Karina Chronicles

Celebrating National College Decision Day

Alicia writes Jaybird; she’s an AmeriCorps volunteer who loves to eat but can’t afford to try every new restaurant and type of cuisine. Instead of spending all her hard-earned cash paying other people to cook for her, she spends it as frugally as possible making delicious meals at home. Be friends on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

May 1, National College Decision Day, is a deadline that looms in the minds of college- bound high school seniors. Many spend the spring semester hoping for acceptance – and maybe even a scholarship – to their dream school. Once colleges and universities mail regular decision and financial aid letters in late March, students have a month to deliberate (and hopefully celebrate!) before making the big decision.

I’ve seen the college admissions process from all sides: as a nervous senior hoping for that thumbs-up letter, as an Admissions Fellow interviewing prospective students, and now as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Schuler Scholar Program (SSP). Our program works with highly motivated high school students in the Chicagoland area to help them get to and succeed at the nation’s most selective colleges and universities. These bright, talented students are typically first-generation college bound, from low-income families, and from populations that are underrepresented on college campuses.

Gaining acceptance to an elite college isn’t easy. Scholars take AP courses and ACT prep classes, write and edit essays for up to a dozen schools, excel in school, and somehow find time to sleep! To encourage their tireless efforts, our program hosts two college celebrations: the November 1 Hit Submit party and the May 1 Decision Day party. On November 1, seniors applying Early Decision have the chance to “hit submit” on their applications in a resource room full of the friends, school and program staff, and family who supported them throughout their high school experience.

On May 1, the big Decision Day, we gather to celebrate the completion of a successful college application process. Seniors share their news and excitement about their college choice. To add something extra festive to our Decision Day party, one of my coworkers and I baked college-themed cupcakes for each senior. Though I usually prefer to bake from scratch, these cupcakes come from our students’ favorite mix: Funfetti! We decorated each cupcake individually using the college’s colors, and we printed a double-sided topper featuring the school’s mascot or crest.

Here’s what we assembled to make these treats for our college-bound Scholars:

– 24 Funfetti cupcakes

– 3 16 oz. jars white frosting (we had some leftover)

– Wilton gel icing dye in red, yellow, blue, and green

– small tubes of decorating icing in blue, black, purple, and white

– pastry bags and decorating tips

– white cardstock

– a Martha Stewart Crafts scalloped circle craft punch

– 24 toothpicks

– gluestick

While the cupcakes cooled, we mixed the white frosting and gel icing dye in separate bowls to get orange, yellow, red, green, and blue for our base colors. We fitted pastry bags with decorating tips, filled them with icing, and piped it onto the cupcakes. Then we used the fine-tipped tubes of decorating icing to add accent colors in a swirl pattern.

To make the mascot toppers, we used free software (like Pixlr or Picmonkey) to size a graphic of each college’s mascot to 150 pixels wide. My coworker printed two copies of each on sheets of cardstock and punched them out using the scalloped craft punch. We covered the back of one with glue, placed the toothpick at the center, and sandwiched it with the other copy.

Our scholars were surprised and thrilled to receive cupcakes specially designed for them. A few wanted to save their treats instead of eating them, but eventually the temptation of Funfetti won out. There are many moments of joy in college access work: helping a student polish the essay he will submit to his dream school, hearing a student say she stepped on campus and “it just felt like home”, getting updates from students who can’t get enough of their college classes…and these treats hopefully made college acceptance just a little bit sweeter.

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