As we begin 2018, many of our college planning cohort high school seniors successfully developed high quality self-presentations in advance of college and scholarship application deadlines. We assisted many students over the holiday break with finalizing their Common Applications in advance of January 1 college admissions deadlines. However, cohort students, like Guilford County Schools' Brenna Kaplan, who submitted Early Action or Early Decision applications, are already standing atop the mountains of their dreams with having received the good news of being offered admission to their top choice colleges. Brenna and her mom made a video of their cohort experiences leading to the good news of Brenna's receiving an offer of admission to one of the country's most selective liberal arts colleges, Amherst College.
Our College Panel Discussion, hosted at the Turner Chapel AME Church in December, was an information-filled session by a panel of extraordinary students who candidly shared their college experiences across an array of public and private liberal arts colleges and research institutions. We are appreciative of Alexis Ezell (Emmanuel College); Caleb Oatis (Middle Tennessee State); Candice Cook (University of Georgia); Derric Fray (University of Georgia); Dionne Ledbetter (Howard University); Justin Matthews (Dillard University); Kai Shearer (Tennessee State); Kynnedi Jefferson (Hampton University); Kyrah Felder (Xavier University of Louisiana); Morgan Johnson (University of Pittsburgh); and Tre Warren (University of Tennessee-Martin). The video of the panel will be posted later this month to: https://www.youtube.com/user/mychalwynn?app=desktop.
In addition to being offered admission to their top choice colleges, many cohort students have also received institutional scholarship offers, such as the Posse Foundation Scholars and SallieMae Bridging the Dream Scholarship. Some of our cohort students are also semi-finalists for the Elks Foundation Scholarship and Coca Cola Scholars Scholarship. Last year, cohort and current Williams College first-year student, Kimberly Hadaway, was selected as an Elks Scholarship recipient and currently serves on the Elks Student Advisory Board.
Cohort students in grades 9 - 11 will have many anxiety-filled months ahead as they await decisions regarding applications to Diversity Weekends and summer programs such as the Harvard Debate Council and Yale Young Global Scholars Program.
First Semester Review for Students in Grades 9 - 11
Students who were able to keep pace with our one activity per week schedule during the first semester, should have developed a broad understanding of the college planning process and the type of personal goals they must establish if they are to become competitive candidates for scholarships and college admission. Following is a recap of some of the more critical first semester activities.
My Profile Forms: Each student’s profile forms provides a quick glimpse into what they have achieved thus far during their high school journey, i.e., academics, extracurricular activities, leadership, and service. Student profiles are not fixed, they can change based on each student’s aspirations, motivations, and work ethic. However, each student is challenged with determining if his or her profile is aligned with his or her college and career aspirations, i.e., “Do my course taking, grades, and test scores meet the expectations of the colleges to which I want to apply?”
Academic Résumé: Each student’s academic résumé provides a one-page snapshot of what is contained in the student’s profile. The résumé can serve as a critically important supplement to college, summer program, and scholarship applications, as well as supporting emails and letters of inquiry into college opportunities. Whenever we contact colleges, programs, or scholarship providers on behalf of cohort students, we always attach a student’s résumé. Like the profile forms, résumés are not fixed, but provide students with opportunities to establish goals in preparation of developing stellar résumés as high school seniors.
Email Signature: Email signatures represent the third pillar of a student’s initial self-presentation, which ensures that every email communication profiles the student’s graduation year, high school, and 1 - 3 leadership roles or accomplishments.
My Story: The ‘My Story’ essay can provide critically insightful information into a student’s background, personal challenges, aspirations, and unique circumstances. This seemingly innocuous essay can provide the basis for future college admission and scholarship essays.
