Why Every First Generation Student Needs a Mentor

No Comments 17 July 2017

Beginning your college journey is tough, especially if you will be a first-generation college student. Finding a mentor will ease the process for you.

A mentor will push you. Getting into the college of your dreams is no easy task. But since your parents will not be able to give you advice based on experience, you might not realize the challenges ahead. Find a mentor who is a college graduate, and he or she will be able to push you in the right direction.

A mentor can act as an editor. Throughout the college application process, you will be writing essays. Having someone who has been through this process read over your essays will give you an advantage. A mentor will know what colleges are looking for in a college application essays and what scholarship committees want to see written in a scholarship application essay. Your mentor also can take a look at your College Greenlight college list and scholarship list and make suggestions to add.

A mentor can answer questions. Planning a college visit or figuring out financial aid on your own can be scary. You can ask your mentor for help instead of struggling with things like this on your own.

A mentor will offer support. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stress of the college application process, your mentor will be there for you. He or she has been through a similar experience and can offer you guidance. You can continue to rely on them throughout college.

Your mentor can be anyone who you respect – a teacher, a coach or even a recent graduate.

Choosing A School

Pros and Cons of a Summer College Visit

No Comments 07 June 2017

College visits: It’s not a question of if you should do it but when. Take a look at the pros and cons of planning a college visit during the summer to see if this is the right time for you.

Pro: It’s a Vacation

College visits usually are crammed into one weekend. But when you visit during the summer, you can take your time. You can explore the sights a campus offers. Take a look at dorms, the library and academic buildings you might spend time in. With the freedom that summer has to offer, you can stretch the visit across a few days. Plus, you’ll even have the time to check out the surrounding city.

Con: Few Students

Your potential academic program is one of the most important reasons to pick a college. Feeling at home with the other students, however, is just as important. There will be fewer students on campus if you visit during the summer. Unfortunately, that means you might not be able to experience the energy that the students bring to the campus. Consider visiting that college again in the fall to see what it’s like full of students.

Pro: More Attention

College visits during the academic year can be filled with dozens of students. During the summer, there’s a good chance it’ll just be you and maybe one or two other prospective students. That means the tour guide will have more time to give to you. Use this to your advantage and ask as many questions as you want.

Con: Fewer Activities

Since summer means fewer students on campus, that means fewer activities to see. During the fall, colleges often offer overnight visits. That means you can spend the night with a student in his or her dorm room. You shadow them in classes and extracurricular activities. You might have the option to see a summer school course, but visiting a college during the summer will limit the number of student activities you can experience.

Admissions, Choosing A School

Make the Most of Summer

No Comments 30 May 2017

Think of your summer break as extra time to prepare for college. Follow these steps to make sure you’re optimizing the next few months.


Find an organization you are passionate and look at volunteer opportunities. A positive volunteer experience can be a great topic for a scholarship or college essay. Colleges will be impressed to see that you spent the summer volunteering since it shows that you are a well-rounded individual.

Choose Colleges

Take some time to evaluate the kind of college you want to attend. Think of every aspect of a potential college – size, location, majors offered — and add them to your college list. Make sure you have a decent mix of safety, reach and match schools. When you’re ready to apply to colleges, you can consult this list.

Find a Summer Job

Every little bit helps for college, so start saving now. In addition to having extra money for college, this shows schools that you are a hard worker. Plus, jobs can be great leads for college scholarships.

Take Classes

Sure, summer school might seem like the least desirable thing right now, but taking a class or two this summer could pay off in the long run. Look into general education classes at your local community college. Your future college likely will accept these courses, which means that you will not have to take them in college. This will give you time to take more classes in college that interest you or graduate early and save money. Before you enroll in a class, talk to your future college and make sure they will accept these credits.


You’ve worked hard this school year. Between working and preparing for college, find some time to unwind this summer. Go to the pool, hang out with friends and catch up on Netflix. You’ll be more prepared to take on the upcoming school year if you feel refreshed.


Helping Students Overcome Undermatch

No Comments 24 May 2017

For many high achieving, low-income students, undermatch is a real phenomenon.

Undermatch occurs when a qualified student attends a college or university that is below his or her grades, test scores and abilities. Academically promising students wind up in community college or mediocre four-year colleges. Often times, they receive less financial, academic and social support than if they attended a more competitive college.

By following these steps, academic counselors can help students avoid being undermatched in the college application process.

Be Relentlessly Respectful and Respectfully Relentless

In order to overcome undermatch, counselors need to step into some discomfort and have crucial conversations with students. Counselors should tell students they value their strengths and never doubt their potential. With that mindset and a bit of patience and persistence, we can enable students to have the best options.

Nudge Students outside of Their Comfort Zone

I worked closely with a student in the top 10 percent of her class who was a committed member of the city’s youth council and the daughter of single mother who never graduated high school. On paper, she was a very competitive applicant to the most selective universities.

In her mind, though, she had doubts about being admitted to a local state school. I told her to open her options. After weeks of constant back and forth, she finally added more colleges to her list.

Show Students They Fit at Selective Institutions

Students often think they cannot get into or afford to attend more selective colleges and universities. But, with a bit of research, counselors can show students they are qualified to attend selective colleges and universities.

The student I encouraged to apply to more colleges was admitted to seven of the 12 she had on her list. Her mom cried with happiness when she submitted her decision to attend a university she never thought she would attend.

You should create a College Greenlight profile to see what colleges and scholarships you qualify for. Continue to make sure your information is up-to-date and you will be matched with the best options for you.

This piece was contributed by Alex Serna, assistant director of Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano.

Admissions, Fly-In Focus

College Greenlight Hosts Fly-in Program Webinar

No Comments 19 May 2017

Visiting a college campus doesn’t have to be a challenge — even if a campus is across the county. Many colleges offer fly-in programs, where students are flown in for a campus tour.

College Greenlight keeps an updated list of fly-in programs all over the country. More than 70 colleges, including many of the nation’s top schools, offer these programs.

College Greenlight hosted a webinar about fly-in programs, talking with admissions officers from Williams College, Bowdoin College and Swarthmore College. Listen for tips on how to access these programs.

Fly-in facts:

  • Colleges pay for students to come to campus
  • Students stay on campus in dorms and experience what college life is like
  • Fly-in programs aren’t limited to planes. Students also can be brought to campus via buses or trains.

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