The Program

What We Do

UCAN was designed to guide students through the college application process. By combining digital media with hands on mentoring, we seek to arm high school students with everything they need to know to make informed choices about how and where to attend college.

Students that complete our course will be in a better position to search for and choose colleges thus easing the burden on your school’s counseling department. Additionally students will be able to come to counselors with more focused questions than students who have not completed any preparatory courses.

Program Structure

The course is comprised of eight weekly meets after school on Friday afternoons, lasting approximately 90 minutes. Meets consist of two parts: an instruction period in which a presenter will deliver an overview of the week’s topic using Power Point or Prezi presentation software, and a guided implementation section in which UCAN mentors break off with students to engage in the week’s activity. Click here for an example of how a typical meet is run.


We have developed our eight week curriculum to give students as much information as possible while still managing to make it manageable and digestible. Please visit the Meets Section of the website to view an in-depth recap of every meet. The meets cover topics as follows:

  • Week 1– Introduction to UCAN
    • A basic overview for students so they know what to expect out of the course and what is expected of them
  • Week 2– What is College?
    • Instruction
      • An overview of exactly what college is in terms of how college classes and majors work
      • The safety/match/reach system for creating a college list
    • With mentors
      • Creating a account for dynamic college searches
      • Create a tentative college list based on current performance
  • Week 3– Picking Colleges
    • Instruction
      • The various dimensions that must be considered when selecting a college including demographics, size, academic programs, etc.
    • With mentors
      • Mentors will show students how to uncover this information via and individual college websites
  • Week 4– Financial Aid
    • Instruction
      • A comprehensive overview of the myriad types of financial aid
      • Explanation of the Free Application for Financial Student Aid as well as a briefing on the various barriers to obtaining aid money and how they can be overcome
  • Week 5– Requirements and Deadlines
    • Instruction
      • An overview of A-G requirements, SATs, ACTs and their deadlines
    • With mentors
      • Showing students how to plan to fulfill the requirements, find out when and where to take tests, and set up a calendar
  • Week 6– Personal Statement
    • Instruction
      • An explanation of what comprises a great college admissions essay
    • With mentors
      • Mentors will facilitate brainstorming sessions and exercises to help students get started on a great essay
  • Week 7-Filling Out Applications
    • Instruction
      • Brief overview of what to expect from various different college organizations
      • Explanation of fee waivers and how to apply for them
    • With mentors
  • Week 8– Getting Ready for College Life
    • Instruction
      • A talk about what to expect when you move away
      • Tips on how to save money, take care of yourself, and stay safe
    • With Mentors
      • Mentors will have small “rap sessions” with their mentees to field questions and share their own experiences

Every meet ends with an explanation of what is needed for the next week and students are asked to complete a short electronic evaluation form. The evaluation form is very important to us as student comments and ratings will help us fine tune and improve our method. The data collected will be for evaluation purposes only and are 100% anonymous.

Lessons from our First Implementation

At present UCAN is in the pilot stage of its existence. We are focusing our attention at Soquel High during our initial implementation phase. We were able to implement a four-week condensed curriculum at the end of the 2011-2012 school year and learned a tremendous amount. Here are a few things we learned:

  • Students are eager to learn about college but are confused by the impenetrable body of information out there. Evaluations and personal interactions revealed that they responded very positively to our method of multimedia presentation and one-on-one interaction
  • One hour after school on a Friday is not enough. Evaluations revealed the number-one complaint among students was that they wanted more time with us. We were able to accomplish a great deal at our limited meets, but the students always wanted more. We feel that this speaks to students dedication. If they are given an avenue to college that speaks to them, they will gladly spend even more time at school. (On a Friday no less!)
  • Students overestimate the cost of collegeOne of the themes apparent in student applications was that students believed that the only way to pay for college was through loans and scholarships. While these are certainly ways to pay, nobody seemed aware of state and federal grants. Sadly we were not able to implement our financial aid workshop, but when we return in the 2012-2013 school year, they will definitely benefit from it.

If you feel that UCAN would be a good supplement at your school them by all means please contact our Director of operations, Thomas Gelder, at UCAN.UCSC[at]gmail[dot]com. We would like to hear from you so that we can determine interest in the program. We hope that UCAN will grow in the future and your feedback is important to us.