them to write down the courses they are taking now and approximate grades in them, and also to write down what classes they plan to take next year.
Then, they will also make a list of extra-curricular activities they’ve participated in in the past three years, awards, work experience, leadership roles, etc., (there is a space for these items on their transcript that is empty--it is filled out senior year on the official form).
After they’ve got the evidence down, I will have them Re-read the first couple pages of chapter one of the book that specifically talks about the transcript so they get the sense of what an admissions officer sees in the transcript—which in many ways involves some stereotyping. Then I will have the students look at their own transcripts from as objective a view as possible (knowing they can’t fully do that—but we will use their emotions later in the lesson), and write a paragraph summary answering the following questions: what is this person like, according to this data? Do they stand out from the gray area? (this also practices reading informational text standard one regarding where an author leaves things uncertain, since they are looking for uncertainties--holes to fill in their application narrative).
Next, they will exchange their transcripts with a partner, and the partner will complete the same process as above, including writing a paragraph summary. Once they’ve done this, the partners will share what they saw, and also talk about discrepancies between what each wrote.
What often become quite evident when evaluating yourself or someone else in this manner are the emotions and biases. For example, I anticipate many students will feel a twinge of defensiveness when they are writing about themselves, or even their friends. To help students recognize this on their own, I will start by asking students to share their experience of evaluating transcripts--what they felt as they were doing it, challenges, etc. The discomfort will likely be quite common, so the students will discover the common emotions on their own. Students talking about this will offer a opportunity for me to transition to their next task--to use these emotions as part of the process. I want students to think about the nature of these emotions and biases and answer the following questions, again in a free-write—what holes in the argument about who they are do these feelings show? What do you want to add to the argument about yourself that is not yet fully shown in the transcript? Once they’ve done this, I will talk with them for a few minutes about it, explaining that what they just wrote about concerning their personality (not just things they’ve done or their background) is what should emerge in the essay—they don’t want to contradict the transcript, but add to the argument. I will also explain that they should keep asking these questions as they revise their own essays, and that I will ask these questions as I assist them in the next few days.
Next Steps: For the next couple days students will be in the library working independently on their writing. I will work with them one on one, and use what they wrote today to help them along in the process.