Advising corps works to make college accessible
Recent alumni have the chance to relive campus memories with the start of MSU College Advising Corps’ month-long summer training.
MSU College Advising Corps, or MSUCAC, is partnered with AmeriCorps and the National College Advising Corps to help low-income, first generation or underrepresented high school students move through the college enrollment process with the goal of accepting more high school students into higher education. MSUCAC focuses on both urban and rural communities.
Advisers have the opportunity to serve a high school or multiple high schools for two years after graduation from MSU. The program is open to any recent graduate of any major.
Second-year adviser Lorrena Johnson serves two rural high schools in the Muskegon area.
“I am a first generation college student. Education changed my whole entire life,” Johnson said. “I want to try to impact as many lives as possible — especially first generation, low-income students, because a lot of the time people don’t tell you you can go to college, because your parents didn’t go.”
Johnson said she went to a 98 percent black high school with little to no diversity, but her first year at MSU allowed her to meet people from all over the world. She said her college experience opened her mind and changed her life. The chance to give other high school students the same opportunity is what made her join MSUCAC.
“This is a program where we are going in as a recent college graduate, talking to these students and making their dreams of going to college realistic,” Johnson said.
Helping high school students navigate college enrollment is far from easy though.
Second-year adviser Delorean Brown serves Osborn High School in Detroit and said the biggest challenge she faces is what students think they know about college access. She said she did a lot of assuming her first year and, as an adviser, assuming is not acceptable.
“I have to go in with a different mindset,” Brown said. “I assumed that they knew how to do it. They actually did not know. They didn’t know how to fill out an application. They didn’t know you’re supposed to write an application in pen.”
In addition to helping students who don't understanding general protocol for filling out college applications, college advisers also have to face the negative mentality of some parents.
Program coordinator Jenny O’Neal said some students don’t feel they are college material and their parents don’t think their children need to go to college at all.
“That’s hard because you don’t want to tell people what they think or believe is wrong. But it’s necessary for us and for the state of Michigan and for this country to change (that) mindset because we know that our workforce needs to be highly trained and highly skilled,” O’Neal said.
Advisers have yearly goals they try to reach. Of the graduating seniors in each high school MSUCAC works with, they look to get 80 percent of those students to complete financial aid applications. They hope to have 60 to 70 percent of high school seniors completing college applications and getting accepted. The group aims to have 100 percent meet with the adviser, at the very least.
“If we can just get our population to become educated, then society as a whole benefits,” O’Neal said.
Summer adviser training consists of conferences and lectures with experts in every area of college enrollment. Advisers learn the ins and outs of applications, admissions and financial aid. They spend mid-July through mid-August back on campus, learning about public and private colleges, trade schools and certificate programs. The second-year advisers share successes and failures and everyone learns how to work collaboratively with the personnel in the high schools they will serve.
“This is our future. We’re getting kids started on the rest of their lives. We’re impacting them so they can impact us in 10, 20 years," Brown said. "I think it’s important for MSU to understand we’re reaching out to kids who didn’t think they had a chance and we’re giving them something that they never even thought could happen."