Dean's List Advice

I promised myself that I would post this before kickoff so here it goes.

Never in a million years did I think that I was going to win the Dean’s List Award last year. It turned out to be the experience of a lifetime! Going into Championship, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to win, so as to not be disappointed. After all, I am from a small town and a mediocre team, and I thought that others had more opportunities to make a difference than I did. You can therefore imagine how surprised I was at Championship! With that I have just two things to say:

Mentors: Please, nominate your students for the Dean’s List Award! Being a Finalist is a huge honor and you never know how the award can change someone’s life! The interview is also a great learning opportunity, as for most students, this is their first interview.

Students: If you are nominated by your team, or even just curious and have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me and/or post below! I would love to help. My main advice for the interview is to show a passion towards FIRST (since that is the question I get asked most often).

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If your team has not nominated someone in a few years, how would you suggest getting them to nominate somebody (not necessarily me, anyone on the team)? Do I just ask them to nominate someone, or is it bad to ask your mentors to nominate you/someone else?

Since our team had never nominated someone I did ask my own mentor who had no problem nominating me for it. I don’t see any problem with it unless your team usually does nominate someone.

I would start by asking them why they haven’t been nominating someone. Then explain why you feel nominating someone would be beneficial to the team.

I’ve written the nominations for my team for the past 4 years, and I can tell you that it takes a lot of time and energy to do it well. I put in probably 15-20 hours over the course of 4-6 months per nomination in order to do it justice. The students we nominate deserve the best from us, and I want to give them the best chance of winning.

In a (somewhat) related note, does your team nominate a mentor for WFFA each year? The respect and honor shown in these nominations really does go both ways!

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One of my favorite things we do each year is announce our team’s selections each year at our Stop Build Day celebration.

(Sort of spoiled last year when FIRST emailed them like a week before out of the blue. I got to send an upset email, but still not a big deal.)

Our team lets the student leaders select our WFFA nominee each year. Mentors & seniors select the Dean’s List nominee, who is always a junior. It’s sort of frustrating - obviously the older members deserve the nomination and we have more to talk about than our younger members, but the next year they’re ineligible and you can’t nominate them again. Last year was the first year I really was disappointed our students didn’t get it.

I definitely recommend teams take the time to fill out these (and every!) award because the students and mentors appreciate it regardless, and it gives your students something to work towards.

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The last couple of years, the mentors have done"counseling" sessions with team members late in build season or shortly after stop build day. At these counseling sessions, we help freshmen and sophomores develop their specific goals for the next years of high school, and juniors and seniors to entry goals for college. From these counseling sessions, we have always noinated at least one (and last year two) Dean’s List candidates. We have also prodded the students to nominate a WF candidate each year. As one of our WF nominees, I can tell you that just being nominated by your own team (especially when they have obviously done a bit of research) makes a lot of little sacrifices worthwhile. I expect that the same is true of DL nominees.

Do any teams have the students nominate or elect your Dean’s List candidates?

On my team, we have a group discussion about who we want to nominate (no one nominates themselves), but the mentors have the final say.

Besides the great comments others have posted (particularly Jon), I’d say that if you encounter any resistance to the idea of nominating students for Dean’s List, honestly give me that mentor’s email and I’ll express to them why I feel it’s important. I know when I was nominated way back when it seemed a huge honour, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to write our students’ nominations last year. Really, I like any chance to recognize outstanding students.

  1. Prod gently.
  2. Have a kid that’s such a shoo-in for it that they can’t press on the other awards with a straight face unless they nominate.

One of those two worked last year on 4901. :slight_smile:

So I asked somebody this before (I don’t remember where or who) but I don’t remember getting an answer that really helped, so is it better to have an air of professionalism or relaxed confidence? Like, should I be as well dressed and groomed as possible while trying to use complete and proper grammar or should I dress and act like I typically would at competition, that is, clothes that I feel conformable in, speaking in my typical (not really professional) manner?

I would treat the Dean’s List interview just like a job interview. And that’s hard for most high schoolers, as you don’t have the experience of interviewing for professional jobs!

In interviews, it’s important to dress appropriately (note: everything that follows is from a male perspective. I have no idea how females should dress for most interviews!). “Appropriately” is, of course, defined by the circumstances. If you’re interviewing for a position stocking shelves at a warehouse, you would probably be fine with a collared shirt and nice pants. Interviewing for an engineering position that is mostly a desk job, you would probably want to go with a nice suit. For Dean’s List, I think team attire is entirely appropriate… But make sure it’s on the nicest side. Wear some nice jeans, not ones with rips at the knees and a huge stain from grease. If you can class up your team dress (some teams have both t-shirts and polo’s, or they have a button down that most people leave untucked), then by all means do so! It would also be appropriate to dress up for the interview if you desire - some people find that dressing up for something like this helps give them added confidence, which is definitely good in an interview!

