UPDATE: Arthur Arzola Scholarship

About a month ago, we launched a fundraising campaign to honor Arthur Arzola’s passion for promoting college access to first-generation and low-income students. We set an initial goal of $500 to provide a need-based book scholarship to an incoming first-generation Humboldt student.

We ended up raising $1,025.

We’ve been in touch with the IA team at Humboldt about the best approach to offer this scholarship and will keep you updated.

While we initially intended on closing the donation option on May 16th, we have since decided to keep it open until we receive direction on the path forward from HSU. This will likely occur in the next day or so. If you would like to contribute before we officially close donations, feel free to click the button below.

Thanks to everyone who participated and we’ll have an update for you as soon as we hear back.

#EMchat and the higher education community have once again blown us away with the level of generosity and passion for creating opportunities for all students, regardless of their background.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!



Our initial post can be found here.

What I Learned as an Admissions Officer during College Application Week

“Ms. Full, I don’t know what this is asking.”  “Ms. Full, I don’t know what I’m supposed to put here.”   “Ms. Full, why do they want to know this?”  “Why are they asking me all of this?”  “This is stupid…I quit!” Recently I spent some time volunteering at a local high school during my state’s College Application Week, a program sponsored by the College Access Network.  Our task as volunteers was simply to help high school seniors fill out and submit applications to their selected colleges.  This was an amazing and rewarding experience for me, but also truly an eye-opening one.  I’ve been sitting on the other side of the desk all these years, placidly receiving college applications and not really thinking about the huge amount of effort it takes some students to get even this far into the college-bound process.  I’m talking about students whose parents do not have the ability or time to help their children navigate the procedures, and students who attend schools where even the most devoted and hard-working counselors cannot possibly provide the amount of one-to-one time necessary for each student.

It struck me that much of what I take for granted as an admissions officer might not be all that simple for even the brightest high school student.  For example, as I was helping students with their applications to various universities, I noticed that some of them had problems working through the computer-adaptive questions.  Questions that also required students to understand essential admissions terminology or university structure caused some of the kids to just stare at the screen in bewilderment.

There was the student who went down the wrong pathway while filling in questions and somehow found himself on the university’s graduate school application.  He had no idea now to maneuver himself out of it.  Another student applying to an out-of-state university found himself answering residency questions meant only for in-state applicants.

One student did not know how to distinguish among business programs.  “What is accounting?  What is management? How do I know which one to pick?”  One student was unsure how to approach a short-answer question that asked her to describe the contributions she could make to that particular college’s campus culture and community.  These were smart kids.  A bit of nudging, a few suggestions, and they were off and running toward the "submit" button.

So as I made my way between the computer terminals and kids urgently trying to capture my attention, it hit me:  there must be so many kids who truly need help with this. This alone … filling out the application!  And this is just the very beginning of their college admissions journey.  These kids will next endure many months of deciphering financial aid forms, understanding offers of admission and completing the other necessary steps toward college matriculation.  Schools are doing the best they can to help, but they are falling short.  Organizations at so many levels: national, state, private, philanthropic, are working to find solutions.  But what about the kids who need this help today, now?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know one thing: I can help one more student fill out an admissions application.  And then maybe stay in touch to answer more questions in the future for that student.

“Ms. Full, can you tell me what I’m supposed to put here?”

First Generation Student

This Thursday's chat focuses on retention initiatives for first generation students and we're looking forward to having our friends over at First Generation Student join us with some of their thoughts.

You may have run across them on Twitter or through your own searching, but First Generation Student is doing some incredibly valuable work for very deserving students (and families). FGS

First Generation Student is a Washington, D.C. based group that provides information, resources, and tools to aspiring and current first-generation college students. Their site covered every step of the process--planning for college, researching schools, applying, figuring out how to pay, and succeeding during and after college. Their writers have contributed to sites such as US News & World Report, College Board, Education Week, and more. Their goal is to provide the most comprehensive source of information available to this hard-working class of students.

They're perfect guests for this week's chat as we all know that retention doesn't necessarily start once a student begins their first day of classes.

