How to Complete College Applications and Write a Great Essay

Tuesday, September 15, 2020, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The dreaded college application and essay! They don't have to be scary. In this seminar, Doug Sept and Dan Raffety, experts in the field of college counseling and faculty and administrators at Elgin Academy, will shed light on how to complete the college application step by step as well as provide useful tips and techniques for writing an essay that will impress and connect with college admissions representatives.  Join us for the third in our three-part series of workshops to help you and your child navigate the often challenging, confusing and sometimes frightening steps in the college application process. Doug and Dan, have helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college process successfully. 

This program is held in partnership with the Gail Borden Library.

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Doug Sept

Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs
Master of Science, University of Kentucky
Bachelor of Science, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Students must feel comfortable before they can learn. I expect my classroom to be an environment where students are allowed to take risks. I look for situations when I can look at a problem for the first time with students and model for them how to try and potentially fail in finding the right solution, only to rebound and try new ideas
- Doug Sept

I do not simply teach mathematics; I teach students. I teach students to become critical thinkers, to accept and overcome frustration, and to feel confident in proposing solutions. I teach students about the importance of honest self-assessment, how to celebrate accomplishments, and when to humbly admit that they are having difficulties. I teach students to take the time to listen and value other ideas, to respectfully disagree, and how to act when someone else disagrees with them. I teach students to use their resources and to master appropriate technology as well as to discern when to forego technology because they have the internal tools to solve a problem. In order to accomplish all of this, I use mathematics as the primary vehicle.

Students must feel comfortable before they can learn. I expect my classroom to be an environment where students are allowed to take risks. I look for situations when I can look at a problem for the first time with students and model for them how to try and potentially fail in finding the right solution, only to rebound and try new ideas. I applaud students who find my mistakes, be they intentional or accidents, because having them critique my work builds in them the ability to scrutinize their own.

I believe that homework should be a safe place to make mistakes. After learning about a new concept, the initial homework assignment involves students checking their own answers. I let the students know that immediate mastery is not the goal, but that attempting every problem is what is important. During every class period, there is a time for students to ask questions as a whole or as individuals. When I informally assess that a certain level of mastery has been reached by the majority of students, I formally assess them through a quiz. If a few individuals struggle, I work with them one-on-one to increase their understanding and confidence. If the majority of the class struggles, I discern what I could have done differently and implement an alternate approach to teaching the material.

Building genuine relationships with students is paramount to successful teaching. Although the focus of our initial relationship is through mathematics, I need to show that I care about them as a person outside of their mathematical performance. I greet students by name as they arrive in class and wish them a good day as they leave. I also acquaint myself of their involvement in activities both in and out of school. This allows a common ground for discussions beyond mathematics – talking about a recent athletic event, an impressive piece of artwork or creative performance, or simply asking what they did that weekend and listening to and caring about their answer builds a personal bridge through which great learning can happen.

Overall, I expect my students to leave my class having mastered the material and prepared themselves for future mathematics courses, but I also expect them to leave my class having learned how to be better, more confident learners in all areas.

Dan Raffety

Director of College Counseling, Upper School Social Studies
Master of Arts, St. John's College
Bachelor of Arts, Connecticut College

When I first meet with students at the beginning of the school year, I make it a priority to understand them as individuals. The more I know about their strengths & weaknesses and more importantly their interests, the better I am able to relate historical material to them and help them hone the skills involved in social studies.
- Dan Raffety

As a history teacher, my major goals are to improve students’ knowledge of the world (both ancient and modern) and to help them see how the experiences of others relate to their own lives. I also want them to understand how the world affects them and how they affect it. Given that I was educated at institutions that were liberal arts intensive and emphasized Socratic and discussion based techniques of pedagogy, my teaching methods are rooted in these areas. However, after 8 years as a teacher, I have employed many different strategies to engage students with a variety of learning styles. From project based learning, the utilization of primary sources, and Power Point lectures that better engage visual learners, I have developed an array of techniques to reach students of different abilities and strengths. When I first meet with students at the beginning of the school year, I make it a priority to understand them as individuals. The more I know about their strengths & weaknesses and more importantly their interests, the better I am able to relate historical material to them and help them hone the skills involved in social studies.

One part of my class that I believe to be extremely important is the research paper. Las year students selected current events topics of their choice and explored them through research that culminated in an argument based paper. Topics ranged from Palestinian Archeology to body image issues to gun violence in schools. The assignment provided students with an opportunity to engage with topics that interest them and to develop thesis statements regarding these subjects. I believe that it is crucial for students to develop well informed opinions regarding the world around them and to dig deep into topics that are prevalent in history and current events to inform their understanding of the world.