Hey College Board….Who Do You Really Aim to Serve?

The College Board’s new college planning website is up and running. It has received both praise, and some flack – needless to say improvements will be made to it in the short and long-term. Despite some flaws, it is an improvement over the previous site. The College Board hopes the site ” will help a wide range of students, including first-generation college students who may not know much about the college admissions process”……. which, when I think about BigFuture in the context of my current dissertation research, begs me to raise this question: What about students who don’t have access to computers, and on top of that the internet?

Many that fall into this group are first-generation students, low-income and ethnic minority students, groups well-known to be underrepresented in higher education.  Think about it – there are precursors to making this site even remotely applicable for such a wide range of students and families – and therefore initiatives that dovetail and fill this gap should also have been launched alongside of BigFuture.

An example from my neighborhood: According to Mayor Nutter, only 10% of homes in the Kensington section of Philadelphia have Internet access while in Society Hill, the number is beyond 90%. I can’t speak for Society Hill, but the students, as well as educators and families in Kensington are in  need of the information and resources provided by a site like BigFuture. Not only do many of these students, and their families, not have computers and or internet access at home – but to make matters worse sometimes the schools they attend don’t have computers either. No computers = no internet = no BigFuture…or FAFSA, Common Application, etc. for that matter.

So where does that leave these students in the BigFuture equation? There are initiatives in Philadelphia in particular aimed at alleviating the digital divide, but more needs to be done. It bothers me this site touts that it hopes to help “first-generation college students who may not know much about the college admissions process.” It is true, this group may lack knowledge of the process, but one would think the College Board would be a bit more knowledgeable regarding some of the harsh realities of the population this site claims to aim to serve.

Start the Conversation Early!

To begin thinking about college and the application process/search in 9th grade is in no way too early. In fact, students need to start hearing the college message much earlier than grade 9, and I would go as far as saying grade 7 is a good time to start having this conversation – even in its most abstract form. This does not mean you have to start visiting colleges, creating a resume, and looking at life solely through the lens of must-do-this-for-college-application. I think it is beneficial because goal setting and having a strong HS performance IS important for the purpose of not just college but life BEYOND college. Good habits are developed over time, and there are quite a few good habits that I can think of that are beneficial to begin developing prior to getting to college, and before starting the application process for that matter!  

Article if this topic interests you, here.

Online College Search

I am a firm beleiver that the best way to actually research certain colleges is to go to the school’s website – that being said, I am still going to repost this article, because I have followed CTCL for years and am also a fan of the College Navigator site. If you are really unsure of what schools are out there but do have an idea of some of the characteristics that are important for your future school to have, the College Navigator serach engine should prove to be quite helpful. Plus, it is DOE sponsored – and I like that. Enjoy online shoppers!

Course Choice in High School – What Colleges Want

This topic has been getting more attention as of late, especially with the talk of putting a cap on the number of AP courses student could take in HS (which I do not really agree with). What I advise students and their families is this: Take the most rigorous courses possible, without making your schedule impossible, in the context of what your school offers. I also make note, like the author of this article does, that not all 4.0’s are created equal. A full load of basket-weaving 101 may get you a strong GPA, but unfortunately courses like these are not high on the academic rigor scale when admissions committee members are evaluating apps. Students know their strengths and weaknesses, and they should be able to develop, with the help of their counselor, an academic plan that fits their interests and abilities – and one that is challenging, but not impossible. This plan will also take into account the number and level of extracurricular activities the student takes part in as well as other responsibilities that may take time away from homework/studying.

And as this article points out, course selection will also be looked at in the context of the courses that are available at the school in which the student attends. Some school may only offer 4 AP’s – and if you took all of them that’s great and can’t really be knocked for not having taken 10 – since your school only offers 4.