Overcoming Obstacles

Lesson 1: Completing Applications


  • Students will recognize the importance of following directions on job or school applications.

  • Students will identify questions they may come across on job or school applications.

  • Students will complete a model application.


  • Two watches with second hands (Starter)

  • One copy of the “Directions” activity sheet for each student (Part I)

  • One copy of the “Sample Job Application” activity sheet for each student (Part II)

  • One copy of the “Sample Undergraduate Application for Admission” activity sheet for each student (Part II)

Starter (3 minutes)

Ask for two student volunteers. Explain to the class that they are going to have a shoe-tying race. Ask both volunteers to untie their shoes.

When the volunteers are ready, hand each of them a watch with a second hand. As you hand them the watches, make a mental note of the time on each watch. Tell the competitors to look at the watches and to time how long it takes them to tie their shoes. When they are ready, say go.

As the volunteers claim to have won, take the watches back from them. As they hand the watches back to you, record the time from each watch. Ask the volunteers how long it took them to tie their shoes. Then, ask them to identify the time they started and the time they finished.

Point out to students that the volunteers had to follow directions and pay attention to details. Remind students that you told the competitors to look at the watches and to time how long it took to tie the shoes. Explain to students that today’s lesson will help them learn to follow directions and pay attention to details when completing applications for jobs or college.

Part I: Directions (10 minutes)

Purpose: Students recognize the importance of following directions on a job or school application.

1. Students learn the importance of reading directions before filling out a job application.

Hand out copies of the “Directions” activity sheet.

Explain to students that you are going to test their ability to follow directions. Allow them three minutes to complete the activity sheet.

When the three minutes are up, ask how many students followed all of the directions on the activity sheet.

Tell them to look at item number 10. Ask a volunteer to read that direction—they are to ignore directions three through nine. Explain that the only way to have known about skipping those numbers is to have read all of the directions before beginning.

Explain that when filling out applications for jobs or for college, it is important to follow directions. The best way to do that is to read the directions very carefully. Tell them that if they don’t understand a direction, they should ask for clarification. It is better to ask a question than to put something wrong on an application.

Part II: Questions (15 minutes)

Purpose: Students identify questions they may come across on applications.

1. Students identify situations in which they may need to complete applications.

Have students recall some of the times when they have had to fill out forms and applications in the past. Ask, “When might you need to fill out applications in the future?”

Explain that job applications, school applications, credit card applications, bank account applications, and information forms at the doctor or pharmacy are all examples of applications they will need to complete.

2. Students examine the information that a company or school may want to know about an applicant.

Ask students to imagine that they are the owners of a small convenience store and are looking to hire a part-time clerk. Ask them to think about what they would ask a person who has come to them about the job. Write student responses on the board.

Explain to students that one major purpose of an application is to give some basic information to a potential employer or school administrator. This saves time when selecting qualified applicants. It is also important to complete applications accurately and neatly, as they are the first impression employers have of an applicant.

3. Students recognize that applications may have questions that ask for information they don’t have.

Distribute copies of the “Sample Job Application” activity sheet.

Ask students if they see a question on the application that they can’t answer. (Students may be unable to provide their Social Security number or the address of a previous employer.)

Distribute copies of the “Sample Undergraduate Application for Admission” activity sheet.

Ask students to identify any differences between the questions on the job application and the school application. (In reply, students may point out ethnic background, emergency contact information, etc.)

Explain to students that they must complete all sections of an application to be considered a serious candidate for a job or school. Remind them that unless a question clearly does not apply to them, they should make sure to answer everything.

Explain that in the next activity, students will learn how to deal with questions that they may not have answers to.

Part III: Apply! (20 minutes)

Purpose: Students apply what they have learned by completing an application.

1. Students begin to fill out an application.

Tell students to select one of the sample applications to work on. Instruct students to fill out as much of the application as they can and to circle any questions they can’t answer. For the Social Security number lines, tell students to try to recall their number but not to write it down. They should circle that question if they can’t recall their number.

Allow students several minutes to complete the applications.

2. Students learn how to get the information necessary to complete an application.

When students have finished, ask them to share some of the questions that they could not answer. Write those questions on the board.

Ask students to identify ways to get the answers to those questions. List the solutions beside the questions. Explain that they can have a parent or family member supply Social Security numbers. The school principal or a guidance counselor can help with school records. Medical information can come from a doctor or from school records.

Explain to them that they should keep this information on a card or sheet of paper to take with them when they apply for a job. This will make completing applications easier.

Conclusion (2 minutes)

Ask students why it is important to fill out an application correctly. Ask them why this is a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives. Elicit from students the following key points that were taught in this lesson:

  • It is important to follow directions on applications carefully.
  • Be sure the information is accurate and the application looks neat.
  • Be prepared. Have the information you will likely need to provide with you when you complete the application.

Student Assessment

  1. What information should you have with you before filling out an application?
  2. List three things you should be sure to do when filling out an application.
  3. Complete any unanswered questions on your application from class as if you were going to give it to a potential employer (with the exception of your Social Security number).

Extensions for Lesson 1: Completing Applications

Using Quotations


“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at.” —Henry David Thoreau


Ask students, “How does this quote apply to looking for a job? How does it apply to completing an application?”

Addressing Multiple Learning Styles


Have students begin a class list of special instructions found on job applications, with descriptions of what’s expected. You may also want to create a list of common spellings and usage that might be troublesome (e.g., experience, its/it’s, there/their/they’re, etc.).

Have students use this information when completing applications.

Writing in Your Journal


Have students write about the importance of accurately completing job applications. They should answer the following questions: How can an application represent you? How can an application communicate your skills?

Have students share their writing with a partner.

Using Technology


Have students use the internet to find a job they would like to have and list the qualifications identified in the job advertisement.

As a class, have students describe the jobs and qualifications they found. Discuss how students can use an application to describe how their qualifications are suited for their desired position.



Have students make cards with the personal information they need to fill out an application (e.g., job history, etc.).

Have students use the information to complete a job application.

Using Technology


Have students browse the job application guide at https://www.thebalance.com/job-application-guide-2061575.

When they have finished, have students create a brief list of rules about filling out job applications with care.

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