The NCWIT Aspirations in Computer Science Award is an excellent opportunity for girls in computing. As an aspirations rather than achievement award, applicants are considered in light of their opportunities. Whether or not the students win, they are entered into a community of applicants that can continue to help them throughout their education.
Seth Reichelson has had many students win the Aspirations Award. His advice:
- Review the applications; iterate back and forth with the students multiple times.
- Girls often rate themselves unrealistically low on the bubble sheet section. Teach to those topics, and don't let them say “but I only know this one robot, not all robots.”
- The essay boxes are physically small but have a 500-word-limit. Make sure you have more than 400 words.
- Write in a word processor for spelling- and grammar-checking and word counts
- then paste into text box
- and reformat and proof-read in the text-box.
- Read their essays, ask them to fill in details. How have they done it before? Why do you care? Iterate.
- Have them read your teacher essay and suggest things you forgot. Iterate.
- Do NOT mention end-user tools like Word or Excel (except to say how unsatisfying using them is…)
- If you had opportunities in computing, you should have done them or have good reason why not. If there were no opportunities, what have they done with what they have had? What would they like to do when opportunities arise? Be specific.
- If there is something preventing a student doing more (i.e., child care, employment, etc), mention those responsibilities.