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Applications in Houston

This guide describes the best practices for university and program applications: transcripts, personal essays, references and more.

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If you have any questions about your university and/or program application(s), reach out to a TEACH for Houston coach or admissions staff for support. We’re here for you.

Overview

Personal Information

In your application, you will be required to enter background information. This section commonly includes fields for your name, address, email, phone number, social security number, academic history (GPA, degrees and certain test scores), pre-teaching experience and more.

We know you’re diligent, responsible and capable. ? But rockstar qualities aside, double-check your application form to make sure that there is no missing information. Failing to fill out certain fields could jeopardize the timing or possibility of your acceptance.

Transcripts

When requested, provide your academic transcript(s) as part of your application to an educator preparation program.

You will need to formally request your official transcripts. Contact the Transcript Office (or equivalent) of the school that has access to the academic record you need to share. Budget at least three to five days for processing. Some schools will send transcripts via mail; others have electronic copies.

In your request, be sure to specify:

  • Your name and/or student ID number.
  • How many copies of your transcript you need.
  • Where the transcript should be delivered (usually a school mailing address or email)
  • Your signature.

Submitting unofficial transcripts or hard-to-read scanned transcripts can send the wrong message to the admissions team about your personal organization and timeliness. Make sure to budget at least three to five business days for processing, and even longer if your alma mater will send the transcript via mail.

Resume

Some programs require a resume that  includes a brief overview of your education, leadership, and professional experiences.  

If you are a high school student, college student or recent college graduate, spend a few minutes listing out all of the work, leadership and extracurricular experiences you’ve had. Then think about which experiences are going to be most relevant to showcasing your achievements and general leadership. 

Below are some tips and tricks to help your resume stand out.

General Organization and Structure

  • Play it safe with fonts and colors. Keep it to black and white and avoid non-standard fonts. 
  • Make sure your transcript can be scanned easily. Use bullets and organize different job titles and experiences in bold, italics and underlines. 
  • Structure a clear visual path for the reviewer. Consider using reverse-chronological order to list the most relevant and recent information first.
  • Keep your resume to one page. Your reviewers, who might look at hundreds of resumes a week, will appreciate your ability to be concise!

Content

  • Use active verbs. Most bullet points on resumes start with the same verbs like “managed”, “led”, and “responsible for”. Get creative (while still being clear!) and describe how you “advanced” a project or “designed” a new system or solution.
  • Share leadership experience. Because all teachers are leaders, programs will want to hear about your experiences leading others. This can be highlighted through volunteer experience, work experience or other extracurricular activities. 
    • Pro tip: When you think about leadership, think about what you and your teammates accomplished rather than your roles and responsibilities. Reviewers are looking for the type of impact you could have in the classroom.
  • When possible, amplify your achievements by including data. This can sound like:
    •  “Doubled the participation in X organization from 20 to 40 students.”
    • “Tutored ten students, 90% of whom raised their reading levels from below grade-level to above grade-level.”

Essay Responses

Your essay response—aka personal essay, statement of purpose, statement of intent, or some combination thereof—is your unique opportunity to tell admissions staff exactly why you are the perfect fit for their educator preparation program.

Before writing your essay, take a breath. Get up, grab your phone, and call a friend or family member. Explain to them why you’re applying to a teacher preparation program.

Better at brainstorming alone? Make a bulleted list of all the reasons you want to be a professional educator. More of an artist? Draw your feelings around the subject. No joke.

The goal here is to hone your thoughts and feelings around teaching. Once you’re clear on “why,” writing an essay becomes a straightforward task that you can spend time perfecting (rather than stressing over). 

Some questions to think about as you’re brainstorming:

  • Why do you want to teach?
  • What do you believe is the purpose of an education? 
  • What do you believe about kids?
  1. Goals

    In your essay, you want to:

    • Consider your audience. Write for your readers. Admissions staffs are unique for each program. Ask yourself: What does this educator preparation program pride itself on? This is your chance to directly connect with their mission statement and prove you know your stuff.
    • Answer the application question clearly and stay on topic throughout. 
    • Support your key ideas with relevant background and experiences.
    • Mention relevant background. Describe why you want to be a teacher, tying in your academic record.
    • Include personal experience. Select one or two examples from your life that underscore how your background and personal experience make you a good fit for this educator preparation program.

