The Benefits of the Reflections Program for Your College Journey

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female teacher giving instructions to four students in a library.

The Benefits of the Reflections Program for Your College Journey

Are you getting ready for college, filled with dreams and creativity? There’s something exciting you should know about – the Reflections Program. It’s a path to personal growth, making connections, and finding new opportunities. In this blog, we’ll show you how the Reflections Program can transform your college journey. Get ready to explore the artistic adventure that’s waiting for you!

What is the Reflections Program?

The Reflections Program, initiated by the National PTA, is a platform that celebrates and recognizes the artistic talents of students. Launched in 1969 by Mary Lou Anderson, a member of the National PTA board, the program focuses on various artistic domains including dance, filmmaking, writing, music, photography, and visual arts.

This program operates at multiple levels, starting from local PTAs and extending to national recognition. It has gained widespread acclaim, involving over 10 million students and fostering a vibrant enthusiasm for the arts among children, educators, and communities. The primary objective is to enhance engagement and appreciation for arts in education.

Students get involved through their local PTA units, adhering to their state PTA’s criteria. Typically beginning early in the academic year, the program allows students to submit their artistic works at their schools, where they are first acknowledged and evaluated. Outstanding entries from local levels may advance to national recognition.

a professor in front of his class

Why should you join the Reflections Program?

Joining the Reflections Program can be highly beneficial for students. It provides a unique platform for them to:

Contemplate and Share Their Own Stories

Students get to think about their life experiences and viewpoints, which they can then express through various forms of art. This reflection process is not only therapeutic but also helps in understanding themselves better.

Learn and Value Art

The program is an excellent gateway for students to explore different art forms. Whether it’s music, dance, writing, or visual arts, they gain a broader perspective on what art entails and learn to appreciate its role and significance in our world.

Boost Confidence

Creating and showcasing their artwork helps students build self-esteem. Receiving feedback and recognition for their efforts reinforces their belief in their abilities and encourages them to take on new challenges.

Foster a Love for Learning

The program goes beyond just creating art; it’s about engaging with ideas and learning new skills. This instills a love for learning that is vital for academic success and personal development.

Participation in the Reflections Program is an enriching experience that allows students to express themselves creatively and develop skills that are essential for their overall growth.

The Philosophy of the Reflections Program

The philosophy of the Reflections Program is centered around a comprehensive, student-focused, and community-oriented approach.

At its core, the program adopts a holistic perspective. This means it looks beyond just academic achievements. The focus is equally on nurturing personal development, and mental well-being, and fostering social connections.

The idea is to shape students into well-rounded individuals who are not only academically proficient but also emotionally and socially equipped to handle the various challenges of college life.

Another key aspect of the program’s philosophy is its student-centered approach to learning. Recognizing that each student is unique, the program offers flexibility and personalization in its support and resources.

This empowers students to take an active role in their own educational journey, tailoring their learning experiences to fit their individual needs, aspirations, and learning styles.

Finally, the Reflections Program places a strong emphasis on community building. The program strives to create a sense of belonging and connectedness within the college community. By facilitating opportunities for students to engage with each other, as well as with faculty and staff, the program aims to cultivate a supportive and inclusive atmosphere.

This environment not only enhances the overall college experience but also contributes to the personal and academic success of the students.

The Reflections Program’s philosophy is about nurturing every aspect of a student’s growth, personalizing their learning experience, and fostering a strong, supportive community, all of which are essential for a fulfilling and successful college experience.

Chinese students studying in a library.

How do you get into the Reflections Program?

To participate in the Reflections Program, there are several steps you can follow:

First, you’ll need to identify if your school is associated with a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) unit. If you’re unsure about this, you can ask your school’s administration or use the ‘Find My PTA’ lookup tool available online. This initial step is crucial as the program is linked to the PTA.

Next, get in touch with your State PTA. This is important because they provide the necessary forms, guidelines, and deadlines specific to your state for hosting a Reflections program. If you have any queries or need further clarification, your State PTA office is the place to go.