My Gifts, Talents, and Hook: While many students struggle with the concept of a, “Hook,” taken together, a student’s ‘My Story’ essay, together with their gifts and talents, can reveal a hook. For example, an elite athlete has a clearly-defined hook. However, a good athlete, who has performed well in a school with few financial resources, on a team with many losing seasons, and who comes from a family lacking the ability to provide opportunities for special skill development or athletic programs, may have a comparable hook as that of a more accomplished athlete, which can be communicated through the student’s essays.
Students in our senior cohort had identifiable hooks in such areas as having overcome tremendous personal hardships; extraordinary academic achievement, including near perfect SAT/ACT scores and scoring all ‘5’s’ on their AP exams; noteworthy achievements in theatre, dance, and music; being the first in their family to attend college; and even having impressive nominations and recommendations from our foundation.
Planning Your Course Schedule: The activities regarding course scheduling and test scores provided students with insight into the most direct pathway to becoming a highly competitive college and scholarship applicant. Each year, our high school seniors, who took the most rigorous classes, had the highest grades and test scores, and supplemented their academic achievement with leadership and service, receive the greatest number of college admissions offers and scholarship awards. Such students are exceptionally accomplished and provide the example to which all students should thrive.
Summer Planning: Cohort students not only received a jumpstart on identifying summer programs aligned with their college planning, but have already begun receiving offers of interviews and acceptances to such programs. Some of our high school juniors have participated in summer programs following their freshman and sophomore years of high school, which have defined their ‘hook’ and provided clear college and scholarship pathways.
Attention High School Juniors
As outlined in the first January activity, “SAT or ACT Planning,” our recommended college planning timeline for SAT/ACT testing is:
- Focus on either the SAT or ACT (but not both)
- Achieve your baseline score by the first testing date of 2018
- Based on your scores, retake the test (if needed), by June of 2018
Set a goal to achieve your highest test scores by June of your junior year of high school. From that point, your focus should shift from test scores to college and scholarship applications. If your test scores are competitive for your top-choice colleges great. If not, shift your focus to ‘Test Optional’ colleges. Failure to follow these recommendations will increase your anxiety in an already anxiety-filled senior year of high school, AND, distract you from the necessary time to be spent on college and scholarship research; engaging in leadership and community service; and writing high quality college and scholarship essays.
The following is reprinted from: Reviews.com: The Best ACT/SAT Test Prep Course
Ranks test prep courses in the following order:
- Kaplan SAT/ACT Prep Most Practice Tests
- The Princeton Review Best for One-on-One Attention
- Khan Academy Best Free SAT Prep
- ACT Online Prep Most Engaging ACT Prep
By 10th grade, all students should be proficient in the subject matter on the ACT and the SAT. That doesn’t mean they’re ready to take the test. Edward Carroll, a standardized test expert and tutor at The Princeton Review, said it best: “The SAT, more than anything else, shows how well you take the SAT.”
Think about it like this: A high school basketball player knows how to shoot a free throw, but shooting free throws in the driveway isn’t the same as sinking one during the fourth quarter of the state championships. That’s why we practice, practice, practice.
Taking the SAT or the ACT can feel like suiting up for the state championships. The best test prep courses will help students prepare for that feeling, to acclimate them to the test and its oddities, and help them practice — so when the clock is running down, their practice kicks in.
“The best test prep programs not only prepare students for the test, but also help enhance their knowledge of the subject matter covered in the test. They offer personalized learning that helps build on the student’s strengths and shore up their weaknesses across subject areas, so students feel confident they are prepared for and can do their best on the test.”
Paul Weeks Senior VP for Client Relations at ACT
Kaplan and The Princeton Review are both huge names in the test prep world. We [review.com] liked Kaplan’s $299 basic program and its video-centric materials. But we loved the number of practice tests it came with: It sends 8 practice tests in its Big Book of SAT Practice Tests (if you’re studying for the ACT, it has a similarly giant book called the Big Book of ACT Practice Tests). The Princeton Review is also $299 for the basic program and stood out for having the simplest way to connect with one-on-one help. The basic program includes three hours of chat help, and it’s easy to buy more by the hour ($50 per hour) and a lot simpler than trying to hire a tutor.
