Going to College

39 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT: • Share what they know and want to know about college • Read about colleges and universities • Use fact sheets to answer questions about these colleges

Big Idea

Why is it important to go to college? What advice do older students have for applying to college? Students start to familiarize themselves with applying and attending college. This will serve as a frame for the work they will do throughout the unit.

Do Now

10 minutes


  • I have decided to incorporate a lot of the skills in this unit with going to college
  • I have found that my students have a TON of questions about college and are highly engaged with learning about various aspects of college
  • I created this lesson to serve as a college introduction to hook students and get them thinking about what they have to do for the next 6 years in order to get into and pay for the college of their choice.  So it may seem like students aren’t doing a lot of math in this lesson, and that is correct.  But I am setting up a foundation that we will build on throughout this unit and throughout the year.

See my Do Now in my Strategy folder that explains my beginning of class routines.

Often, I create do nows that have problems that connect to the task that students will be working on that day.  Here, I want students to think about what they already know about college and what questions they have.

I ask students to share out their knowledge and questions.  This helps to inform me what students already know and what they are interested in.  I can use this information to adapt do nows and lesson topics for me students. Some students have pre-conceived notions about themselves and college.  For example, I’ve heard anything from “I’m going to _____”, to “I’m not going to college”, or “It’s too expensive”.  It is really valuable for me to get to understand what students already think so that I can address these ideas in my instruction throughout this unit. 

Degrees and Dollars

10 minutes

I introduce the vocabulary words and give a brief explanation of the image.  I explain the difference between an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, professional degree, and doctoral degree.  I read over the two questions.  Then I have students participate in a Think Write Pair Share.  Students are engaging with MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

There is a lot going on with this image, and I expect some students to be confused.  I want students to understand what is being measured and compared.  I want students to notice that the more education people have, the higher their weekly earnings are overall.  Also, I want students to notice that people with a higher degree are less likely to be unemployed.  

Advice from Older Students

15 minutes


  • There is a high school in my school’s network.  At the end of the last school year, I asked a teacher I knew at the high school to have current high school seniors make short video clips (between 1-2 minutes) about their experiences applying to college.  The big questions I asked them to focus on were: 1) How did you narrow done what schools you wanted to apply to?  2) Did you receive scholarships/grants/loans?  3) If you could apply to colleges all over again, would you do anything differently? 
  • I have not attached the videos from the students because I do not have their permission to post them.  I would suggest that you find a contact at a local high school to help connect you with high school seniors or students who have graduated.  Students will connect most with students from similar backgrounds.

I show students the four videos and have them jot down notes on the advice that student have to give.  At the end of the videos, we come together as a class to share out the advice and other questions students have.  I will not have time to address all of these questions, but it is great to hear what students are wondering about.

College and University Facts

15 minutes


  • I have created the College and University Fact Sheets based on student interests, geography, diversity of student population, and cost.  I have tried to present students with a range of colleges and universities.  I think students will be most engaged with colleges if you create a packet that reflects the interests of your students.
  • College Search is the main website I used to create the College and University Fact Sheets.

Together we go over the vocabulary.  Some students may be familiar with some of the terms, but it is helpful to review them.  I explain that students are going to get time to learn about some colleges and universities.  I have students preview the questions.  I have volunteers pass out the fact sheets and students get to work.

As students work, I walk around and monitor student progress.  I want students to take time to compare and contrast the colleges.  Students will be surprised by costs and financial aid packages.  Students will observe vast differences in student population across the colleges.  This is usually when I can tell students are excited about learning and talking about colleges.  I hear a lot of “Oh, I want to go here” or “Wow, that’s expensive” or “My cousin/sister/etc goes there”.  


10 minutes

I begin the Closure by asking students to turn to their observations and questions.  I have students share out what they noticed.  My students noticed the diversity or lack thereof and had a lot of questions about it.  Students also had a lot of observations about financial aid and wanted to know more about how you can pay for college.  Another popular question was, “What is a non-resident alien?  Is it an alien??”  I address as many questions as I can.

With about five minutes left, I ask students to share out why they think it is important to go to college.  I comment that I noticed students wanting to attend a wide variety of colleges.  I ask them to respond to the question, “What do you need to accomplish in high school to get accepted to this college?”  This is a question that is so important!  A lot of students have this vague idea of going to college, but very few of them have spent time thinking about what it actually takes to get there!  Talking about grades, extra-curricular activities, and teacher recommendations are a great way to get students to breakdown what it will take to get into college into more manageable and concrete steps.

It is guaranteed that I do not have time to hear/address all of the questions students have.  I introduce students to the Project Parking Lot as a way to share questions that we didn’t have time for in class.  Instead of a ticket to go, I collect students answer to questions 1-3 so that I can review them.