The third step involves registering for the program. Registration typically opens on April 1st and remains open until February 1st of the following year. Registering is important as it allows the National PTA to gauge the program’s reach and impact. This can be done through the PTA website.

After registering, you’ll need to adhere to your state PTA’s requirements. Since each state PTA has its own process and deadlines for submissions, it’s important to stay informed about these specific details. The program welcomes participation from students ranging from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

Finally, it’s time to submit your artwork. Students have the opportunity to present their creations in several artistic categories, including dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. These entries are initially submitted at the school level, where they are acknowledged, celebrated, and evaluated

Reflections Program Structure

The Reflections Program is accessible through local PTA units, and student eligibility to participate is based on the requirements set by their state PTA. Individual entries are not accepted directly by the National PTA. This program is a great platform for students to showcase their creativity and artistic skills.

The Reflections Program is a comprehensive support system tailored to assist students throughout their college journey, segmented into three distinct but interconnected phases:

Pre-College Phase

This initial phase starts before students even begin their first semester. Through orientation workshops and a variety of online resources, the program introduces incoming students to the essentials of college life.

It focuses on equipping them with key skills such as effective time management, productive study habits, and the ability to set realistic goals. This preparatory stage is crucial in laying a strong foundation for the challenges and opportunities that college life brings.

First-Year Phase

As students enter their first year of college, the Reflections Program intensifies its support. This phase is all about providing holistic assistance. It covers crucial aspects like academic achievement, mental health, and the development of meaningful relationships.

The program combines workshops, group activities, and individual support to help students adapt to their new environment. During this critical transition period, the program aims to guide students in overcoming challenges, both academic and personal, ensuring a smooth transition into college life.

Ongoing Support Phase

Moving beyond the first year, the program continues to offer support as students progress through their college journey. This phase is characterized by continuous assistance and resource availability to help students maintain a balanced approach to their academic and personal lives.

Periodic check-ins, additional workshops, and opportunities for community engagement are some of the features of this phase. The goal is to ensure students have the tools and support they need to stay focused, motivated, and well-adjusted throughout their college years.

By joining the Reflections Program, students can anticipate a well-rounded and tailored support system that addresses their needs at every stage of their college experience. This program not only aims to help students academically but also ensures their overall well-being, preparing them for a successful and enriching college experience that lays the groundwork for their future endeavors.

Asian students talking in front of a laptop.

Key Program Components

The Reflections Program is a multifaceted initiative designed to offer comprehensive support to college students. It integrates several key elements to ensure students have a well-rounded college experience:

Orientation Workshops

These workshops are the initial step in the Reflections Program, aiming to equip students with fundamental skills for college success. Covering topics like time management, effective study habits, goal setting, and the art of self-reflection, these sessions are interactive and informative. They play a crucial role in preparing students for the academic and social aspects of college life, providing them with strategies and insights to effectively manage their college journey.

Peer Mentorship

A significant feature of the program is its peer mentorship component. New students are paired with seasoned upperclassmen who offer guidance, support, and a friendly ear throughout their college years. These mentors are well-trained and share their own experiences and insights, offering advice and support. This relationship fosters a sense of connection and support, making the college experience less daunting for newcomers.

Group Sessions

Regular group meetings are a cornerstone of the Reflections Program. These sessions offer a platform for students to meet their peers, exchange experiences, and discuss common challenges. They often include group discussions, interactive activities, and talks from guest speakers. These gatherings are vital in creating a supportive and engaging environment, where students can learn from each other and feel part of a community.

Group of students talking while sitting on the round table.

One-on-One Support

In addition to group activities and peer mentorship, the program also provides individualized support. Students have access to academic advisors and mental health counselors for personalized assistance. Academic advisors help with course selection, academic goal setting, and tackling academic hurdles, while mental health counselors offer a confidential space to address personal issues, develop coping strategies, and guide students to additional mental health resources.

