After 18 years as a law professor, I became an independent educational consultant, providing private college counseling in the Philadelphia area. I am strongly committed to working with college applicants who may be the first generation in their family to go to college. Strive for College attracts those applicants, and I have volunteered to mentor up to four students at a time.
It’s personal for me. My mother did not attend college. My father was a first-gen student. The son of Italian immigrants who dreamed of becoming an engineer, he went to school at night for his BS and MS in mechanical engineering. Later in life, he became an adjunct professor at a college where many of his students were first generation. His example inspires me.
The students I work with are at a disadvantage because they don’t have parents or other family members who went to college, and they may attend high schools with overworked counselors. That leaves them without the wealth of knowledge that other college applicants easily access and take for granted about how the system works and what to expect when you get to college.
My experience, and my age, enables me to give good individualized advice to students. Many college application mentoring programs rely on a “near peer” model, where current college students or recent grads help high school students. But younger mentors may have limited experience beyond their own and may not be familiar with the full spectrum of college options available.
I find Strive’s mentoring program powerful because it’s online, which allows access to students wherever they may be. My current students are from North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maine and Ohio. One was born in Korea; another is the child of Haitian immigrants.
I spend an hour or less a week with each student, depending on their needs. Things pick up during the fall application season. Some students seek input on their list of colleges. I find that some first-gen college applicants tend to craft inappropriate lists, like three Ivy League schools plus their local community college. They may be unaware of the range of colleges and the availability of financial aid. I also provide feedback on their essays, assisting them in finding their voice, choosing a good topic and telling the most compelling story they can.
Education is crucial to social mobility, financial security and reaching individual potential. Education changed the trajectory of my family, and it can do so for young people today, including my Strive students.
This story comes to us from our Generation-to-Generation partner Strive for College, an online mentoring program that connects connects high school students with a mentor virtually, anywhere, anytime. Strive’s goal is to increase college access by under-served students, giving them mentoring assistance with college applications and the financial aid process.