New Jersey Middle School Uses ‘March Madness’ to Inspire Students to Research, Contact Various Colleges

March Madness is a time for college basketball fans to fill out brackets and try to pick a college that goes all the way.

One middle school in New Jersey asked their students to pick a school in the NCAA Tournament, too — not to win a big sum of money, but to scout a school for a college education.

Several students at the Liberty Middle School in West Orange, NJ participated in a project that allowed them to research colleges that were participating in the March Madness tournament and choose one that fit their interests.

After picking the school that they liked, the students would write a letter to the dean of that college, offering the universities an introduction and a list of interests. Will O'Toole, an eighth grade reading teacher at Liberty and cartoonist for NESN.com, said that the program was created six years ago and has taken place every spring since its conception.

"It opens up the doors to the kids who don't have any inclination to go to college," said O'Toole.

While basketball is an aspect of the project, the hunt for a college eventually takes over as an important theme. O'Toole said that some students end up choosing schools that aren't even in the NCAA Tournament.

Many of the students received responses from the schools that they wrote to, and even though college isn't in the students' immediate future, it's important to plan ahead.

"There's nothing wrong with applying now, why not start going through the procedure," O'Toole said. "We want [the school] to know, 'I'm only in eighth grade but I'm going to stay in contact.'"

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