UVA Selects Recent Grads to Help High School Students Navigate College Admissions

Members of the Virginia College Advising Corps will work with high school students who might not otherwise consider going to college.
August 11, 2017

Those who have just finished their own college experiences are some of the best to guide their slightly younger peers to higher education.

This is the philosophy behind the Virginia College Advising Corps, though which recent graduates of the University of Virginia, UVA’s College at Wise and Radford University will spend the next year guiding high school students toward college.

Twenty-four recent graduates including 21 from UVA, make up the corps. They will spend the next academic year in Virginia high school counseling offices, working with students who might otherwise not think about higher education. The advisers help students navigate financial aid questions, arrange college visits and assist with college preparation.

“Statewide, the trend has been for postsecondary enrollment rates to remain steady. However, we see an increase in enrollment rates from our partner high schools,” said Joy Pugh, director of the Virginia College Advising Corps. “This amounts to thousands more low-income and first-generation students going to college who wouldn’t have without the support and assistance of a college adviser.”

In 2016-17, Virginia College Advisers served 5,184 seniors and 1,126 parents, tallying 2,667 financial aid submissions, a leading indicator of whether or not students will proceed to college.  The advisers helped students to secure more than $39 million in institutional aid, and more than $6 million in scholarships. According to National Student Clearinghouse, advisers’ partner high schools have seen an average increase in post-secondary enrollment anywhere between 2 and 17 percentage points, with a program average of 6 percentage points.

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, postsecondary enrollment rates remained between 71 percent and 72 percent during the period of 2008-2014. Schools with advisers saw more than a 6 to 9 percentage point increase during that same period. 

The program started 12 years ago at UVA and has since grown into a national non-profit organization that operates in 14 states. This year in Virginia, the two dozen college advisers will serve 28 high schools; since the program’s inception, more than 120 UVA graduates have fanned out across the commonwealth to assist high school students in their higher-education decisions. The advisers make a two-year commitment to the program.

“Our program works because of the incredible people who become college advisers,” Pugh said. “The dedication that they have to their students, and to serving these communities, is genuine and tireless. They are providing information, advice and encouragement at a critical turning point in a young person’s life.” 

Some advisers said they want to offer students some of the advantages they had.

“I grew up with a supportive family and school system where it was normal and expected to go to college directly after high school,” Yorktown native Robin Yeh said. “However, I know that isn’t the case for every student, so I want to help fill that gap and be the resource for students to understand the importance of college and how to succeed there.”

Many advisers, such as UVA-Wise graduate Allie Robinson Brickey of Clintwood, can identify closely with the students they will mentor.

“I applied to be an adviser because I want to give high school students the help and information about college that I didn’t receive when I was in school,” Brickey said. “I hope to be able to work with a college or with students after my time with the Advising Corps.

The advisers help the high school students explore multiple higher-education options, not just UVA.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to access higher education,” Pugh said. “There are many paths available – a four-year school, two-year school, certificate programs, trade schools, etc. – but executing the steps to make that plan a reality is essential. We work with each individual student to determine the best path for them, taking into account academic match, cost of attendance and many other factors. And then we ensure that each step is completed, whether it is taking the SAT or ACT, filling out college applications, submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or anything else necessary for that student’s success.”

This year’s College Advisers are:

  • Allie Robinson Brickey of Clintwood, a 2017 communication studies and leadership graduate from UVA-Wise, a first-year adviser assigned to Wise Central High School in Wise.
  • Allyson Clement of Aratat, a 2016 American government graduate from UVA, returning to Bassett High School in Henry County for a second year.
  • Ryan Coyne of Winchester, a 2017 economics graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Amelia County High School.
  • Benjamin Lane Goins of Ridgeway, New Jersey, a 2017 anthropological sciences and biology graduate from Radford University, a first-year adviser at his alma mater, Magna Vista High School in Henry County.
  • Lucy Gordon Smith of Richmond, a 2017 American studies graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Buckingham County High School.
  • Katelyn Hebel of Richmond, a 2015 English and religious studies graduate from UVA, a second-year adviser returning to Nelson County High School.
  • Keri Holt of Gretna, a 2017 psychology graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Dan River and Tunstall high schools in Pittsylvania County.
  • Julie Kusnerik of Mechanicsville, a 2015 women, gender and sexuality and sociology graduate from UVA, a third-year adviser opening a new Virginia College Advising Corps office at Caroline County High School.
  • Meghan Madler of Newport News, a 2017 kinesiology and philosophy graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Lancaster High School in Lancaster and Northumberland High School in Heathsville.
  • Abigail Osei of Alexandria, a 2017 psychology and religious studies graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to her alma mater, T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
  • Kiley Overstreet of Lynchburg, a 2017 Italian studies graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to William Monroe High School in Greene County.
  • Shamecca Perkins of Northfork, West Virginia, a 2017 psychology and Spanish graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Martinsville High School.
  • Amy Pressey of Williamsburg, a 2017 biology and anthropology graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Charles City County High School.
  • Jenna Rieden of Herndon, a 2017 psychology and youth and social innovation graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Rappahannock High School in Richmond County and Washington & Lee High School in Westmoreland County.
  • Marcus J. Rini of Charlottesville, a 2016 Spanish graduate with a minor in sociology from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Fluvanna County High School.
  • Lindsey Rosenthal of Richmond, a 2016 linguistics graduate from UVA, a second-year adviser returning to Patrick County High School.
  • Lyons Sanchezconcha of Sterling, a 2016 Spanish graduate from UVA, a second-year adviser returning to Huguenot High School in Richmond.
  • Sass Santanah Sloce of Norton, a 2016 sociology graduate from UVA-Wise, a secondyear adviser assigned to her alma mater, John I. Burton High School in Norton.
  • Sierra Swisher of Fishersville, a 2017 youth and social innovation graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Orange County High School.
  • Shweta Tembe of Richmond, a 2017 psychology graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to Louisa County High School.
  • Morgan Tyree of Lynchburg, a 2017 psychology and youth and social innovation graduate from UVA, a first-year adviser assigned to the Gretna and Chatham high schools in Pittsylvania County.
  • Laura Widener of Richmond, a 2016 women, gender and sexuality graduate from UVA, a second-year adviser returning to Charlottesville High School.
  • Donnell Wright of Chicago, a 2016 sociology graduate from UVA, a second-year adviser returning to
  • Robin Yeh of Yorktown, a 2016 media studies graduate from UVA, a second-year adviser returning to George Washington High School in Danville.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications