Pick One! Project-based Applicant Development

College Inside Track consultant Greta Van Ochten discusses the work of Pick One, College Inside Track’s project-based client development program.   Pick One kicks off this week with a client webinar, for students in 9th through 12 grade.


Tell me about the CIT Pick One program.


College applications are increasingly asking questions related to student experience during COVID-19.   How has COVID-19 affected your transcript? Your family?  What has been your experience during the past year; how has the past year changed you?  And then beyond the COVID-19 essays, students certainly have so many structured opportunities to engage admissions through discussion of personal development.


This was an opportunity for us to help our clients work through these issues consciously and with purpose. 


What is the concrete work of Pick One?


This program helps students identify an area of interest or opportunity they would like to further explore. We help students develop an action plan to complete this project, and to develop a structured process and timeline. 


It can be something  internally focused, like learning a new language, or externally focused, like starting a clothing drive that serves to help those in need. More often than not, the result of the Pick One program is both internal and external in nature, since students develop a sense of pride, accomplishment and knowledge through helping others. 


Pick One experiences also serve to develop or enhance a student’s skill set. For example, starting a tutoring program fosters entrepreneurship, mentoring, patience, and follow-through.

How will this program benefit students?


In addition to application enhancement, there are a few benefits I’d like to mention.


It will challenge a student to challenge themselves.  Say a student has wanted to learn guitar but never had the time. Why not now? With the onset of Covid, students have more time. What a great opportunity to learn a new skill!


This activity can be added to a college application and the admissions office reading this application would certainly see a student who made good use of his/her time during Covid to step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves by learning something new…and enjoyable! 

A student could write about this experience as an essay topic on a college application?


On college applications, there are at least three different types of required and supplemental essay prompts on topics that can be powerfully addressed through writing about Pick One experiences. Our students learn exactly how to make specific use of their work in their college applications, however, beyond the scope of the essays.


Depending on the project, it could be used toward volunteer service hours at high schools.


If you are looking for additional volunteer service hours, this program is a great way for you to do so.  We will help you brainstorm ideas for projects that help serve others!


Anything else we should know?


One thing I especially love about Pick One is that it rather obliquely develops important life skills.  So the kids have meaningfully engaged the community or developed a new skill, but as students, benefit in ways they might not have anticipated. And it’s fun to see them realize what’s changed, as they begin to really work on college applications.

If you decide to register and train to be a soccer referee, for example, you learn and develop important decision-making and interpersonal skills. And if you coach or assistant coach a team, you learn to listen, to lead, to mentor and to foster teamwork.  Pick One thing, and see the change!