Juniors: College Programs That Are Not Being Discussed
By Esther Huescas
My junior year at Northside College Prep was filled with countless conversations on colleges, scholarships, and test scores. Although college is a prominent topic of conversation between second semester juniors, there are valuable programs that are oftentimes ignored. These opportunities and programs support low-income, minority students during the college application process. They offer the resources that make higher education accessible for any student, despite their socio-economic background and/or race. I hope current juniors take advantage of this article, which makes it easy to learn and apply to these programs.
The Questbridge Foundation is often only known for their National College Match program, yet they also offer an honor for juniors in high school, known as the Questbridge College Prep Scholar program. As a Scholar, you are offered an opportunity to attend a national conference with prospective seniors who share similar aspirations from all over the country. There are three conference locations based on students’ respective region: Rice University in Texas, Stanford University in California, and Yale University in Connecticut. These colleges, along with 37 other prestigious institutions, are known as Questbridge partners, which are all dedicated to being need-blind and full-need. I was invited to the Rice University conference which took place in mid-May and was a day long event. At the conference, there were seminars and panels with the college partner representatives, along with a presentation on the National College Match from the founder, Michael McCullough. Along with the great experience and resources that this honor comes with, the application also allows you to apply to “Quest for Excellence Awards.” This program offers six awards with multiple winners in each category. It is also a more personalized honor to add if you choose to apply to the Questbridge National College Match program in the fall of your senior year. This scholar program, along with the National College Match, are both designed for high academically-achieving, low-income, first-generation, minority students. The application deadline is scheduled to be Mar. 20, 2019. Use the link at the end of the article to for sign-up, deadline, and application updates.
The Chicago Scholars Foundation is a college support program along with an honor. This is a program that provides the resources necessary to succeed all throughout the college application process, your time in college, and in starting a career after college. They offer support to get into college with individualized college counseling sessions, workshops, mentors, and financial-aid assistance. Chicago Scholars are first-generation college students and/or students who come from an under-resourced community. The selected scholars are also leaders in their schools, communities, and/or homes. The application is open now and the deadline for the class of 2024 is Feb. 19, 2019.
Bottom Line is an organization located in Chicago, Boston, New York City, and Worcester. Bottom Line’s mission is to help low-income, first-generation students get into college, graduate into college, and go far. At Bottom Line, you will meet with an advisor one-on-one and have help throughout your entire senior year, starting the summer before. The advisor will help you create your college list and will read and edit your essays with you. This is a support system that helped me a lot, along with many other first-generation students who received guidance throughout this confusing and ever-changing process. Bottom Line provides allies to the students that need it the most. Applications open in Apr. 15, 2019, and the deadline has not been released. Since their deadline is still not officially released, I suggest signing-up with its email list to get the latest updates on how and when to apply.
Dual-Enrollment at Chicago Community Colleges is another program that is frequently overlooked. I wish I had taken advantage of this opportunity during my junior year of high school. This is not a program for all -- you should not sacrifice your grades at Northside or your familial obligations. You should only participate in this program if you believe you will be able to handle the extra workload. The dual-enrollment program allows you the opportunity to take one free, 16-week college credit course at any of the Chicago community colleges. Juniors -- if you do not want to participate this year but still want to be participate in the program, there are summer options as well as throughout your senior year. The application and more information is in the link below.
Although these are only a few programs, they offer great opportunities for high school students. Another good resource for exploring colleges is to apply during your summer before senior year to fly-out programs through individual schools. These are paid trips that could give you an idea about where you see yourself for the next four years. These programs and organizations are so important and are not brought up enough. Juniors as you begin the college application process, I urge you to explore these programs and to utilize the resources they so generously provide.