College Advising


by Caroline Collier

Higher education always has been a probability for people with economic advantages, but students from low-income backgrounds are almost 30 percentage points less likely to attend college than their higher-income peers, reports the U.S. Department of Education. 
In 2011-12, TCU’s College of Education joined with the national College Advising Corps to help reverse the trend. 
TCU’s program hires recent university graduates to work in public high schools.“We learn most often from role models that are most similar to ourselves,” said Elizabeth “Becky” Taylor, the principal investigator for the program. “I think anybody can do anything if they have the right social support.” 
The new graduates, called college advisers, help teenagers from mostly underrepresented populations visualize their futures. They assist high school students in transforming their dreams into reality, whether their aspirations are for college, the military or trade school.
“Counselors need help,” said Taylor, who specializes in school counseling. High school counselors must meet so many state requirements, they have little time to assist students with the complexities of college applications and financial aid forms.
When the TCU program started, the university sent its college advisers across Texas, but the program administrators wanted to strengthen the College of Education’s existing ties with the local community.  
“We have managed to find and retain exceptional TCU graduates,” said Matt Burckhalter, director of the TCU program. He trains the university’s college advisers during a four-week period in the summer.
“They’re done learning how to change the world,” he said about the new TCU graduates turned college advisers. “We’re giving them the opportunity to go and do it in our local community.”
One of Burckhalter’s first recruits was Geovanny Bonilla, who has a degree in political science and philosophy. Now, Bonilla collects TCU data and works with Stanford University, which serves as the lead research institution for the national program. 
College advising is “theoretically sound,” said Taylor. “But (the data analysis) is going to add to the fact that it’s more than theoretically sound. It’s practical.” 

Stepping  Stones: 

College Advisers also…
• Persuade students to take standardized tests. “Some of the kids who have taken their SATs and their ACTs find out they’re a lot smarter than they thought they were,” said Taylor.
• Entice male students, especially those of Hispanic and African-American descent, to seek an education beyond high school. Some college advisers talk with male teenagers about careers in technology, such as working with lasers or in video game programming. 
• Steer students to helpful websites. BigFuture.comlists majors and activities so aspiring collegians can pick institutions that offer what they want to pursue. 
• Arrange college fairs at their schools. Sometimes 60 institutions will send representatives to these campus events, which is a common occurrence at high schools with large college-bound student bodies. But some college advisers are assigned to schools that never had such events until they arrived. 

José Trejo
A former Community Scholar at TCU, Trejo was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. At 3-years-old, he moved to Texas with his parents. 

For the second year, he is advising at Fort Worth’s Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School – the same school he attended.
“I wanted to give back something I never had, said Trejo about returning to his old neighborhood.
Last year Trejo helped a student with an Ivy League college application. Now the young man is a freshman with a full academic scholarship at Harvard University. 
“If I made it, you can make it, especially now that you have more opportunities, more resources than I did,” said Trejo, who graduated with a TCU degree in criminal justice.
Many high school students have to deal with tough personal trials. Last year, a female high school student planned to attend the University of North Texas. Just before graduation, a random shooter killed her mother. A few weeks later, her father died. Trejo kept encouraging the young woman, who received a college full scholarship, to continue with her education.

My Nguyen
Nguyen is a first-generation college student, and a former Community Scholar at TCU. Her parents emigrated from Vietnam. 

After seeing how much of an impact she had on young people’s lives during her first year with the program, Nguyen said her whole focus changed. “Why not share your wealth? Why not share your knowledge?” 
She discovered that sometimes a 17-year-old student is the main source of income for his or her family, and education takes a back seat. “I didn’t realize how adult these kids have to be,” said Nguyen. “I always thought a student was a student.”
Nguyen, who works at Dunbar High School in Fort Worth, is working on her master’s degree in educational leadership. While her graduate studies are different from her undergraduate degree in environmental science, she tells her high school students that post-secondary education is often a meandering path, not a destination.

Elizabeth Rosales
A second-year college adviser at Lake Worth High School, located in a Fort Worth suburb, Rosales earned a degree in psychology at TCU.
 “The chance that you can give back … it’s just rewarding,” said the former Community Scholar and Fort Worth native about her experience at Lake Worth. 
But not every student outcome is successful. While helping a student with a financial aid applications, the young man discovered he was living in Texas without legal documents. “He was really upset,” said Rosales. The student disappeared, discouraged about his future.
As part of her duties, Rosales organized a visit to a college campus for her students. The trip to Denton took 40 minutes, but many of the high school students had never left Lake Worth. “They got to see how different the world really is outside of their bubble,” she said.

Numbers and Facts

2005: College Advising Corps started at the University of Virginia, with financial support from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Two years: Maximum length of service in the program
2014-15, National Corps 
450 college advisers
500 high schools 
14 states
2014-15, TCU Program 
25 college advisers
3 in West Texas 
9 in Tarrant County or Irving 
13 in Fort Worth high schools 
10,000: Minimum numbers of high school 
students helped
First-Generation College Students
The U.S. Department of Education found that first-generation students were only half as likely as their peers to expect an education beyond high school.

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