Toss your pencils…No more college essays!


News outlets are buzzing with the announcement of more Ivy league universities discontinuing the essay requirement. What a relief! Right?

But wait... before you scratch off the essay from your to do list, there’s a caveat. While many Ivies no longer require the SAT & ACT essay, schools such as Princeton, will require prospective students to submit a graded sample of an English or History paper. 

You may be asking, "WHY is this needed?" 

A writing sample allows the admissions team to assess your writing ability, as well as get to know more about you and your perspective on certain topics. With thousands of students enrolling each year, it’s also important that advisors know early on, if you could benefit from additional academic support. 

What if you apply to a college that still requires an essay? Don't stress! You may be able to use that same essay for scholarships!  With a few adjustments of course. 

Therefore, don’t toss the pencil just yet! Redirect your focus and begin drafting your essay(s) for scholarships! Remember, prior preparation is key!



Tips for FirstGen Students Going off To College


Going off to college can be a scary experience, but also exciting! Especially, for first- generation students who will be the first in their families to go to college. Many of them quietly ponder what college will be like, what should they look forward to, will they fit in and if not, who can help them.

While first-generation students have these concerns, they are not alone. Thousands upon thousands of soon to be college freshmen have the same thoughts, the difference is that a large number of them have family members they can use as a reference point and learn from their experiences. 

It’s imperative that first-generation college students quickly connect to their new environments. Why? Because connecting with the culture and getting involved, drastically reduces their chances of disenrolling and getting home sick. Yes, getting home sick is common amongst freshmen. However, this feeling greatly increases when first-generation students don’t feel connected to the college. Their natural instinct is to go back to a familiar setting…home. When this happens, students forfeit what could potentially be a life changing experience. An experience with the potential to propel their futures into arenas with endless opportunities. 

This does not suggest that their future is ruined because they left college. However, statistics show that low-income students who complete college, increase their earnings by 71%! Thus, the significance of a first-generation, low-income student obtaining a college degree. 

So, you may ask, what can first-generation college students do to reduce the risk of disenrolling and/or never returning after holiday break? 

1. They should identify student centered clubs that are meaningful to them. I encourage all students to research this when finalizing which college they’ll attend. Knowing what clubs are available allows them to start making connections their first day on campus. 

2. Many colleges offer programs specifically for first-generation college students. These programs include mentors, tutors and other services. They should maximize their inclusion in these programs, they’ll enrich the college experience and increase their chances of success. 

3. Meet regularly with their professor and/or assistant if they have any questions on the class assignments. Contrary to what they may hear around campus, professors want students to excel. Schedule an appointment and ask for help. 

4. Stay on top of open tasks on the student portal. This includes financial aid requirements, housing requests, etc. Due dates and deadlines will be posted there. 

5. Apply for financial aid each year. Need based scholarships are heavily dependent upon the FAFSA. Do not miss the opportunity to receive grants, work study and/or scholarships because they didn’t complete the FAFSA. 

Remember, over $2 billion in college funding went unclaimed by students. I’m confident that many students would appreciate having a portion of those funds to cover their college expenses!

*College and Scholarship Workshop for high school seniors: http://bit.ly/risingseniorworkshop



Which College Should I Choose?


The process of deciding what college you’ll spend the next four years at can be overwhelming. However, it can also feel exhilarating and over the top exciting! 

In the spring of each year, college acceptance letters, emails and packets roll in to mailboxes across the nation, of students who have been anxiously waiting to see their hard work payoff. The hope is that those letters will say “Congratulations on being accepted into our freshman class!” Unfortunately, not every student experiences those results, but there’s still light at the end of the tunnel. 

Many students are opting out of attending traditional colleges and universities. Statistics show that 25% of high school graduates decide to attend a 2-year, vocational college. Why? Because, their field of interest may only require a certificate and/or specific certification versus a Bachelor’s degree. However, this does not decrease the value or importance of their decision. They deserve to be applauded along with students who’ve decide to pursue their education at a traditional college or university. 