As for answering the questions, do some research on the proper way to answer interview questions. The STAR method works great, and is one I highly recommend. Take a second to think about the answer, formulate a response, then verbalize it completely and professionally. And above all else, let you enthusiasm and excitement for robotics shine through!

I think what you wear is not as important as the confidence and professionalism you radiate. I personally wore a pear of joggers and my team shirt and don’t think it would have gone any differently if I’d worn a suit.

At the same time, in my experience, dressing up nicely definitely shows that you care, and that it’s not just an aside from the regular competition for you, and that you appreciate the award itself.

How you dress probably isn’t going to be the deciding but it could matter. I could definitely see some judges liking one candidate more because they were dressed very professionally. In something like Dean’s List where everyone going for the award is likely to be an all star on their teams, there will likely be very little separating the top candidates. Maybe dressing up nicely won’t show up on paper, but it could affect the bias of how a judge scores on whatever scoring system they go off of. Key word is could. Dressing nicely might have no impact at all but it could.

As for standing out in the interview, I would definitely try to talk about some experiences that other candidates might not have had. I didn’t have to do an interview back in my time but I believe my biggest appeal to the judges was the work and leadership I did in other competitions outside of FIRST. Talk about how you led your team in a new direction or how you maybe restructured your team. Everybody has their own story to tell, big or small. Just make sure that when you go into the interview, it’s your story and not some cookie cutter leader.

I won this year (2018) at the Detroit Championship and although I still can’t believe I won, I think these are the number one things that I did at my two interviews that helped:

  1. I had clear, set goals; I came into the interview knowing exactly what I wanted to come out of FIRST with. One question that they asked at my first interview was what I wanted to do after leaving FIRST and having these goals allowed me to explain where I wanted to go to college, how I wanted to impact the FIRST community, and the current steps I am taking to achieve these goals. I know this is extremely hard as a high-schooler (I can relate:confused: ) but knowing where you want to go really makes you stand out, not only in this context but in general at life.

  2. I emphasized that I engaged in not only the technical aspect and contributions to my team but my contributions to the community and encouraging STEM and FLL. Some awesome people were courteous enough to send me their past years essays and I have to say that I was surprised when I saw the stark differences in style. Most of the essays that I read solely focused on how an individual built/programmed the robot or completely on how they did outreach. The judges want well-rounded individuals so make sure you contribute to not only the technical aspects of your team but also the business side.

  3. Choose one main, unique pushing point. After you walk out of the interview you want the judges to remember at least one really cool thing you did. For me, that was my special project called EKGAR (Every Kid Gets A Robot) where I built open-source robot kits for less than $50 and distributed them both locally and internationally to FLL teams who can’t afford their $500 kit of parts. I tied this project to my cultural and economic background and made sure that this project was the most important part of the interview.

  4. One of the most interesting questions that I have heard and I think everyone should contemplate is “If you could change one thing about FIRST, what would it be?”. For me, that relates to the extensive cost of robot kits which is the reason I couldn’t get involved in FIRST earlier. IF you have a definite answer to this question and are able to show that you are already taking steps to solve the problem you will instantly be elevated in everyone’s eyes.

  5. Reach out to previous nominees. Anyone who has been nominated before is deserving of a lot of respect for their contributions to their team; these people are often some of the nicest, helpful people and would love to help. I am actually the first person to ever be nominated for the award from my team so I reached out to other teams and their candidates. The FIRST community is awesome; there are many people who would love to help. Special shoutout to Tanreet Dhaliwal, 2017’s Dean’s List Award Winner, from FRC Team 1325 - Inverse Paradox - who offered me lots of helpful, personal advice before my interview at MSC. I reached out and she quickly offered to Skype me despite not even being from the same country! Hopefully I can do the same for some of you amazing nominees in future years so you can email me at [email protected].

And to all mentors and teammates:
NOMINATE, NOMINATE, NOMINATE! Had some of the senior members on my team, Team 4384 Benzene Bots from Troy, MI, not suggested that my mentor nominate me, I would never have been able to get here. My team will be sure nominate 2 people in future years.

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