Ross School - Senior Projects 2011
Mentor: Kerry Sharkey-Miller
Domain(s): Technology, Media
Title: From Me To U
From Me To U (university) is the first college admissions advice website for students by students. Incorporating videos and text documents that cover the entire admissions process, the website gives the full spectrum to soon to be college students. Since I was relating my triumphs and struggles in the site, users can fully grasp what I said and eventually learn from my experiences. I was applying to colleges at the exact time I made the website so the information I put on the site could not be any more up to date. This site was made as an ongoing project. I will continue on with the site far beyond the project deadline.
Each step has 4-8 sub steps for each page
The four videos
Navigation; a big part of my final product and initial goal.
The Òabout meÓ page. It makes the site much more personal.
Here is a snippet of my video on interviews. Notice the B-roll (extra footage within the video) and second camera angle/distance to make the video look more professional. All videos were shot in this same type of style.
My process was crazy and hectic. I went through so many brainstorming sessions and changes that I didnÕt start my project until mid September. Originally, my project had nothing to do with a website at all. My first idea was to have an all day sports event that would raise money to send to some undecided charity. That slowly fell apart and I drifted toward a more direct charity event; one that revolved around Tennis. 11th grade came to an end and my original mentor, Michelle Del Giorno and I didnÕt really think the project was that substantial. I wasnÕt connected with my project at all. That fell apart as well.
In the middle of the summer, my family and I sat down and eventually came to the realization that I could create a documentary on the admissions process. I could focus on classmates and their world. Five students sounded like too many so I shortened it down to three. But since I didnÕt really have much experience in filmmaking, that plan fell through as well. And then, I had that aha moment. I had previously taken a web design course with urban in 10th grade an I really felt comfortable with making a college admissions website. And so my true project began.
Once I began envisioning my product, I set out to accomplish certain goals. I wanted to look at my project as an opportunity to enhance my business skills. While I would instruct students on their college process, I wanted the site to look like an actual company. That was my first goal. Then the drop down menus, the videos, the layout, buttons and all other technical additions that go into site. These additions make the site look trustworthy and reliable. My site needed to be completely user friendly. The links would be easy to find and no one would leave the site because they could figure their way around. I wanted to incorporate my favorite colors; blue and green. I felt like those would make the site look really good. And last but not least, the site would be insightful. No point in making a site that is just a joke. It had to be meaningful to users.
The biggest obstacle of my project troubled me right from the get go. I began to use dreamweaver to code my website. Although I thought I knew what to do, I had forgotten everything I had learned in 10th grade. I was constantly watching youtube videos and looking at online sources just to become comfortable with coding. Unfortunately, I could never get over that hurdle. I was stubborn in the fact that I didnÕt want to give up with coding and angry that things just werenÕt working out. Before I knew it, 1 month and a half was gone because I just couldnÕt code anymore.
My first attempt at coding was pretty lame to say the least. I only started out by creating navigation bars and inserting pictures. My second attempt with dreamweaver was a little better. I could place pictures and text where I wanted them and my site was becoming much clearer. However, it looked nothing like a trustworthy site, so things had to change.
Then one day, Charlie Lehner informed me about iWeb which I had never heard of before. I did some research tried it out, and soon became really familiar with it. I donÕt know what I would have done without iWeb.
So I began constructing my site on iweb. Although the features donÕt allow you to do everything you can with dreamweaver, it was my only backup plan and it would have to do. And so I got rolling.
In my first iWeb creation, I could already see huge process because iWeb is so user friendly. Just like my second attempt on dreamweaver, things were getting very concise but this time it only took a week to make. The site already took shape.
My next attempt with iWeb was that I used a template on iWeb called elegant to format my site. Although it gave the site a traditional design, I really liked how things were looking. However, I needed to keep in mind the whole time who my users were going to be. 14-18 year olds. They wouldnÕt really be attracted to this site. My mentor kept telling me that this type of site wouldnÕt work out. I was reluctant to change because I thought the design was very appealing. But, yet again, a change was needed. My mantra became the simpler the better. SoÉ
So I made a bluish white color scheme and a very simple, yet powerful layout. On the front of the website was an introductory video that introduced the site. The navigation became a little more stylistic. Not only did the site look better, but the site became more personal, which was my original intention. I made an about me page so users could really see the student behind the site. The about me page explains everything about the site, about my college process and the colleges I applied to.