Campus Involvement

Encouraging active participation in campus life is another aspect of the Reflections Program. Students are motivated to join clubs, attend events, and engage in volunteer activities. This involvement is not just about creating a sense of belonging; it also aids in developing crucial life skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication. Active campus engagement allows students to have a more holistic and fulfilling college experience.

By integrating these components, the Reflections Program creates a robust and diverse support system that addresses various dimensions of college life, ensuring students not only succeed academically but also grow personally and socially.

How do I participate in the Reflections Program?

Participating in the Reflections Program as a college student is a great way to enhance your college experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting involved:

First, find out how the Reflections Program is implemented at your specific college or university. Each institution may have its own unique approach. Look for information on your college’s website or get in touch with the student services office to understand the program’s structure, offerings, and how it fits into your college’s environment.

A key element of the Reflections Program is the orientation workshops. These sessions introduce you to the program’s philosophy, objectives, and resources. Attending these workshops, typically held during orientation week or before the semester starts, is crucial. They equip you with vital skills and knowledge to help you navigate college life effectively.

After learning about the Reflections Program and its benefits, the next step is to register. This process may vary depending on your institution, but it usually involves filling out a form, which can be found online or at your college. Registering ensures that you’ll have full access to the program’s resources and opportunities.

As part of the program, you’ll likely be paired with a peer mentor. This mentor, usually an experienced upperclassman, is there to offer guidance and support. Regular interactions with your mentor can be incredibly beneficial for getting advice and insights into college life. Utilize this relationship to help navigate the college environment and maximize your experience.

The program will offer various group sessions and workshops focusing on personal growth, academic success, and mental health. Active participation in these activities is essential as they provide valuable lessons and a supportive environment. These sessions are a great way to learn from both your peers and experienced facilitators.

The Reflections Program also provides individual support through meetings with academic advisors and mental health counselors. Regular appointments with these professionals are important for discussing your academic trajectory, setting goals, and addressing any personal issues that may arise during your time in college.

Lastly, embrace the opportunities for involvement on campus that are encouraged by the Reflections Program. Joining clubs, participating in events, and volunteering can greatly enrich your college experience. These activities are not only rewarding but also help in developing skills like leadership and teamwork, which are invaluable for your future.

By following these steps and actively engaging with all aspects of the Reflections Program, you can enjoy a more successful, fulfilling, and well-rounded college experience. Take full advantage of the resources and support offered by the program to foster your personal growth, academic success, and social connections.

Female art students painting in a room.

How hard is getting into the Reflections Program?

Gaining entry into the Reflections Program is quite accessible for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The program is structured at the state level, making it widely available.

For students or parents looking to get involved, the first step is to reach out to the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) units. Each state’s PTA sets specific guidelines for participation in the program, so it’s important to understand these requirements. By connecting with the local PTA, students can get detailed information on how to participate, including any necessary forms, deadlines, and rules specific to their state.

Overall, the process of joining the Reflections Program is straightforward, provided the guidelines of the local and state PTA are followed.

When is the deadline to apply to the  Reflections Program?

The application deadline for the Reflections Program is not uniform and can vary depending on your location. For instance, at Guyer High School, the deadline was set for October 27, 2023. In Massachusetts, the registration period began on July 1, 2023, and is scheduled to close on February 1, 2024. Following this, submissions to the Massachusetts PTA are due by February 9, 2024.

Since deadlines differ from one place to another, it’s crucial to verify the specific cutoff dates for the Reflections Program in your area. This information can usually be found through your local PTA unit or on the website of your state’s PTA. Checking these deadlines is important to ensure you meet all the necessary requirements in time for participation.

a male college student looking at the camera

Reflections Program Timeline

The Reflections Program operates on a schedule that changes based on the level at which participants are competing – local, council, district, state, or national – and is also influenced by the guidelines of the specific state PTA. Here’s a generalized timeline for the program:

Typically, the deadlines and review process at the local PTA level occur between September and October. This is the initial stage where participants first submit their entries.