Then there’s the students who are notified that they are on the waitlist. This can be heartbreaking for many students, but there’s hope! Did you know the NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) releases an annual list in May, that shows the colleges and universities who reportedly have space available for new students? Yes, so do not be discouraged. Check out the list on their website. You can filter and search the schools by state. Also, don’t be afraid to contact the Admissions office! Inquire as to how you can apply for one of those available spots.  

 PhotoCred: StartSchoolNow



Do Full Ride Scholarships Still Exist?


With the constant rising cost of college tuition, families across the nation wrestle with angst at the thought of shattering their child’s college dreams, simply because it’s not affordable. Tuition is the most common expense families calculate when weighing the cost of college. However, there are other expenses such as housing, meal plans, transportation, etc. 

This dilemma is magnified immensely for middle and low-income families. Middle income families face an additional challenge, of not qualifying for Federal Pell Grants due to income restrictions. Robert Kelchen, Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University stated, “Middle income students are squeezed on both ends because they barely miss the cut off for Pell Grants, and often don’t receive grants from the colleges themselves.” 

During conversations with parents of graduating seniors, they often ask, “Do full ride scholarships still exist?” My answer is, Yes. However, being awarded a full ride scholarship is heavily dependent upon the student’s academic merit. Recently, Michael Brown, a young man who grew up in the economically challenged Third Ward in Houston, Texas was accepted into 20 Ivy League colleges, with each giving him a full ride. He also received $260,000 in other scholarships. According to the USA Today article, he attributed his desire to attend college from seeing his mother graduate from community college when he was younger.

This is proof that full ride scholarships are not reserved for elite, higher income students who often have private tutors. Many high performing, middle income and economically challenged students receive full ride scholarships. Many receive them from top colleges and universities to include the Ivies such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. These colleges have amplified their outreach and scholarship offerings, in an effort to increase campus diversity and attract high performing, middle and low-income minority students. In many cases, being awarded a full ride scholarship is the deciding factor as to whether these students will attend college. 

Is there hope for minority students who have average academic profiles? Yes. They should research schools where their GPA and test scores are higher than the average admitted student. This will increase their chances of being awarded a full ride scholarship. 

Photo: MyKidsCollegeChoice



Access for First Generation Students


Each year, countless numbers of minority students forgo applying to college because they lack the guidance needed to complete their applications. Shocking, right? This must be fixed. We must provide the opportunity for prospective first-generation college students to achieve success that is greater than their current norm.

Many low-income, high performing students have competitive SAT & ACT scores that are comparable to their high-income counterparts. Economist John Smith, in his article “The Effect of College Applications on Enrollment” stated that “Students from low socio-economic backgrounds submit fewer college applications than their high-income counterparts”. While emphasis on obtaining a college degree, may not be top priority in lower income homes, many of these students persevere and seek help from other sources. Community organizations and churches are typically the main source from which minority youth are made aware of college and career options. 


According to the Economic Mobility Project, high schools serving predominately low-income and minority students have one guidance counselor for every 1,000 students compared to the national average of one counselor for 470 students. This is a major problem when first generation students and their parents struggle with understanding how to navigate the college application and scholarship process. Creating other access points to help them complete their applications is critical. 

58% of black students who graduated high school in 2016 later enrolled in college, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Many minority college graduates attribute their college success to mentors and pre-college programs such as Upward Bound, TRIO and AVID.  For many minority students, these programs serve as the gateway to exploring college and career options. As a first-generation college student, my participation in an Upward Bound program and access to college life and mentors, was the reason I decided to go to college.

Many parents of low income homes are severely unaware of what’s needed and how they should help their child with the college application and scholarship process. This story repeats itself over and over again for many students. This reinforces the need for pre-college programs which provides assistance with college applications, scholarships, essays, resumes, etc. Students should also be encouraged to enroll in existing programs that will expose them to a vast number of career options. While there isn’t a one stop shop for all, having access and exposure to multiple programs is key for prospective first-generation college students.

PhotoCred: BeekmanHigh