Archive for December 9th, 2011

December 9, 2011

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – using EXAMPLES

by Grace

The use of examples is covered in the next assignment in Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point.  (This is part of my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, explained in my initial post in this series.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement. (Chapter 1, page 6)

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 2, page 18.)

STEP 3. Write four or five sentences about each of the three sentences in Step 2—clearly and directly about the whole of the Step 2 sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 3, page 31.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)

Another definition of detail is “short example”.  An example is something taken from among a number of things like it, and used to stand for them.

  • Examples tend to be concrete and specific.
  • Examples are not analogies, which are fine but get us away from facts.
  • Use these kind of words:  “like, such as, for example, for instance”
  • Use lots of examples to bring a matter vividly before the mind’s eye of a reader.

Write a theme in which you use examples liberally.  Mare sure each paragraph has at least one sentence that beings with “For example” and then is followed by a sentence that is a long example.

For this assignment I re-used my “Autumn” essay, but added “for example”  in several places according to assignment instructions.

Here is my essay, using the Kerrigan format of starting with the X-1-2-3 sentences.

X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.
1. It is a time of colorful foliage.
2. It is a time of crisp weather.
3. It is a time of fun-filled activities.


X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.

1.  It is a time of colorful foliage. For example, during this time of year maple trees turn bright red and oak trees become golden. Ferns become a rusty copper color. As they fall to the ground, beautifully colored leaves cover paths and roads like a rainbow. Mountainsides and roadways become brilliant works of art.

2.  It is a time of crisp weather. It usually starts in late September when people will comment that there’s a touch of fall in the air. They bring out their sweaters to protect against the slight chill of early fall. As the season moves on, the first hints of frost appear on some early mornings. Even on days with full sun, the atmosphere feels different from typical summer days. For example, going to the beach on a sunny fall day is a sharp contrast to spending a long July day there when the sun is high in the sky.

3.  It is a time of fun-filled activities. Many families spend weekends picking apples and pumpkins. The next few days may find them baking pies and carving jack-o-lanterns. Preparations for Halloween are as much fun as the actual trick-or-treating. For example, people enjoy designing and creating costumes while anticipation builds for the big Halloween night when children roam the neighborhoods trying to fill their bags with candy.


Besides the basic lesson on the importance of examples, this assignment also reminded me that the Kerrigan method teaches writing by systematically moving through a hierarchy of skills.  In this case, instructions to use specific words (“like, such as, for example, for instance”) serve to nudge the developing writer into adding examples.  Later on, as the student’s writing becomes more sophisticated, it becomes unnecessary to use these specific words every time.

Since my original essay already included many examples, following instructions and adding at least one “for example” phrase to each paragraph did not appreciably enhance the final product.  In fact, I think this step made the essay a little clunky.   But it was a valuable exercise to show a technique for explicitly teaching a developing writer to use examples.  (In hindsight, I realized I should have started from scratch and not re-used my old essay, but I was trying to save myself a little time.)

Previous posts in this series:

December 9, 2011

‘Tips for Using Net Price Calculators’

by Grace

Here are some practical tips for using Net Price Calculators, a tool that is a useful first step in comparing affordability among the various options during the college search process.

Finding them on the college website (they won’t always be in the same place)

  • Some calculators are easier to find than others. A few are posted on the college’s homepage, but most are in the Financial Aid section, which is sometimes under Admissions. Otherwise, try looking in Consumer Information or Disclosures, or search for the calculator within the site or by using an outside search engine like Google.
  • It’s not always called a “net price calculator,” so also keep an eye out for the keywords “cost,” “estimator,” and “financial aid.”…
  • Eventually, the Department of Education is planning to post all net price calculator URLs on its College Navigator tool ( We will update these tips when we find out more information about when the URLs will be posted.

Answering the questions

  • Be prepared to encounter all kinds of calculators, from the simple (as few as 10 questions) to the complex (50 or more). Some calculators ask questions that require you to dig up detailed financial information from your (or your parents’) tax returns, earnings statements, and bank statements. If you don’t have that information handy, answer as best you can or try to skip the question.
  • Colleges cannot require you to provide your contact information. If you aren’t comfortable giving them your name, email address, or other information, you don’t have to.

Interpreting the results

  • The most important number on the page is the “net price” – the full cost of attendance minus grants and scholarships. Make sure you focus on that dollar figure when interpreting calculator results and comparing colleges. Some colleges also subtract their expectations of how much you’ll earn and borrow to get a smaller cost figure, but it won’t be called “net price. Remember that grants and scholarships don’t need to be repaid, while work expectations must be earned and loans repaid with interest. That’s why work-study and loans are called “self-help.” You don’t want to accidentally compare one school’s net price with another school’s figure that includes loans and work-study.
  • Be wary of estimates that include unrealistic amounts of self-help. We have found calculators that subtract $20,000 or $30,000 worth of expected loans to get to what might be called a “final” or “out of pocket” cost figure of zero. This can make colleges look more affordable than they really are. It may look like you will have no out-of-pocket costs, but the costs are just delayed.
  • The results are only estimates and colleges can calculate them differently, so use them to make ballpark comparisons between colleges. Don’t draw conclusions based on differences of several dollars or even several hundreds of dollars – talk to the schools’ financial aid offices to find out more.
  • The estimates are only for your first year of college and apply to a particular academic year (e.g., 2011-12). If you expect to enter college at a later date, know that the college’s costs and financial aid policies may change.
  • Not all grants and scholarships are available for all years of college. You can contact the college’s financial aid office (or try searching its website) to find out whether you can expect the same amount of grant assistance after your first year.
  • As all net price calculators are required to tell you, the estimates are not final or binding financial aid awards. To get an actual aid offer, you have to apply to the school for admission and fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to qualify for federal financial aid, and you may have to fill other applications for aid from your state or college. Net price calculators can help you decide whether to take those next steps.

Courtesy of the Institute for College Access & Success, which also produced a report titled “Adding It All Up: An Early Look at Net Price Calculators.”

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