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May 10, 2016
by: Tad Phippen Wente, College Readiness Coordinator

IDEAS Spring College Readiness sprouted a range of opportunity

IDEAS Spring College Readiness sprouted a range of opportunity Header Image

Recent weeks have been so busy I haven’t even had time to write about all that’s been happening in College Readiness at IDEAS Academy. Even as seniors wrap up their college admissions and scholarship materials, our school continues to work with them, and all of our students, to help them prepare and be ready for their futures. Here are some of the highlights.


  • Volunteers from Workbound talked with combined groups of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen about how to budget their money. This activity was prompted by the number of seniors who struggle to have enough funds to pay for college application fees or save for college, though many have jobs. Workbound presenters provided budgeting worksheets for students to use on their own and listened to student stories of financial success and challenge. Though some students said the information was not new to them, they appreciated the reminders and additional suggestions as they seek summer jobs and think about life after high school.


  • FAFSA gives all types of colleges information that will help students finance their educations. UW-Colleges representative Kashia Yang came to IDEAS March 23 to help seniors with their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This form requires IRS tax information from both student and parents. Although the application may seem daunting at times, the results bring scholarships, grants, work study, and low-cost loans to students as they pursue post-secondary education. The FAFSA should be updated and resubmitted each year of college. We appreciated Ms. Yang’s assistance!


  • Juniors toured two of three Madison colleges on April 27. The morning included a walking tour of UW-Madison followed by three special tours: one group visited the Site-Based Engineering Lab and toured the Engineering building; another group learned what goes on at the Research Animal Resource Center; and a third group visited galleries and textiles in the School of Human Ecology. Juniors were able to preselect the special tour and the afternoon college visit. Lunch was on-their-own on State Street to give them the responsibility of experiencing what living in Madison might be like. After lunch, everyone met outside the Chazen Art Museum for the bus ride to either Edgewood College or Madison Media Institute. First thing on the agenda for them as seniors in September will be filling out applications for colleges or programs of their choice, followed by a steady watch for scholarships that will help their plans come true.


  • By senior year, IDEAS students will have visited at least five different types of colleges:

    • A large 4-year state university: UWM

    • A large private, specialized college: MSOE

    • An arts school: MIAD

    • A large 4-year state research college: UW-Madison

    • A small private college or a communications media technical school: Edgewood College or Madison Media Institute

The Mosaic School 8th graders visit a local 2-year campus (UW-Sheboygan), and this year a trip to a local technical school (LTC) was added for 7th graders. Other campus visits for IDEAS students, though not tours, included Lakeland College for the Wisconsin Education Fair and other events, UW-Whitewater for the Creative Writing Festival, and UWM’s Dance Program.


Our goal is to expose students to various learning environments so they can determine what will work best for them. This is why our college fieldtrips are required: the more information and experience students have, the more informed their decisions can be. When a student tells me, “But I don’t plan to go to that college,” I respond with, “Well, at least find out for sure. Gather your evidence!” Some colleagues tell them, “Later on, your 18-year-old self might think differently than your 15-year-old-self does now.” It’s not about the specific college, but about types of colleges: Large or small? Technical or academic? Public or private? Arts or industry? Making the most informed choice possible can help save time and money in the future and create a powerful, positive educational experience.


  • The Scholarship Committee, Ryan Bemis, Addie Degenhardt, and Molly King, set aside most Tuesday and Friday Advisory times since winter break to meet with all seniors in small groups. The goal? Help find appropriate scholarships for every senior and assist with applications. We are pleased with the amount of scholarship money our graduates will receive this year. Seniors who chose not to attend their scholarship workshop meeting may want to reconsider. Opportunities are still available to you. Scholarships will be announced at Baccalaureate on June 2 at the JMKAC Theater.


  • Placement Testing in several subjects provides information to colleges so students can start courses at the appropriate level. Ryan Bemis, IDEAS/Mosaic Spanish teacher, has met with all seniors in small groups on Tuesdays over the past few weeks to inform them about the purpose and process of placement testing for both the UW System and private schools. The basic idea works like this: You’ve taken high school Spanish. Take the placement test for your college. The test shows you are ready for Spanish 3, so that’s the college course you take. If you get a B or better in the class, you also earn credits for Spanish 1 and Spanish 2. This means you earned 6-8 credits for free! It also saves time. You didn’t have to attend and study for those two classes, so you could take other classes instead and get ahead on credits.Placement tests can be taken for several subjects, including math and English.


  • Alumna Aliza Chavez, IDEASclass of 2014,spoke with a group of students interested in college, art, and environmental studies on April 28. She is a first-generation college student and currently a sophomore at Northland College majoring in art and biology. Amid students’ questions, she discussed the transition from IDEAS to freshman year at college, tips on making connections with professors and being successful, her studies, and her job at the Re-Use Room on campus. She emphasized the importance of exploring many career options rather than focusing narrowly on just one. Students came away with a closer look at Northland and at what to expect in life at college. We appreciate Aliza’s taking her time at home to visit with us.


  • Challenges in College Readiness this year are easily remedied.

    • Collecting Permission Slips on time for college tours.

      • Watch for these at Registration in August. We’ll collect parent signatures then.

    • Assuring seniors have information and support they need to complete college, program, and scholarship applications.

      • Watch for a senior-parent meeting early in fall so families and school can be on the same page.


  • Also, before next year rolls around, IDEAS students are encouraged to apply for summer pre-college programs and camps. Advisories are currently looking at these options. Some programs are free, and some scholarships may be available.

  • IDEAS UW Madison Visit 2016 Slider Image
  • IDEAS MMI Visit 2016 Slider Image
  • IDEAS Workbound Interviews 2016 Slider Image

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