I follow education issues online and had always wondered if there were a way for me to help first-generation students fulfill their college dreams. Back when I was applying for college, I could have used some help navigating the system. If I was confused, these kids must be even more befuddled. After all, my parents had gone to college; theirs have not. With my background in counseling and psychology, I thought I’d have something to offer them.
EUGEN COTEI :
I’m not gonna lie. When I looked through the mentors offered by STRIVE, I chose Bea because she looked like an older person, someone with more experience and that’s something I really valued. The other mentors were mostly college freshmen and I don’t think they would have been as good as Bea is at giving me help with my college application.
Bea is amazing. She has answered every single question I had. She gives me meaningful advice. She doesn’t get tired of me. She’s always available. She knew all about the colleges I was interested in and did a lot of research for me. I have so much respect for her, because she has so much experience in everything. She’s like an encyclopedia!
BEA : The STRIVE online platform offers advice on choosing the “best fit” college, on financial aid and on writing the college essay. The essay causes a lot of anxiety in students and I try and help them tell their own story, and push them to go deeper – How did you feel about that? What did that mean for you?
Having worked in publishing as well, I know that you don’t want to override the kid’s own voice in their essay. You need to critique their application respectfully and help them think about what information is important to include and what is not.
I often bring up how expensive out-of-state colleges can be, or how selective. I told Eugen, “I’d feel better if you had a college on your list that accepted more than 10% of its applicants.” I talk to them about the demographics of the campus – if they are Latino, does the school have groups where you can feel supported? Is the campus gay-friendly? If the campus is small, whom are you going to date? And I talk about class issues. I worry about a first-gen student from Texas going to an idyllic New England college.
EUGEN : Neither of my parents has college degrees. They were born in Romania, as I was, and they moved to the U.S. so me and my sister would have the opportunity for a good education. I feel really lucky to have Bea as my first mentor. My family could never afford to pay for someone this smart to help me out. She encourages me and gives me the confidence to try my best to get into these colleges. She’s helped me out with so much more than college essays. She gives me life advice and we talk about our mutual interests, like making pottery. We will most definitely stay in touch after I go to college.
BEA : First generation students often have a lot of anxiety about economic mobility. They know that their families are relying on them to move up the ladder. This is a “trickle up” generation that will be providing for the needs of many generations. I’m committed to helping under-resourced and under-represented students navigate the college experience. I believe we need their presence and their voices in college, and beyond?in government, in our educational system, in corporations and businesses.
This story comes to us from our Generation-to-Generation partner Strive for College, an online mentoring program that connects high school students with a mentor virtually, anywhere, anytime. Strive’s goal is to increase college access by under-served students, giving them assistance with college applications and the financial aid process.