While making the site, I had to figure out what information would go on the site.
So besides the about me, I set out to write a ten step process on the admissions process, four videos that outline the some of the steps in the process and an outside sources and links for users to navigate around the web.
First things first, I needed to write my scripts for the 10 step process.
IÕd say this was the fastest and easiest part of my project. Writing comes pretty easily to me so I was comfortable with the scripts. I did so much research for my scripts. Every page on my site has at least three different sources. After research, I would write scripts in a very short time. However, as every student who had some written part of their senior project would say, editing is a huge pain. I was editing my scripts for days at a time. I just couldnÕt stop changing or tweaking sentences here and there.
After writing scripts, it was time to make my videos. I received my first high tech camera I was basically learning on the job. Although Kenny Kilfara gave me a great boost, it was really tough to handle all of the equipment from the get go. But I got better every shoot and eventually was making good progress. Factors in shooting were lighting, sound, and how I needed present myself. My biggest fault in shooting was my lighting. After shooting all four of my videos, I had to shoot b-roll. B-roll is extra footage like photos or videos within the main video that enhance the overall viewing experience. My mentor and I agreed on making stop motion animation skits to make the videos stand out. After editing each video four about 3 hours, I finally uploaded them to vimeo. The entire process of making all videos probably spanned over a week.
As the deadline was approaching, I was cramming in as much work as I could. I was pulling all nighters to get the final product to the standards that I wanted. Things were really getting hectic for me. But I finally finished and was all ready for first round. UNTILÉÉ.
My deadline was here. After my mentor and graders took initial looks at the website, they gave it bad reviews. I didnÕt live up to my rubric. I was just shocked by the fact that I wasnÕt going to be ready for first round. I met with my mentor several times to talk about the site. The problems about the site were the poor edits in the videos, the information on my steps werenÕt as good as they could be, and the overall site wasnÕt up to par.
Although the deadline had passed, I kept pushing to see if I could get by in the first round. A whole week went by and I made the decision that I would go second round. It was just like everything was imploding in on me. And on the same day, I got a deferral from a college. What happens from here? What do I have to look forward to?
First step was to examine where I had dropped the ball. I needed to improve my project in the places that lacked that luster. One of the biggest faults during the process was not keeping in touch with my outside consultant. I planned on meeting with my aunt who is a college advice counselor herself. But it was crunch time for her and her students that I really didnÕt think I could bother her for my project. I needed to meet with Mrs. OÕhearn as well but never really scheduled a meeting because somewhere in my head I told myself I had all the information I needed. I needed to fix the edit problems in the videos as I said earlier. And just to say it clearly, I wasnÕt prepared. I needed to be 100% sure in my project and make sure it was complete.
So after receiving great information from Mrs. OÕhearn, I corrected my scripts, videos and web pages. However, I had to reshoot all of my videos. I only had a weekend to do this because I had wasted that first week after the deadline. I did get the videos done but I couldnÕt use the stop motion animations anymore due to making different style videos the second time around and had to shoot tons more b-roll. I reshot about 23 more small skits with no special effects due to pressed time. This time around I made sure everything was 100% ready and a few days after I handed in my project I eventually got approval for second round.
I then made a powerpoint the weak before my presentation and was advised by my mentor to write a script to follow along as I presented. I wrote the script but after reading and rehearsing several times, I realized I had remembered what I needed to say. Going into the presentation I was very nervous, but once I got going, words and ideas were just flowing out of my mouth. I was having a great time on stage even though hardly anyone was there. There were technical issues getting the powerpoint going, but once I started, the presentation went very smoothly.
I had these links on my website so it says where each source was used on the site.
Junior Year Sources:
Hansen, Randall S. "The Importance of the High School Junior Year." Quintessential Careers:
College, Careers, and Jobs Guide. Quintessential Careers. 14 Nov. 2010.
