Our sincere thanks to principals, counselors, and teachers at our 59 partner high schools for making the 2014-2015 school year a success!
Advisers are now enjoying some time off before summer training begins on June 28th. We are looking forward to an exciting summer of inspiring leaders, passionate educators, campus tours, and bonding as a group with a shared mission. Thank you again to all who made this past year possible…to great things ahead!
May 1 is the national date when graduating seniors must commit to a college or university. Advisers across the state and country are collaborating with counselors, teachers, and administrators to celebrate their students’ post-secondary decisions.
Decision Day is part of national movement to encourage more young people to pursue higher education, and is a big initiative in building a college-going culture within high schools. You can take part in the celebrations by using the hashtags #CACDecisionDay, #HappySigningDay, and #ReachHigher on social media. You can also tag the Carolina College Advising Corps in your posts–we are on Facebook (Carolina College Advising Corps), Twitter (@CarolinaCorps), and Instagram (@CarolinaCorps)!
You can also read this blog post from the Department of Education on why Decision Day celebrations matter, and the impact they have on our schools and communities. For more information about the First Lady’s #ReachHigher initiative, visit the Reach Higher website.
By Kaitlyn Russell, USA Today Collegiate Correspondent
Philip Gibert received no funds from his family to help with college costs and had no idea how to navigate the college application processes. This led to a difficult transition into university life, poor grades and a stressful college experience.
Asking for help changed his college pathway. Instead of an undergraduate career filled with challenges, it was filled with campus involvement.
First-generation students — those who are the first in their immediate family to attend college – make up nearly one third of undergraduates. Various reports and research concludes that those in this group enter college with minimal preparedness and are often less likely to engage with others in a university setting.
“The biggest challenge I faced being a first-generation college student was definitely doing everything on my own,” says Samantha Metz, a Penn State senior. “My parents had no idea what actually went into applying to colleges — making college visits, and taking the SAT.”
First-generation students are often underrepresented, according to reports from The , and only 54% whose parents obtained only high school diplomas go on to attend a university.
This gap in enrollment is where bridge programs come into play at universities nationwide. These programs – which are offered at UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas at Austin, among others — are designed specifically to advise first-year students. All share similar goal: to provide first-generation students a head start in college and ease the transition.
George Mason University’s Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) was created to “enhance the recruitment, engagement and retention of first-generation college students.”
The Summer Bridge program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill began in 1980 and has since helped first year students “benefit from early exposure to the campus environment.” Students enroll in summer courses, engage in and out of the classroom and connect with university officials.
“Most often, students are the first in their families to attend college or they may have attended high schools that lacked a rigorous college prep curriculum that included Advanced Placement courses,” says Marcus Collins, director of Summer Bridge. “I believe, perhaps, the most important aspect of the summer bridge experience is the opportunity for students to create community.”
Collins says students felt the program gave them an opportunity to prepare for college and find support academically and socially.
Other programs, like the Carolina College Advising Corps “helps low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students find their way to colleges that will serve them well.”
Yolanda Keith, the senior assistant director of admissions and program coordinator of Carolina College Advising Corps, says the organization knows that many prospective first-generation college students are thinking about higher education, but may not have sufficient information.
“We hire recent graduates of our university to help [high school] students navigate financial aid and the college application process,” Keith says.
Although the College Advising Corps is a national organization, the Carolina College Advising Corps (CCAC) works with more than 10,000 high school students in the state. Advisers of the program go through extensive training to better understand the challenges first-generation students may face.
The national organization works with high schools nationwide to introduce students to university settings and help them “envision themselves as a college student.” Through college bus tours, one-on-one meetings and financial advising, CCAC advisers help high school students find their “best fit” college.
“The goal is to help students match to institutions,” says Keith. “We try to expose students to colleges across the state and nation.”
For many students, supplemental help bridges are a rewarding experience.
“I believe that it’s important for universities to secure first-generation programing and assistance to help manage the lives of these students who aren’t like everyone else,” Gibert says.
Metz notes that Penn State has a transition program, the Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP), that many of her friends have participated in. But, as a student who elected not to attend, she believes that those programs aren’t necessary for a first-generation student’s success.
LEAP is offered to first-year students who “want a smooth transition into life at a large campus.” Participating students take small classes together, have a mentor available to them and live in a common residence area.
But Metz thinks a universal guide on how to complete various general college-related tasks should be made readily available to any soon-to-be undergraduate, particularly first-generation students.
“I think it’s extremely beneficial for universities to provide step-by-step tutorials for all the major things that go in enrolling into a college,” Metz says.
Keith has received positive feedback about the CCAC program from those who have participated. She emphasizes the importance of collaborative efforts between students and universities.
“Through these bridge programs and first-year initiatives, we can help secure the futures of families who will be expecting their first person in their family to carry the legacy further with their education,” Gibert says.Kaitlyn Russell is a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a spring 2015 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent.
The Carolina College Advising Corps helps low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students find their way to colleges that will serve them well. By providing well-trained, enthusiastic advisers who are close in circumstance to the students they serve, the program aims to increase college-going rates at partner high schools across North Carolina.
We recruit advisers who are recent graduates of partner colleges/universities. This allows them to more easily develop relationships with students and serve as both peers as well as role models.
Our advisers work in partnership with teachers, counselors and administrators, as an additional staff member whose focus is singularly on improving the school’s college-going culture and ensuring that students apply to and enroll in colleges where they will succeed.
Advisers focus on helping students to identify and apply to post-secondary programs that will best serve them both academically and socially, thus increasing the likelihood that these students will persist to earn their degrees.