Following the local phase, the council, district, or regional PTAs conduct their deadlines and review processes from November to January. This is where entries that have progressed from the local level are further evaluated.

The state PTA then reviews these submissions, with their deadline and review period usually falling between February 1 and 15. It’s at this stage that entries are considered for state-level recognition.

The final phase, at the national PTA level, typically has its deadline and review around March 1. This is where the top entries from the state levels are judged and recognized at the national scale.

For a specific example, in Massachusetts, registration for the program opened on July 1, 2023, and is set to close on February 1, 2024. The deadline for submissions to the Massachusetts PTA is February 9, 2024. It’s important to note that local PTAs and councils may choose different methods for accepting entries, such as physical or virtual submissions, with these local deadlines usually occurring in late autumn.

Given that these timelines can vary based on location, it’s crucial to check with your local PTA unit or the state PTA for the most accurate and relevant information regarding deadlines and the submission process for your area.

Where is the Reflections Program held?

The Reflections Program is conducted at various levels ranging from local school units to the national stage. Its administration is primarily overseen at the state level, which means that each State PTA sets its own specific requirements, including forms, deadlines, and guidelines for participation.

Students looking to participate in the Reflections Program do so through their local PTA units. This is where their initial submissions are made. At this school level, students’ works are first acknowledged, celebrated, and assessed.

As the program progresses, successful entries from the local level can advance through higher levels of the competition – from the council and district levels to the state and, ultimately, the national level. This progression allows for broader recognition and appreciation of students’ efforts and talents.

It’s important to note that the timeline and deadlines for the Reflections Program vary depending on both the level of participation (local, state, or national) and the specific regulations set by each State PTA.

Therefore, to get the most accurate and relevant information about the program, including submission deadlines and processes, students, and parents should consult their local PTA unit or refer to their state PTA’s guidelines. This ensures that participants meet all necessary requirements and deadlines for their specific location.

Three students sitting on the bench inside the campus.

When does the Reflections Program take place?

The Reflections Program, organized by the PTA, runs throughout the academic year, with its schedule and participation requirements varying based on different levels – local, council, district, state, and national – as well as according to each state’s PTA guidelines. Here’s an overview of the typical timeline:

Local PTA Phase (September – October): During this period, local PTA units set deadlines for submissions and conduct their initial review process.

Council/District/Region PTA Phase (November – January): After the local level, the next stage involves council, district, or regional PTAs, which they have their own set of deadlines and review times.

State PTA Phase (February 1 – 15): Entries that progress beyond the district or regional level are then reviewed by the State PTA during early February.

National PTA Phase (By March 1): Finally, selected entries are forwarded for national-level review and recognition, which typically concludes by March 1.

For the 2023-2024 program, the chosen theme is “I am Hopeful Because…”. Each year, the National PTA selects a theme for the program two years in advance. The process of choosing the theme involves a call for submissions, with finalists usually announced in November. The student who proposes the selected theme is awarded $100, and their theme is unveiled at the annual National PTA Convention in June.

It’s important for participants to stay informed about the specific dates and requirements for their area, as these can vary based on the level of the program and the guidelines of the respective state PTA.

a male professor demonstrating inside his class

How to make the most out of your Reflections Program experience?

Making the most of your experience in the Reflections Program involves a combination of creative engagement, proactive participation, and thoughtful reflection. Here are some strategies to help you fully benefit from the program:

Embrace the Theme

Experiment with different mediums and techniques within your chosen category. This variety can not only showcase your versatility but also might lead to discovering new ways of expressing your theme.

Think about how your work can engage and communicate with your audience. Whether it’s evoking emotions, conveying a message, or telling a story, aim to make your piece relatable and impactful.

During the creative process, be mindful and present. This can help you channel your thoughts and emotions into your art more effectively, leading to a more profound and meaningful piece.

Explore Various Art Forms

Look beyond the obvious for creative ideas. Nature, everyday life, books, music, and even conversations can spark inspiration. This broad perspective can infuse your art with unique and diverse elements.

