This article covers the following topics:
- Student Bios Introduction
- Finding Students who Need Bios Written
- Finding Student Applications
- Submitting Student Bios and Tags
- Best Practices for Writing Great Bios
You can also watch this 15-minute video on how to write and submit bios (note some screens have been updated since this screencast) or review the information as a Power Point Presentation or by watching an hour-long webinar.
Student Bios Introduction
Student bios are short blurbs about individual students used to introduce students to prospective host families. The bios highlight student interests and character, and they look like this:
Student bios are a key representation of the student to potential families and provide the first impression of the student. Bios are intended to garner interest and excitement and can leave a lasting positive (or negative!) perception of the student and AFS. For information on sending student bios to potential host families, visit Share Student Information with Host Families.
While volunteers have been writing student bios for years, in 2020 we opened up this fun task to more volunteers. Anyone with a Hosting Volunteer Affiliation can write and submit student bios for approval by AFS Marketing Staff. If you need this affiliation added, please contact your local volunteer Hosting Coordinator or Volunteer Coordinator or your staff Regional Field Specialist.
- New students needing bios are linked to teams as Area Team Available each week
- Teams will not get new students EVERY week (especially smaller teams)
- Each team may approach bio writing differently:
- Some teams may choose to have a Bio Writing Coordinator to assign needed bios to volunteers.
- If you decide to write a bio, communicate with your volunteer team to let them know, as there is currently no way to "claim" it.
- Best practice is to complete and submit Bios within 3 days.
Finding Students who Need Bios Written
There is more than one way to find students who need bios written. Whether you start in MyAFS or Global Link, you will need to get to the students Bio Page. The instructions below explore both options.
Finding Students via MyAFS
4. At left navigation, click into the Placements widget
5. At top, the view will default to My Team
6. Click a student’s photo to learn more
7. A student without a Bio has the alert: “This student needs a bio. Want to help? Click here to learn more.”
8. If you will be writing this student’s Bio, scroll to the bottom of the page and click View on Global Link
9. The Service Case: Placement Detail page displays
10. Below the page title click the Bio Sheet link
11. Some fields will already be complete, but this is the page where you will enter About Student terms and type the Bio in the Biographical Summary Draft field as explained in detail below.
Finding Students in Global Link
4. Click the blue GLOBAL LINK button if this is your first view. If it isn't, skip to #5.
5. From left navigation, click Hosted Participant
6. a. You can enter the name of a specific student for whom you will write a bio using the English Name fields (#2 in the image below)
6. b. You can enter your Area Team Name in the appropriate field and use the following search criteria:
i. Search by Area Team Available Placement Progress (#1 in the image below)
ii. Click the Add Filter button and select the filter “Bios Status is blank” to find students needing Bios (#3 in the image below)
7. Click Search button
8. See the results on the Record(s) found section and click the student’s Placement Detail link (e.g. A(0, 0, 0))
9. The Service Case: Placement Detail page displays
10. Below the page title click the Bio Sheet link
11. Some fields will already be complete, but this is the page where you will enter About Student terms and type the Bio in the Biographical Summary field as explained in detail below.
Finding Student Applications
Now that you know how to find students who need a bio written, let's look at how to find their applications so you can review the information from which you will compose your bio.
1. From the Bio page, return to the Service Case: Placement Detail page by clicking the Placement Info button in the upper right:
2. The Service Case: Placement Detail page will displays; below the page title, click Pax Info link:
3. The Service Case: Detail page displays where you should click on the blue View Application button mid-page:
4. Look for the Printable Version to be able to see the whole application
Note: The Printable Version can be in different locations depending on the student's country of origin. Most often it is on the left-hand side near the bottom of the list of options as shown here:
5. From the Print All Items section, click the PDF icon. The Application will download (not print!). If you want to save the document on your computer, go to the "File" menu and choose to "Save a Copy."
6. Check out What to Look for in a Student Application to review the elements of the student application and the key forms to examine for bio writing. If you see anything confusing or concerning in a student application, please be sure to notify your Hosting Programs Specialist so that the issue can be addressed.
Submitting Student Bios and Tags
Submitting a student bio requires two parts:
1) Adding "Tags" about the student's interests, personality, and background.
2) Writing a biographical summary to describe the student.
Please note that if you are updating or modifying a bio that has already been written, you will use the same process. You will enter your changes in the Biographical Summary Draft box bottom of the page (you can even copy and paste the current bio there and make tweaks!). Then click on Save Good to Know to submit your changes.
Adding "Tags" to Students
Before reading through a student application, familiarize yourself with the "About Student" tags. You can find a list here or on the student bio page by clicking on the "hamburger" menu here:
Add tags to the student as you read through the application. Be sure to click on each tag header (Religion, Music, Traits/Characteristics, Sports, and Interests) to review all options, and aim to add at least SEVEN tags. Tags related to Medical/Health/Dietary or Placement Info (like openness to "non-traditional" placements) will be added by staff to be sure these aren't ever changed accidentally.