Our top pick for SAT prep app is Khan Academy — a nonprofit online learning resource with courses in just about anything. For its SAT Prep, it partnered with the creator of the SAT, the College Board. Take a few diagnostic tests, plug in your test date, and get a customized study plan. The materials include video lessons and seven practice tests written by the College Board.
The best ACT prep app is ACT Online Prep. Like Khan Academy, ACT Online Prep partnered with the creator of the ACT (which is also called ACT). This program was the most fun — tons of games and quizzes to take — and had a continually updating expected score that kept us motivated.
What to expect during the second semester
As we welcome new students to our program, following is a summary of how our program operates:
- An average of 1 activity per week is assigned through our College Planning Cohort Google Classrooms.
- Each activity is intended to take between 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
- Activities are intended to provide pieces to a students’ overall college-bound plan by expanding students’ college knowledge and thereby providing the context for college planning conversations. These conversations may occur between students and parents (or small group coaches), students participating in small groups, and between students through their postings to the Google Classroom.
- Monthly summaries, if submitted prior to the end of the month, will be reviewed and commented on by cohort facilitators or small group coaches.
- Each student’s work is maintained in the student’s online folder as part of the student’s ‘Body of Work.’ As a high school senior, this body of work will reflect each student’s ‘Self-Presentation.’ Consequently, the overall goal of each student’s participation in our College Planning Cohort Program is to develop a high quality self presentation for submitting college and scholarship applications as high school seniors.
All first semester activities have been removed from our Google Classrooms, but will continue to be available for purchase from our website. Refer to each our blog postings for the assigned activities by month. Students enrolled in our program during the first semester have had all of their completed work moved into folders, to which they will continue to have access, while they are registered for our program. Please note that you may always visit our monthly blog to review the first semester activities.
All announcements pertaining to cohort meetings and conference calls will be announced in our monthly newsletter.
FCSD3 Cohort Monthly Meeting: Saturday, January 13, 2018: 9:30 am - 3:00 pm in the School Board Room.
The Next Episode: Sunday, January 14, 2018: 9:30 am - the end of worship service (Turner Chapel AME Church Boardroom).
Atlanta-area Monthly Cohort Meeting: Sunday, January 14, 2018: Noon - 1:30 pm (Turner Chapel AME Church).
TCC High School Senior Cohort: Sunday, January 14, 2018: Immediately following worship service.
Monthly Conference Call: Sunday, January 14, 2018: 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm (Details posted in the Google Classroom).
GCS Cohort Monthly Meeting: Saturday, January 20, 2018: 9:00 am - 1:00 pm in the GTCC Computer Lab. Please note that all students should wear their GCS First Generation Ambassadors T-shirts to the March meeting so that we may take a group photo.
What is being planned for the future
We are currently in the process of redesigning our websites:
Under the new design, which we anticipate beginning the 2018/19 school year, our bookstore, college planning cohorts, and information about Mychal Wynn, will all be available at the Foundation for Ensuring Access and Equity website. We anticipate moving away from the Google Classroom format in September, 2018 and into a format that is fully hosted on our website. Under the new format, students will receive login information that will allow access to our College Planning Cohort information database. Our database will include monthly activities, scholarships that cohort students have received, colleges to which cohort students have been offered admission, sample award letters, and other information gathered over the 5 years of our College Planning Cohort Program. We are excited about the new website design and anticipate that our students will be among the most competitive college and scholarship applicants in the country.
We are also excited about the planned expansion of our partnerships with Crossroads for Teens, Florence County School District 3, Guilford County Schools, and our community- and faith-based cohorts.
Have a Question?
Contact us at:
Phone: (678) 395-5825
College Planning Cohort
C/O Foundation for Ensuring Access and Equity
P.O. Box 70457
Marietta, GA 30007