February 2018 Activities

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

February is Black History Month and represents an appropriate time to explore the impact of HBCUs in defining the postsecondary trajectories of cohort students. Our first cohort at the Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta, Georgia was comprised of entirely African-American students. With pastor, co-pastor, youth pastor, and many members of our congregation representing alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, our students were well aware that the undergraduate educational opportunities at HBCUs were comparable to those of any undergraduate public or private institution in the country. After being offered admission to Cornell, Kings College of London, Boston University, Pomona College, and Howard, one of our cohort students chose Howard. Another student from our church has just entered graduate school at Columbia with a full fellowship after receiving her undergraduate degree from Xavier University of Louisiana. 3 of our church’s Gates Millennium Scholars chose HBCUs (Howard, Morehouse, and Spelman).

While our current cohorts are racially and socioeconomically diverse, many of our students continue to choose HBCUs as their top college choice. Students from our FCSD3 cohort have worked their way into full scholarships at the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College at Claflin University; several cohort students have received the Presidential Scholarship to Xavier University of Louisiana, one of whom in the dual degree program in computer science, has received a full summer internship with Google’s Seattle Office. We have cohort students on full scholarship at Dillard University, Tennessee State University, and several cohort students who will be graduating in May from Howard University, after having received full scholarships for four years. The opportunities for full merit-based scholarships to attend HBCUs continues with one of our current cohort students being offered the Distinguished Presidential Scholarship (full scholarship) to Tuskegee University. HBCUs, many of which are no longer predominately black, offer undergraduate programs, scholarship opportunities, and exposure to highly sought after internship and research opportunities that any student should seriously consider as part of their postsecondary research.


We are so proud of the many success stories being received each month from cohort students who are working hard to expand their college and scholarship opportunities. High school senior, Peyton Wilson, of Marietta High School in Marietta, Georgia has been selected as a member of the Georgia Washington University 'Posse.' Peyton, seated in the front roll with the beautiful yellow sweater, receives a full tuition scholarship to GW, valued at over $210,000 for four years. Past cohort students have become Posse Scholars at Syracuse and Boston University.


Congratulations to 9th grader, Tyra Grant, of Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia (pictured below, 3rd row, 2nd from right), who has been selected as a member of the inaugural class of the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project. Both Peyton and Tyra, committed to developing a body of work (i.e., coursework, grades, activities, leadership) and positioned themselves to being offered these extraordinary opportunities. However, after being presented with the opportunity, they committed to preparing for their respective interviews and positioned themselves to be among the most competitive candidates in the room.  

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

Congratulations to Ms. Kristal Martinez, Spanish Language teacher and soccer coach at Lake City High School (Florence County School District 3), who will be teaching "College Planning 101" to a cohort of Lake City High School juniors. We are excited about working with Ms. Martinez and her students who will be working hard to expand their college and scholarship opportunities long prior to entering into their senior year of high school.

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
    • ACT (February 10, 2018) Retake (June 9, 2018)
    • SAT (March 2, 2018) Retake (June 2, 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:

  1. Kaplan SAT/ACT Prep Most Practice Tests
  2. The Princeton Review Best for One-on-One Attention
  3. Khan Academy Best Free SAT Prep
  4. 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.

Click here for full review...

What to expect during the second semester

Activities will no longer be introduced through the newsletters. For the next several months, activities will only be posted to our College Planning Cohort Google Classrooms. In August, we will move from the Google Classroom format with the launch of our College Planning Cohort eLearning website. Not only will students be able to complete of of their work on our website, we will be introducing eLearning modules for parents, teachers, and counselors. The most significant adjustment to our college planning cohort program during the second semester will be a shift toward cultivating the ‘Conversational Communities’ that are at the heart of our program. Our monthly cohort meetings will focus on cultivating round table discussions where cohort students engage in sharing what they are learning, how their postsecondary plans are evolving, and how they are progressing in pursuing the goals they have set for themselves. The heart of our program is student learning and whether or not we are successful is revealed through how students are able to engage in conversations about what they are learning.

Posted in Cohort Activities.

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