*NOTE: If the student attends an IB school, please use the tag "International baccalaureate" in the Interests tab.
Once you've added tags, click the Save Good to Know button at the bottom of the page:
The tags you select help your fellow volunteers identify particular students using the "About Student" search in Global Link or MyAFS as pictured here:
Writing a Biographical Summary
The tags you entered as you read through the student application can provide an outline for your written summary of the student. Be sure to also highlight the student's passions and unique interests. Be as specific as possible and be positive!
Keep in mind:
- The maximum number of characters is 600. Use as many as possible! Only 10 or so spaces should remain.
- Only the first two sentences appear on the Meet the Students tool on afsusa.org/host, so make them interesting!
- Avoid any identifying information that could be used to find the student online (last name, hometown, etc.)
The overall tone of the bio should be positive. We aren't trying to get the kids into college, so the bios don't need to make them sound amazing. Host families want to know everyday relatable things so "has traveled to 18 different countries" is far less important than "he loves all kinds of pets." Converting British-English terms (like "cinema" or "football") into U.S. English ("the movies" and "soccer") also helps.
The overall structure should look something like this:
- Start with an interesting fact (like a passion, hobby, or something unique).
- Vary your sentence structure with some long and some short sentences.
- Focus on strengths, personality, unique things, and positive words from teachers, parents, or peers.
- Include facts about interests, hobbies, family life, and aspirations for their future or their exchange experience.
- Utilize the last sentence to mention something unique about the student, or what kind of family would be a perfect fit
You'll write your bio in the Biographical Summary Draft section; try to use 590-600 characters if possible!
Re-read what you have written to be sure everything flows, the sentence structure sounds right, and the tone is positive. Then click the Save Good to Know button at the bottom of the page:
And you are done! AFS-USA staff will then review your submission and post the bio online.
Best Practices for Writing Great Bios
This section contains tips and tricks for making your bio great!
- Words and Phrases to Avoid and Embrace
- Sample Leads and Endings
- Parallel Sentence Structure
- Words are Powerful
And, review great samples of student bios.
Words and Phrases to Avoid and Embrace:
Please do NOT write:
- Identifying information
- That the student’s favorite activity is to shop or to travel (they are not coming here to shop or travel around the U.S.)
- The student loves video games (can be viewed as anti-social, especially if not paired with other interests)
- Details that would be a turn-off in your area such as "She loves big city life!" if your team is primarily rural
Sample Bio Leads and Endings:
Sample Bio Leads:
- With a passion for music and dance, Elin is an outgoing and positive young lady.
- Friendly, hardworking, and creative are just a few words to describe Anne-Katrin.
- As both a boxer and a member of the school orchestra, Henry is a curious young man who enjoys trying new things.
- Meet Theresa, an outgoing and highly-motivated student from Austria.
- With hobbies including drawing, playing guitar, hiking, and biking, Clara is a well-rounded young lady.
Sample Bio Endings:
- Marco is looking forward to meeting his new family and engaging in his host community in the U.S.!
- She's eager to arrive in the U.S. to begin her exchange year!
- Jessica can’t wait to get to know her U.S. host family!
- She looks forward to experiencing a new culture and new traditions.
- Alessandro would enjoy ___ here in (your state). (examples: the bike trails, going fishing, watching baseball, seeing snow)
- An exciting detail about the student’s interests or future plans can work too, depending on the rest of the bio.
Parallel Sentence Structure:
All parts of the sentence should agree with each other.
- Verbs should be in the same tense and each part in a list should be in the same form.
- If one part of a list of a student’s hobbies has a verb or preposition, all should.
- If you use a gerund (an –ing word) in one, you should include it in each part of the list.
He likes going skiing, books, and to horseback ride.
He likes skiing, reading, and horseback riding.
She enjoys spending time outdoors and animals.
She loves animals and enjoys spending time outdoors.
Megan likes spending time outside in summer, winter, and during the fall.
Megan likes spending time outside in the summer, winter, and fall.
Words are Powerful:
There are many ways you could write about the same student, so be conscientious about your word choice. Consider these two examples written about the SAME student:
Matteo is an 18-year-old Italian student who is shy and studious. Despite getting good grades, he doesn’t like getting up for school, and his parents say he enjoys arguing with his little sister. With his friends, Matteo enjoys playing video games and going skateboarding. He also likes skiing in the winter and wants to study engineering in college so that he can make lots of money one day. Matteo has allergies and can’t live with cats.
Matteo is a mature student from Italy who has excellent grades. He is a typical teenager who enjoys sleeping in and spending time with his friends playing games and hanging out. Having strong friendships is important to Matteo. At home, Matteo has a little sister, and while they have different interests, they both enjoy family ski trips to the mountains and taking their dog for a walk. In the future, Matteo hopes to become an aerospace engineer.
Bios should be honest, and should also frame the students' strengths and weaknesses in a positive light that won't immediately scare people.
If you have any questions about bio writing, don't hesitate to reach out to your Hosting Programs Specialist or the Marketing team. Thank you for your assistance!