They recently launched their blog that features a wide range of contributors--first-generation students, university faculty, staff from non-profit organizations (such as the Century Foundation), and nationally recognized experts (such as Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org, Fastweb.com. and the New York Times). They have also launched a college search tool that allows high school students to sort through schools on an interactive map based on location, cost, diversity, and other data; a "Student Stories" section that allows current first-generation students to share their experiences for the benefit of high school students going through the admissions process; and they are continually planning updates and new features, highlighted via their social media streams.

You can follow First Generation Student on Twitter and Facebook as well as their chat, #firstgenchat!

Join us Thursday night for what is shaping up to be a great conversation. Bring your questions, bring your thoughts, and as always, bring a beer. See you then!


Logjam on the Pathway to College

Karen Full - @KarenAFull

I recently read an interesting blog piece in the Huffington Post by Patrick O’Connor, Cranbrook School's Associate Dean of College Counseling and a former NACAC president. The post is called Counselor Training, College Board, and the Circle of Huh. In it, Patrick describes the disconnect between the lack of graduate school training that school counselors receive in the areas of college and financial aid counseling, and these same tasks that counselors are expected to perform in their schools. We expect school counselors to inform their students and families about college admission and financial aid, yet many have really never been trained in conducting this particular part of their job. Patrick has been urging communication between legislators, school board leaders and counselor graduate programs in Michigan to address this problem.

The blog references a 2012 College Board survey of school counselors called True North: Charting the Course toward College and Career Readiness. Read the executive summary of this report. In a nutshell, the majority of school counselors in the U.S. feel inadequately armed to guide their students through the college search and selection process.

Do your state university master's degree programs in guidance and counseling include courses that cover these topics?

Think about it: particularly in low-income school districts, where most parents are also not equipped to guide their children toward a future that includes college, who else can students turn to for help with the college admissions process, FAFSA filing, and scholarship searches? That is, if guidance counselors could even realistically find enough time to work with each student, given that the national student-to-counselor average ratio for public secondary schools last year was 421 to 1, according to NACAC's State of College Admission 2012.

Read more about these issues on the NACAC Issues and Advocacy page.  There is great information to be found here about the Pathways to College Act, which would create programs in low-income school districts to assist students with college readiness and preparation.

Urge your state and federal legislators to support funding and training for college counseling.

Karen Full on Twitter @karenafull

Building a First Generation College Student Friendly Campus

Yolanda Norman - @FirstGenCollege  

Hello #EMchat Family!

Reasearch, research, research....that's pretty much my life right now and I'm loving every moment of it. Recently I was asked what recommendations I have for making a campus First Generation College Student friendly. I have tons of recommendations, but to make sure you don't spend hours reading all of the research I've done, let me try to sum it up for you.

  • Define It: Your campus has to have a clear definition of the term "first generation college student". There are a number of different definitions out there and your campus has to decide on one so that you know exactly who you are trying to help. My campus decided to go with the definition used by the U.S. Department of Education as mentioned in the TRIO grant program. We define #firstgen students as any student whose parents don't have a bachelor's degree.
  • Spread the Word, and the Love too:  Once you define it, share it with the campus...especially the first generation college students. This very important act allows a sense of belonging among so many firstgen and creates a sense of ownership for them. Each office on your campus can get in on spreading the word and moving this group from  "invisible" to "visible"!
  • Involve The Family: In a post I wrote last year, I talked about our efforts with families of firstgen and the important of making sure the student feels supported by those that are closest to them. From the beginning of admitting the student, to orientation, to choosing a major, and preparing for graduation, involving the families of this group of students is a must!
  • No Networking: Instead of the idea of teaching our students to network, some of my students "hate" that very word and feel like it's a fake way of getting something out of someone else. Teach them to "connect" instead. Those personal connections with other students (firstgen and non-firstgen alike), faculty, and staff helps with persistence. Remember, we are trying to counteract the "imposter syndrome" and remind these students that they deserve to be on campus and connecting with the university community is an important part.
  • Assessment: If you want to know if your efforts are working you have to assess it and put some quantifiable numbers on paper. Working with my Institutional Assessment office has been the greatest opportunity ever. These people are geniuses at what they do and the amount of information they can compare and help you think about is incredible. Tracking the progress of firstgens on your campus will help us all out as we look to fully support this growing population of students.

That's it! That's a pretty quick summary (I hope) of some things you can do to get started. If you are interested in learning more, follow me on Twitter (@firstgencollege) and let me know how I can be of service to your campus.