Thirteen recent University of Virginia graduates have moved from walking the Lawn to walking the halls of high schools as members of the Virginia College Advising Corps.
The College Advising Corps, which began at U.Va. as the College Guide Program, places recent University graduates in high school guidance offices, where they help students with the nonacademic aspects of preparing for college.
“Many low-income, under-represented and first-generation students are at risk for not persisting through the hurdles of college applications, and particularly, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” said Joy Pugh, who directs the program. “Our college advisers spend time one-on-one with these students – with every senior at most of our partner high schools – in order to ensure that these steps get completed.”
Are the program’s efforts paying off?
Last year, 13 advisers had 8,529 one-on-one meetings with students, 1,227 meetings with parents and accompanied 248 students on college campus visits. They directly assisted with 1,914 college applications and 1,587 FAFSA submissions and helped students secure more than $1.5 million in scholarships.
The advisers are being deployed in 16 schools throughout the state, working with students to encourage them to consider any and all forms of higher education and assist them with financial aid forms, scholarships and college visits.
With a statewide average of one guidance counselor for every 315 students, Pugh said the counselors do not have time for the intensive, one-on-one advising that can be the key turning point for a student to go on to post-secondary education. Especially lacking is advice on financial issues.
“Our college advisers are aware of revenue streams to pay for college – federal financial aid and scholarships,” Pugh said. “They are also informed on graduation rates, actual cost versus the sticker cost of institutions and other important factors that can affect the cost of college.”
The advisers are well-versed in the guaranteed admissions agreement with Virginia Community Colleges, under which students who graduate from one of Virginia’s 23 community colleges with an associate’s degree and a minimum grade-point average are guaranteed admission to more than 23 four-year colleges in the commonwealth.
“The advisers have conversations with students about career paths, likely salaries and how to balance that with the amount of loans taken out for any post-secondary plan,” Pugh said. “This type of advice is extremely valuable, particularly for the demographic profile of students we are serving.”
College advisers are also trained in matching and fitting students with the proper schools.
“The advisers look at a student’s grades, test scores and strength of academic schedule, to find a range of schools that are likely to be a match for them,” Pugh said. “Fit is more about things like the social culture of the school, resources available there, distance from home, whether it is a rural or urban setting, etc. Both match and fit are important in finding a two- or four-year college that is a place the student can succeed.”
Pugh said many low-income students are “under-matched,” meaning that they pair themselves with schools that will not challenge their full potential.
“Our advisers can help these students to have a realistic picture of their match schools, and to apply to places they may have never thought possible,” Pugh said. “We can also educate them on funding that is available for them to attend.”
The Virginia College Advising Corps program lines up with the objectives of the Virginia 2011 Higher Education Opportunity Act, which calls for 100,000 additional college degrees to be awarded by 2026.
The Virginia College Advising Corps for the 2013-14 school year are:
• Fiona Charles, 23, of Castries, St. Lucia and Virginia Beach, who graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences as a dual major in African-American studies and sociology. She will be an adviser at Fluvanna County High School.
• Erica Raye Elder, 21, of Collinsville, who graduated from the College as an English major. She will be an adviser at Bassett High School in Henry County – the school from which she graduated in 2010.
• Brittany Everett, 22, of Franklin, who graduated from the College with a double major in English and sociology. She will serve as an adviser at Patrick County High School.
• Amber Hamilton, 22, of Charleston, S.C., who graduated from the College with a degree in linguistics, with a concentration in teaching English as a second language. She will be an adviser at Tunstall and Dan River high schools in Pittsylvania County.
• Alexandria Johnston, 20, of Virginia Beach, who graduated from the College as a double major in sociology and women, gender and sexuality. She will be an adviser at Chatham and Gretna high schools in Pittsylvania County.
• Emily Ann Loranger, 22, of Soldotna, Alaska, who graduated from the College as a double major in women, gender and sexuality and sociology. She will be an adviser at William Monroe High School in Greene County.
• Christina Mattaliano, 23, of Fredericksburg, who graduated from the College in 2012 with bachelors’ degrees in psychology and sociology, and from the Curry School of Education of 2013 with a masters’ degree in education. She will be an adviser at Magna Vista High School in Henry County.
• Margaret Montague, 22, of Charlottesville, who graduated from the College as a double major in religious studies and studio art, concentrating on photography. She will be an adviser at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
• Oladoyin Onawole, 22, of Virginia Beach, who graduated from the College as a dual major in African-American studies and psychology. She will be an adviser at Nelson County and Charlottesville high schools.
• Christine Marie E. Quilpa, 22, of Suffolk, who graduated from the College with a degree in sociology and a minor in Asian Pacific American studies. She will be an adviser at George Washington High School in Danville.
• Chelsey Ward, 23, of Farmville, who received degrees in urban and environmental planning from the School of Architecture and African-American and African studies from the College. She will be an adviser at Louisa County High School.
• Tonyette White, 22, of Danville, who graduated from the College as a double major in psychology and sociology. She will be an adviser in the Martinsville Public Schools.