Coordinators Share Ideas in Debrief Sessions
Back in November, a few CAW coordinators requested an opportunity to talk with colleagues around the state. They wanted to share what went well, discuss their challenges, and hear others' ideas for making CAW 2015 even better. They wanted to wait until after they'd had some time to reflect on their November events and make it through the holiday break. Last month, we hosted several video chats in which we learned a great deal about what makes Oregon College Application Week so successful. Here are our notes, organized by theme:
How did you schedule your week?
- Scheduled many different things that students coud do: drop-in assistance with college applications; on-site admissions with public universities; presentations about community colleges, private college admissions, and financial aid; scheduled a scholarship mini-fair (unfortunately, this didn't happen during the CAW events because of that pesky snow day that closed many schools during the second week of Oregon CAW 2014)
- Drop-in assistance with varying numbers of volunteers; general advice was to ensure enough volunteers that a student would always have someone to turn to if he had questions
- One school hosted their events over both available weeks, rather than choosing just one
How did you encourage/assign students to participate?
- All Career & Technical Education classes participated, with each being assigned a particular period during the week. The class with the highest attendance during their period won a donut party
- All PE classes were assigned a period during which the seniors participated in CAW. However, since only half of the seniors were enrolled in PE classes, this wasn't an ideal way to ensure all students were able to participate
- Lots of advertising: posters around the school leading up to the event, created big displays that were visible to anyone walking into the building
- One school mentioned that sending the Student and Family Letter home made a difference, since it encouraged families to remind their students to go. (Note: new in 2015, this letter will be available in several languages)
How were teachers and other staff members involved?
- First, it was important to get buy-in from everyone. The most successful way to do that was for the principal and counseling staff to meet with departments to encourage all senior teachers to be involved. In the best case scendario, this happend in the spring before the school signed up as an official site.
- English teachers assigned college and/or scholarship essays as part of their classwork. In one school, the assignment was customized to each student's college plans. Those applying to the University of Oregon were assigned one of the essay questions from the UO application; those applying to Oregon State were assigned a question from the Insight Resume; those applying to private colleges or universities were assigned a question from the Common Application choices; and everyone else wrote a response to an OSAC scholarship essay question.
How did you ensure students would be prepared?
- Again, some schools' English faculty assigned application essays as part of their regular coursework
- Some schools prepared a packet of information, including the College Application Worksheet, and issued it as an assignment in senior classes
- Counselors and/or CAW coordinators visited all English classes a few weeks before the event to talk about it, share information, and provide prepratory materials
What are some other things that worked?
- Snacks! Coffee and food is great for volunteers, but having snacks for the students is also a big hit and increases the celebratory atmosphere of the event
- Prizes and incentives are welcomed by students, though there is quite a bit of variation in popularity of different items. In addition to the promotional items provided by Oregon GEAR UP/CAW, schools have requested prizes from colleges (pennants, t-shirts, pencils, etc.) and local businesses (gift certificates, stickers, food, etc.). They have also offered prizes from within the school, with prom tickets being a particularly hot item.
- Volunteers are critical, especially at the bigger schools. Starting early to recruit and train volunteers is important.