Getting into college is only half the battle, former First Lady Michelle Obama told a group of New York City students Friday.
The next challenge? Having the courage to ask for help.
“No one gets through college, or life, on their own,” Obama told the teens, who were gathered to celebrate College Signing Day. ” So when you hit those walls — and you will — don’t be surprised; don’t be shocked; don’t think it’s you; don’t think you’re not supposed to be there. Go get some help.”
More than 1,300 similar events — which honor college-bound students — were planned nationwide. The annual celebration, coordinated by Better Make Room, is aimed at increasing college access for low-income, minority, and first-generation students.
Traditional admission deadlines have passed, but more than 400 colleges and universities still have openings, financial aid, and housing available to qualified freshman and/or transfer students.
NACAC’s annual College Openings Update — posted this morning — includes both public and private schools. The list will remain online through June 30, serving as an important resource for students looking to expand their admission options, said NACAC CEO Joyce Smith.
Spring is a season of mixed emotions for school counselors. As students come in to share the exciting news of college acceptances and generous scholarships, an equal number of families come in with questions that are harder to answer:
“What more were they looking for?”
“Don’t they know this isn’t enough to cover my needs?”
“Why does college cost so much?”
It turns out this last question has a pretty clear answer—it’s complicated, but it’s clear.
“It doesn’t have to cost this much, if you start at a community college and transfer.”
Monday is College Decision Day — the deadline at many institutions for students to accept an offer of admission and make a tuition deposit.
And on Friday, schools and communities across the country will once again host College Signing Day events. The tradition was started in 2014 by former First Lady Michelle Obama and is being spearheaded this year by Civic Nation’s Better Make Room initiative.
“Some education past high school has to be the goal for every young person,” Eric Waldo, of Civic Nation, said Thursday during a Facebook Live Q&A at NACAC headquarters. “That was true when we were in the White House. That’s true now that we’re not in the White House.”
Ten cities. Thirteen days. From London to Shanghai to meet with newly admitted students. It’s my version of TheAmazing Race, but without the $1 million at the finish line.
The first question I’m asked when discussing my itinerary is, “Are you nuts?!” The answer, from my perspective anyway, is, “No, I love doing it and I’ve found two weeks to be the perfect trip length.”
The second question is either, “Wow, how are people feeling about our country?” or “Do international students still want to come to university in the US?” Like any good admission officer, my answer is, “It depends.”
It depends on the country.
China is a vital market for many universities, and the political climate didn’t appear to be too much of a concern in Beijing and Shanghai. There, families were much more concerned about the “usual” topics—safety, academics, and post-graduation opportunities. I was surprised by the number of families more concerned about the legalization of marijuana in California than the political situation! Having said that, I had large-group and one-on-one conversations about the international environment in every other city on the trip—London, Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Seoul. Families are legitimately concerned about whether their child will even get a visa, how welcomed international students will be upon arrival, and whether they will be targets for bullying and/or racial discrimination on campus or in the surrounding area. Not too surprisingly, this was a HUGE topic in India, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore, all countries with a large Indian population. And all countries that add to our international diversity on campus.
It’s a scenario counselors know well: A student proudly announces they’re applying to college and plans to study physics.
So far so good. But then comes the kicker. What does the student hope to do with their degree? Cure cancer.
But as many counselors know, a degree in biology or in the health sciences offers a more direct route to cancer research, said Nicole Murphy, director of college access and financial aid strategies with PUC Schools, a California nonprofit charter school organization serving students in Northeast Los Angeles and the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
So this spring, Murphy launched a new initiative aimed at helping teens make connections between their interests and the college search process. Thirty industry experts and college department heads shared their insights with students during PUC’s inaugural College Majors & Careers Event in March.
The event, which served 520 high school juniors, was supported by a $1,000 grant from NACAC’s Imagine Fund.
New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore launched BridgeEdU with one goal in mind: To increase college access and completion rates for low-income and first-generation students.
The program, which began in Baltimore in 2014, uses a high-tech, high-touch academic support model to help students transition during their first year of college. But as Moore and his staff quickly discovered, the complex process of applying for financial aid can create roadblocks for even the most motivated students.
Case in point? Although all members of the inaugural class of BridgeEdU scholars reported that they had applied for financial aid, the staff soon discovered that a whopping 75 percent hadn’t completed the FAFSA, and most of the students had not created accounts with Maryland’s state grant agency.
The experience inspired BridgeEdU staff to create YesU — a mobile app released in 2016 that offers customized step-by-step support to students across the nation as they apply for financial aid.
Colleges must do more to provide and improve accommodations for students with disabilities, grad student Valerie Piro wrote in a recent essay published by Inside Higher Ed.
Piro, who uses a wheelchair and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, highlighted the challenges she faced when touring colleges as a high school student.
At one university, she had to use a makeshift wooden ramp to navigate a short flight of stairs. At another school, her prospective residence hall was located at the bottom of a steep hill and the college’s dorm rooms were much too small to accommodate her physical therapy equipment.
“Physical space and a well-functioning infrastructure on a campus cannot be overlooked, especially when one has a disability,” wrote Piro, who is paralyzed from the chest down. “What better way to tell a wheelchair user that they don’t belong at a college or university than by strewing the campus with stairs, broken help buttons, and pitiful excuses for ramps?”
Is your college application essay about money, work, social class, or another related topic?
If so, The New York Times wants to hear from you.
“No topic is too weighty and no stunt too flighty or approach too light for our taste, as long as the essay has at least something to do with money,” the paper notes in its call for submissions. “In the past people have written about their own jobs or their parents’ work (or lack thereof), what it’s like to be poor, what it’s like to be rich and what it’s like to work at McDonald’s.”