    Some applications break essay responses out into individual parts or questions. When this is the case, remember to choose rationale and specific examples that directly relate to the topic at hand.

    Visit your educator preparation program’s website and social media profiles. You can get a good sense for what the program values (and what you might speak to in your essay) by doing a little recon.

  2. Structure

    Your personal essay is an opportunity to be creative—to a point. It’s vital to make an impression through a demonstration of your relevant skills, experience and vision.

    Pay close attention to the word count, grammar and spelling in your personal response. (It’s never been a better time to make friends with an editor.) Your brilliance and organization needs to come out in all aspects of your application—especially here!

    Suggested Outline

    Here’s our recommended outline for your personal essay. Just remember: You’re the expert on you! Take what works; revise what doesn’t.

    • Introduce yourself. (1 paragraph)
      • Hook. Grab the admissions officer’s attention with a strong statement that speaks to your interest in this educator preparation program specifically.
      • Connect. In one or two sentences, give an overview of what your essay response seeks to achieve as a whole. In other words, write a thesis that connects the next two sections up front.
    • Get personal. (2-3 paragraphs)
      • Background. Briefly summarize the parts of your educational background that relate directly to your ambitions of becoming a professional educator. If you know what grade level(s) or subject area(s) you want to teach, this is a good time to make that known. (Hint: If there’s anything on your resume or transcript you’re not proud of, consider addressing it here to use it to your advantage.)
      • Anecdote. Tell your story. What made you want to become a teacher? What inspires you about the profession? How have events in your past—including pre-teaching experience—inspired you to pursue this career?
    • Seal the deal. (1-2 paragraphs)
      • Validate. We could easily call this step “Connect again.” Revisit your thesis and make sure you’ve proved what you set out to. In other words: What about your background and personal anecdote make you a good fit for this particular educator preparation program?
      • Conclude. Reaffirm your passion for teaching, including the grade level(s) and subject area(s) that excite you most, if you know what they are.
  3. Phrases to Avoid

    When writing your essay, stay away from these sayings and clichés:

    • "I want to make a difference.”
      • Doesn’t everyone want to make a difference? Get more nitty-gritty than this catch-phrase. Consider how teachers uniquely provide a vital social service, and what about the profession resonates with your own mission.
    • “While this isn’t my first choice program…”
      • While honesty is usually the best policy, you don’t need to reveal to admissions staff that their program might not be your #1 choice. Instead, focus on the parts of the educator preparation program that are most compelling to you.
    • “I’ve always wanted to work in education.”
      • Prove it! Use your personal anecdote to show that you’re the right person to assume a teaching position.
    • “I love working with children.”
      • While we’re sure that’s true, focus instead on the specific rewards (and challenges) of working with students of a certain age.
         

References

  1. Timing

    Give your recommenders plenty of time to reflect on your accomplishments and to write the letter. Some programs recommend asking at least 30 days in advance.

    Don’t assume that someone will have the time or be willing to recommend you for an educator preparation program. Make your request far enough in advance to allow for any necessary course-corrections.

  2. Materials

    To make it easy on your recommender, provide them with as much of the following as you can:

    • An explanation of what you’re applying for and why you’d like them to recommend you. Consider including your personal essay(s), if you’ve completed that task.
    • The deadline for their letter. (Bake in one week’s wiggle room.)
    • A copy of your official or unofficial transcript.
    • Your resume/CV.
    • Instructions about how to submit your letters of recommendation. Some programs require recommenders to use a web submission form or program-specific email address.

    If your recommender is a past instructor, include the grade(s) you received in their course(s) and any sample work you completed for them. This will remind them of your performance and fit.

  3. Followup

    Make sure to get confirmation from your recommender once your letter is submitted.

    Once you’ve received confirmation of submission, give your recommender a big thank you in the form of an email, phone call or card. Just like you, recommenders have a day job, and providing a reference is a favor to you (that’s how great you must be!). Not only is this polite, but it will encourage your recommender to support you in the future.

    If you are accepted to your educator preparation program, let your recommender know! It takes a village.
     

Other Important Information About Your Application

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