Engaging with peers, teachers, and artists in various fields can offer new insights and techniques. Collaboration not only enhances your skills but also opens doors to different artistic perspectives and ideas.

Enrich your artistic repertoire and bring a fresh, dynamic quality to your work in the Reflections Program.

an female high school law firm intern

Seek Feedback and Mentorship

Use the feedback received as a tool for growth. Reflect on the suggestions and critiques and see how they can be integrated into your work. Being open to adaptation not only improves your current project but also aids in your overall development as an artist.

Establishing connections with mentors and peers creates a supportive artistic community. This network can be a source of encouragement, inspiration, and guidance, offering diverse viewpoints and experiences that enrich your artistic journey.

By embracing feedback, adapting accordingly, and building a supportive network, you can significantly enhance your artistic skills and depth, making your experience more fulfilling and rewarding.

Attend Workshops and Sessions

Implement the techniques and insights you acquire from these sessions into your own art. This practical application solidifies your learning and can lead to significant improvements in your work.

Use these gatherings to network with like-minded individuals. Exchanging ideas and experiences with peers can provide fresh perspectives and stimulate creative thinking, enhancing the richness of your participation in the Reflections Program.

Reflect on Personal Experiences

Blend your personal experiences with influences from other cultures, histories, or art forms. This fusion can create a more intriguing and layered piece of work, showcasing not only your personal narrative but also your awareness of a broader spectrum of ideas.

Keep a journal or a visual diary of your thoughts, experiences, and creative processes. This not only serves as a personal record of your artistic evolution but can also be a wellspring of inspiration for future projects.

Weaving diverse influences into your personal narrative and documenting your creative journey can add depth and uniqueness to your artwork, making it a true reflection of your individuality in the Reflections Program.

Set Personal Goals

Recognize and appreciate your progress, whether it’s mastering a difficult technique or successfully expressing a concept. Celebrating these milestones fosters a sense of accomplishment and motivates continued growth.

Regularly evaluate your progress towards your goals and be willing to reassess them if needed. This flexibility allows you to adapt and evolve your artistic objectives in line with your growing skills and changing interests.

Young student talking to her teacher in the hallway.

Engage with the Community

Take advantage of opportunities to exhibit or showcase your work. This not only gives you exposure but also allows you to observe and learn from the works of others, enriching your understanding of different artistic expressions.

Be active in offering encouragement and constructive feedback to peers. Similarly, be open to receiving support. This reciprocal relationship fosters a nurturing environment that is beneficial for all participants in the Reflections Program.

Engaging in community activities, such as exhibits, and fostering a supportive network, enhances the collective experience of the program, making it more than just an individual journey, but a shared artistic adventure.

Stay Open to Learning

Challenges you encounter in the program can be valuable learning experiences. Embrace these situations as opportunities to grow, both artistically and personally. Overcoming obstacles often leads to a deeper understanding and mastery of your craft.

Stay curious and actively seek new information, techniques, and artistic perspectives. This continuous quest for knowledge will not only refine your skills but also keep your approach to art fresh and dynamic.

Viewing challenges as opportunities and constantly seeking knowledge can maintain an open and growth-oriented mindset, leading to a rich and continuously evolving artistic journey.

Enjoy the Process

Take pride in your artistic expressions and the journey you undertake in the Reflections Program. Each piece you create is a reflection of your imagination and hard work, deserving recognition and celebration.

While striving for excellence, don’t forget to relish the moments of creation. Balancing your effort with enjoyment helps sustain your passion and keeps the creative process a fulfilling experience.

Celebrate your creativity and find joy in your artistic endeavors! This will enhance the overall enjoyment of the program, making it not just a platform for competition, but a journey of personal satisfaction and artistic exploration.

Two student walking in the campus.

