Mai Nguyen is an Advisor in the College Advising Corps, an organization that seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented students who enter and complete higher education. Mai and eleven other recent college graduates work full-time as College Advisors in public high schools around Rhode Island.
Within the first week of my arrival at Tolman High School, they tentatively knocked at my office door unsure if I was the “college person” with the college answers. Upon confirmation, they trickled through with questions.
Miss! Where should I apply? What’s the best school? How do I get money? Who’s my guidance counselor? What’s a GPA? What do I need? When should I start? I have a child, what are my options?
After two weeks, they barged in with statements.
Mai! I need an SAT waiver. I am failing AP English. I don’t have any money. CommonApp is confusing. I am going to the University of Rochester. I have nothing to write about. I didn’t know I needed the subject tests. I am bringing my GPA up to a 4.0 this semester.
Tieisha Tift is an Advisor in the College Advising Corps, an organization that seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented students who enter and complete higher education. Tieisha and eleven other recent college graduates work full-time as College Advisors in public high schools around Rhode Island.
There’s a student sitting in my office, each hand clutching the opposite elbow, leaning slightly forward. Nervous, unsure, hopeful. “Miss, if I work really hard and get all A’s this quarter, how much do you think my GPA will go up?” she asks me. I wish I could tell her that with hard work, her GPA would shoot up to a 4.0, obliterating the low grades of her first two years. I wish I could tell her that, regardless of her GPA, half the colleges in the nation should be stampeding to recruit this vibrant, insightful young woman who has grand ideas about the kinds of leadership and guidance she and her peers need. Instead, I give her the only honest answer I can, that her GPA might not get to where she would like it to be in so little time, but hard work this semester could only help her. Worried, she tells me “I can’t go to CCRI, miss.” To her, that would be like failing. I try to give her hope as I explain the benefits of beginning her post-secondary education at a community college, adding that she could still apply for four-year college. I feel her disappointment as she nods absently, unconvinced. Now, I feel like a failure.