Evans, Tavia, and Kay Peterson. "College Prep for High School Juniors."
College Prep for High School Juniors. Fastweb, 03 June 2008. 14 Nov. 2010.
Grove, Allen. "11th Grade College Preparation - How to Use 11th Grade to Improve Your College
Preparation." College Admissions. About.com. 15 Nov. 2010.
Extracurricular Activities Sources:
College Board. "Benefits of Extracurricular Activities in High School."
College Admissions - SAT. College Board. 10 Nov. 2010.
"Extracurricular Activities for High School Students." Extracurricular Activities.
Math And Reading Help. 16 Nov. 2010.
Phillips, Amanda. "Extracurricular Activities in High School." EHow | EHow.com. 16 Nov. 2010.
"SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Test Preparation Tips and Advice." College Admission Consulting
Services. Admissions Consultants, 2008. 12 Nov. 2010.
Dublin, One. "SAT or ACT? Test Preparation Advice for College Bound Students." One Dublin,
07 Aug. 2010. 20 Nov. 2010.
Gross, Jennifer. "Put to the Test: Preparing for the SAT/ACT."
NACAC, Nov.-Dec. 2000. 1 Dec. 2010.
Finding The Right Colleges Sources:
Hansen, Randall S. "Choosing a College That's Right for You." Quintessential Careers: Advice.
Quintessential Careers. 16 Nov. 2010.
College Board. "Tips for Finding a College Match." College Admissions.
College Board. 16 Nov. 2010.
SuperPages. "Tips for Finding the Right College." Yellow Pages:
Superpages 2009-2010. 17 Nov. 2010.
Campus Tours Sources:
Strauss, Valerie. "Advice from a Student Campus Tour Guide." Blog Directory
(washingtonpost.com). The Washington Post, 24 June 2010. 24 Oct. 2010.
Rennekamp, Rose. "Making the Most of a College Tour." CollegeView. Hobsons. 20 Oct. 2010.
"A College Tour Guide's Advice." Reviews from Epinions. Epinions, 02 Jan. 2002. 24 Oct. 2010.
College Interview Sources:
College View. "College Admission Interviews: Putting You with Your Name."
CollegeView. Hobsons. 29 Oct. 2010.
Svensen, Ann. "Preparing for a College Interview." Family Education. 30 Oct. 2010.
College Board. "Preparing for an Interview." College Admissions. College Board. 1 Nov. 2010.
Tanabe, Gen & Kelly. "Four Steps To Getting Perfect College Recommendations."
Quintessential Careers: Advice. Quintessential Careers. 1 Dec. 2010.
eHow. "How to Secure College Recommendations." College Resources. 23 Nov. 2010.
"College Recommendation Letter Tips and Advice." University Language Services. 15 Nov. 2010.
Miller, Pz. "Resume Advice for College Applications." HubPages. 15 Dec. 2010.
Schwartz, Steve. "College Admission Resume Advice."
Get Into College Blog. 06 Aug. 2010. 19 Nov. 2010.
Lubell, Lynn Radlauer. "Composing Your College Admission Resume."
The College Admission & Student Aid Resource Hub.
InLikeME, 2008-2010. 26 Nov 2010
Choosing Your College Sources:
Kahane, Audrey. "How To Make Your Final College Decision."
Higher Education Consultants Association. HECA. 20 Nov. 2010.
My College Options. "The Big Decision." My College Options, 2010. 3 Dec. 2010.
College Board. "College Decision-Making Guide."
College Admissions. College Board. 5 Dec. 2010.
DryIcons. "DryIcons.com | Free Icons | Blue Velvet Icon Set."
Free Icons and Vector Graphics. 7 Dec. 2010.
College Admissions Counselor
She is my aunt as well.
One of my major faults of my project was not contacting her. Since I would like to have worked with her, I needed to meet with her when she was pressed for time. She was working with other students and myself, helping them get into college. So I did not want to bother her. I emphasized my faults in my powerpoint and really wish I planned things differently.