Building a Strong Network at the Reflections Program: Strategies and Benefits

Building a strong network during your participation in the Reflections Program can be incredibly beneficial, both for your current artistic endeavors and for future opportunities. Here are some strategies to build this network effectively, along with the benefits it can bring:

Strategies for Building a Network

Active Participation

Don’t hesitate to start conversations with fellow participants, instructors, and program coordinators. Showing interest in others’ work and sharing your own experiences can lead to meaningful connections.

Many programs have discussion groups or forums, either in person or online. Being an active member of these groups can help you engage with like-minded individuals, fostering deeper connections.

Whenever there’s an opportunity, offer your help to peers or program organizers. This can demonstrate your teamwork and collaborative spirit, qualities that are highly valued in networking.

By initiating conversations, joining discussion groups, and offering assistance, you can further your active participation in the program. These actions not only make you more visible but also demonstrate your willingness to engage, collaborate, and contribute to the community, thereby enhancing your networking opportunities.

Seek Mentorship

Clearly communicate your artistic goals and aspirations to potential mentors. This helps them understand how they can best assist you and tailor their guidance accordingly.

Once you establish a mentorship relationship, keep in regular contact. Whether through meetings, emails, or phone calls, consistent communication helps strengthen the bond and ensures continuous learning.

a college class where the professor is demonstrating and everyone is listening

Collaborate with Peers

Embrace the diverse backgrounds and viewpoints of your peers. This respect can foster a collaborative environment conducive to learning and creativity.

Whenever there’s an opportunity for group work, participate actively. Group projects can be a great way to understand different working styles and build teamwork skills.

Utilize Social Media and Online Platforms

Regularly post your artwork or progress on these platforms and engage with others by providing constructive feedback on their work. This mutual sharing and interaction can reinforce relationships and open doors to new collaborations.

Be an active member of any online groups or forums related to the Reflections Program. Participating in discussions and sharing resources can establish you as an engaged and contributing member of the community.

By sharing your work and engaging in online discussions, your presence on social media and online platforms becomes more dynamic, fostering stronger and more lasting connections with other participants and organizers in the Reflections Program. This online engagement can lead to fruitful collaborations and opportunities beyond the duration of the program.


If the opportunity arises, consider taking on leadership roles within the program, such as organizing events or mentoring newer participants. These roles not only expand your network but also showcase your dedication and leadership abilities.

Many Reflections Programs host alumni events or reunions. Attend these gatherings to reconnect with past participants and build a network of individuals who have shared similar experiences.

two female students seated in front of a laptop, smiling to their male professor wearing teal shirt

Benefits of a Strong Network

Building a strong network within the Reflections Program offers numerous benefits. Firstly, it enhances your learning and artistic growth by exposing you to diverse perspectives and insights. Interacting with peers and mentors provides a support system for feedback, encouragement, and motivation, ultimately contributing to your personal and artistic development.

Furthermore, these connections can lead to future collaborations, artistic opportunities, or even advancements in your career. Engaging with a diverse group of individuals expands your understanding of different artistic styles and techniques, broadening your creative horizons.

One of the most valuable outcomes of a strong network is the potential for lifelong relationships. Many connections formed during such programs evolve into lasting friendships or professional relationships, enriching both your personal and professional life.

Actively participating in the Reflections Program, seeking mentorship, and leveraging digital platforms for connection can help you establish a robust network. The advantages of such a network, including improved learning, support, and future prospects, are substantial and enduring.

Final Thoughts

As you get ready for college, keep in mind that the Reflections Program can be a great friend. It’s not just for showing your artistic skills; it can help you grow personally, make lifelong friends, and keep you inspired throughout your college years and beyond. Don’t miss out on joining this amazing program. Embrace art, connect with a diverse group of people, and let your creativity shine. With the Reflections Program, your college journey will be even more exciting and fulfilling!

Looking for help with your pre-college program admissions? You might want to partner with college admissions experts like AdmissionSight. With our years of experience, we’ve helped many students achieve successful admissions to top universities worldwide. Begin your journey to academic success today – schedule a consultation with us now!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.