Personal Ads…And Not For Dating (Look Great for a College)

By Tiffany DeJaynes, January 31, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

7-10 days depending on extension activities


The college application process is often an elusive and difficult one.  To fully understand the process, students must know how research colleges and universities of interest and also examine their "fit"--socially and academically--to schools of interest.   This lesson engages students because it in both informational and artistic.  It enables students to be both playful and also purposeful in researching colleges and creating a "marketing package" for a peer, advertising that peer to a college.  Students will explore the design worlds of marketing, have a chance to consider a real audience and purpose, and learn skills that will help them when they actually apply to college in 12th grade.  This lesson is designed for second semester 11th grade students and relies heavily on peer mentoring.  I have designed this lesson as an activity I "wish" my 12th grade students had undertaken last year.  It involves research and goal setting.

National Standards

Language Arts

1.  Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

4.  Gathers and uses information for research purposes

5.  Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

7.  Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

9.  Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

10.  Understands the characteristics and components of the media

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


  • Students will be able to research college websites (locate and evaluate relevant information)
  • Students will be able to describe the admissions process and key advantages or disadvantages of at least two colleges researched
  • Students will be able to evaluate prospective colleges based on their offerings and admissions criteria
  • Students will reflect on their own interests and goals
  • Students will be able to articulate how words and images relate to one another, particularly in the marketing processVersion:1.0 StartHTML:0000000203 EndHTML:0000002995 StartFragment:0000002385 EndFragment:0000002959 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/tiffany/Desktop/CON/Personal%20Ads_And%20Not%20for%20Dating.doc

        * computers--class set for a few days

        * digital cameras & one digital video camera if available

        * various college and university websites and

        * variety of visual art supplies

  • Students will be able to demonstrate how words, images, and sound fit together in a marketing piece



    * computers--class set for a few days

    * digital cameras & one digital video camera if available

    * various college and university websites and

    * variety of visual art supplies



College marketing materials (online)


Day One:  Intro. to Marketing & Colleges:  

Aim:  To define how colleges market themselves online

Lesson Procedures:

  1. Group brainstorm how celebrities market themselves. Create a class list complete with examples.
  2. Break students into small groups for a few minutes to extract 3-4 essential marketing principles for people, products, and services. (The teacher may or may not provide an example of each category to springboard the conversation.)
  3. Connecting to College. How do colleges market themselves? Use student-generated criteria to examine as a class how one well-known college represents itself online.
  4. Exit question:  Write your own definition of marketing.

Day Two:  So What’s this College’s Product?

Aim:  To examine how colleges market themselves to students

            To learn to read and critically examine college websites

Lesson Procedures:

  1. Put students in pairs to investigate various college websites—public and private, large and small to examine what kind of data students present to the college to “sell” their application.
  2. Students will complete a questionnaire in pairs, examining what various colleges have to offer.

Exit question:  What one thing surprised me about how colleges market themselves?

Day Three:  Extending the Marketing Metaphor to Students

Aim:  To examine how prospective students market themselves to colleges

Lesson Procedures:

  1. Seniors Speak.  Gather 2-3 12th grade students at our school to share their personal statements and their college application choices and why those choices were made. Seniors will be prepared to talk about how they looked at what made colleges a good fit or not.
  2. Q & A about students’ choices

Exit question:  What questions do I still have about the admissions process?

Day Four:  Who Am I as a Candidate?

Aim:  To have students assess where they are in terms of college interests and preparedness

Lesson Procedures:

  1. Have a brief teacher-led conversation about the 12th grade college candidates. What made each student shine in his/her unique way? Then, set up interview protocol. What do good interviewers do? (They push, they ask tough questions, they get to the truth!)
  2. Pair up students according to interest/values
  3. Hand out interview protocol for students to ask each other questions about prospective schools. Questions might include college locations considered, size of college, intended major, current GPA, other college prep measures, and other concerns. Students will need to be creative in expanding upon the general interview question.
  4. Divide the remainder of the period so that students split their time being the interviewer and interviewee.

Exit Question:  What one thing stands out about who I am as a good college candidate?  What makes me unique?

Day Five:  Day Dreaming

Aim:  To get students day dreaming about who they could be on paper in a year :p>

Lesson Procedures:

  1. Writing Pop Quiz. I do this in my class every month or so. As soon as students enter, hand them a piece of paper with the prompt with instructions to write whatever comes to mind for a total of 20 minutes. They’re shooting for a good 3-4 paragraphs. The prompt this time: What would I like to show to a college in a year? Who do I want them to see when they read my application?
  2. Pair/Share. Have students pair up according to college and career interest and pair/share their writing.
  3. Extension:  If there’s time, students can briefly interview one another.  The reader of each will interview the writers to start pushing for more details and more information.  Then students can switch.

Day Six:  Meet the Consultants


Lesson Procedures:

  1. This day is what we’ve been working up to! Start off with a general discussion on what marketing consultants do, how a consultant obtains information from a client.
  2. Pair up students (likely with the pairs they’ve been working in) to consult with one another on how to capitalize on, build upon, and even improve their image. The audience: a prospective college. The medium: a multimedia personal ad. Hand out the assignment sheet below and have students get to work creating ideal candidates out of their peers.
  3. Teacher should facilitate by walking around and supporting students in continued day-dreaming.

Days Seven through Ten:  Work on Multimedia Projects in Class

Students will be expected to do some work on this as homework, however, much of the work will need to be done in class, as there are multimedia components, likely even film and photography.  Consultants will also likely need to continue connecting with their clients for further information as they dig into the process.


See handout below for criteria of final project.  It would be nice to work together with students to build a rubric for assessing this project, especially since it is such a creative, personal one.

Teacher Reflection

How students are teamed up will likely be essential in this plan as student partners can support and encourage one another or not work well together.  This is a good lesson for towards the end of the year when you know you students and their goals well.  Additionally, I work at an arts-based school with a lot of technology access.  As I reread the assignment sheet below, I realize that it requires a high level of technology access and expertise.  My students have been worked with these technologies more than many high school students, so lessons on how to build a website or produce a film or podcast are noticeably absent.  In a school where technology access and skills are more limited, the magazine entry option provided to students.

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