Diversity Weekends

My Dartmouth Fly-in Experience…

— Tuyen Nguyen, St. Petersburg High School IB Program (St. Petersburg, FL)

Day-By-Day Schedule

When preparing for my trip, I received an email from my Dartmouth Bound Leaders (DBLs). My DBLs were Chase and Ale, and their email was far from the norm. It was full of different colored text that rhymed like a poem. Otherwise known as the Dartmouth Blitz, this type of email is one of the many quirky traditions at Dartmouth. 

My trip consisted of three days. 

Day 1

The first day was the day of arrival. Most students were dropped off at the Boston-Logan International Airport, where we would meet up with Eric and Laura from Dartmouth. We would be led to the Dartmouth Coach, where we traveled 3 hours to Boston, MA to Hanover, NH. Dartmouth Bounders arrived throughout the day. When we arrived, we walked to Richardson Hall to receive our room assignment, keys, and program materials, which included a Dartmouth map, water bottle, and bag. I would recommend bringing an umbrella because the weather was rainy throughout the day and the weather in Hanover is unpredictable. Overall, we had lots of free time on our first day, as it was just a day for arriving at Dartmouth. I got a single dorm and I had time to explore the campus with other bounders. At dinnertime, I met my DBLs and my small group. My DBLs were nice and informative, and they provided a great deal of insight into student life and traditions of Dartmouth. We also had a welcome ceremony where we met the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. 

Day 2

On the second day, we had breakfast with our group at 8:00 am. We ate at Foco, more formally known as Class of ‘53 Commons Dining Hall. Another Dartmouth tradition was eating a Foco Cookie, which is a delectable cookie from the dining hall. After that, we had a mock class with a professor. I got to sit in a class about urban gardens. We talked about the research and findings the professor was working on. Then, we had an information session where we learned about the place, people, and programs that make Dartmouth distinctive. Throughout the session, we were able to ask lots of questions. 

We broke into groups again to go on a campus tour. My favorite building was the SECS building, otherwise known as the engineering building. I love the nature and rustic feel of the buildings throughout Dartmouth’s campus. There was a genuine down home feeling and the students were interactive and nice. Everybody in Dartmouth loves to use acronyms and made-up words, which is what makes the culture at Dartmouth so uniquely tight-knit. 

Afterwards, we had lunch with professors, an information session going over Dartmouth’s D-Plan, a financial aid overview, and posed for a group photo. I liked learning about Dartmouth’s unique D-plan, which consists of four academic quarters each year. The plan allows lots of flexibility in choosing the quarters you want to attend class, go on vacation, conduct research, or pursue internships. Although you are required to take a summer quarter, the ability to take time off school at different times of the year can help you stand out when applying for internships because you will not be restricted to only being able to work in the summer. 

The financial aid overview was also helpful. I got to ask lots of questions and I learned a lot about the mindset that Dartmouth has towards financial aid. Their philosophy is to provide students with as much aid as possible. We had dinner and a daily group meeting with our DBLs. I loved eating and talking with the DBLs in our group because we got to hear about their personal experiences at Dartmouth. Our DBLs also took us on a walk around Occom Pond. The nature was lush and the neighborhood houses were huge. The campus and surrounding community is peaceful and tranquil. We also got to see some deer along the way! The nature that you are surrounded by in Dartmouth is like no other. We had an outdoor movie that night where we see millions of stars across the beautiful Dartmouth sky. You are expected to be in your residence hall by 10:30 pm, however, I had lots of time to talk with other bounders and I felt that I was in a group that I belonged to, as many of our bounders were FGLI or people of color.

Day 3

On our third day we had breakfast with our DBLs and attended an admissions case studies session. It was a bit disappointing. Although we were able to meet and talk to admissions officers, they were vague in what they were looking for in a prospective Dartmouth student. A positive is that they heavily emphasized their positive attitudes when going over sample applications. It seemed that the admissions officers were always trying to find reasons to accept students to Dartmouth rather than find reasons to reject students. The goal of the admissions officers is to see if you are truly a good fit for Dartmouth, hence their reason for hosting a fly-in program for prospective students. 

My advice for students applying to Dartmouth is to not only research the school and the programs, but research the community and their traditions. The Dartmouth community is very strong, and Dartmouth wants to admit students that can contribute positively to their sense of community. Dartmouth is friendly and welcoming, and they are looking for students that are willing to try new things. In fact, one of Dartmouth’s required activities is to choose a class that helps you explore the area, whether that be mountain biking or hiking. 

We had an essay workshop with the admissions officers where we brainstormed essay ideas based on the things that were important to us. After that, we had lunch and a college interview workshop. You had lots of freedom in where you wanted to go, so I used my extra time to explore the Baker-Berry Library. The college interview workshop covered the interview part of the Dartmouth admissions process. It was informative as it walked us through the process of our interview and things to do and not to do. Interviews from Dartmouth are limited as they are done by alumni that are available in your area. If you don’t get an interview, it is not a bad thing as they probably just don’t have enough people to interview you. However, if you o get an interview, it is a great chance to express yourself and connect with Dartmouth on a more personal level. 

After that, we had a resource fair at the Hanover Inn, where we got to explore student organizations at Dartmouth. There was a Questbridge stand, and I got to talk to a student that went through the Questbridge process. After that, we had free time. I was able to explore the town of Hanover, which is  small and quaint, and go into shops. Finally, we had the Gary Love ‘76 Dartmouth Bound Founder’s Dinner at the Hanover Inn. We celebrated our time on campus with the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid and we were able to eat with an admissions officer. I was able to talk to her and ask many questions. After that, we had one last group meeting with our DBLs and then I spent the night in the resident hall Common Ground talking with other people. 

Throughout the whole trip, I was able to talk to many bounders and students and learn things. I met kids my age that I related to, and we shared our thoughts on colleges and our aspirations. I still keep in contact with these students.

My Advice

Throughout the trip, I was aware of the attitudes of students and staff at Dartmouth. Again, they have many unique traditions and their very own Dartmouth culture. A student that attends Dartmouth is unique in their own way, but they are their true self. Being your true self is the kind of student that Dartmouth looks for, as your passions can most clearly shine through in your application. If you are passionate about something, I encourage you to write about it or emphasize it in your essay. Additionally, in my Dartmouth Bound essay, I emphasized my Vietnamese immigrant and FGLI background. Dartmouth, along with other schools, love diversity, and they are always more than willing to give you opportunities. I recommend researching the school and seeing if Dartmouth sounds like a good match for you. If so, ask yourself why, and write about that in your essay. 

— I’m Tuyen Nguyen, a member of the Pinellas County School Cohort in St. Petersburg, Florida

My Caltech Fly-in Experience…

— Tuyen Nguyen, St. Petersburg High School IB Program (St. Petersburg, FL)

Caltech Up Close

Through my participation in the College Planning Cohort Program, I was guided in applying to 3 fly-in programs (Penn PEEP, Dartmouth Bound, and Caltech Up Close). Caltech was the last of the 3 fly-in programs and the fly-in that I enjoyed most because we were put into groups with the admissions officer(s) assigned to our region and we were able to talk to them and ask lots of questions. Caltech is also a beautiful campus and the program provided a lot of freedom to explore the campus and the community. In the program, I roomed with a “host,” (i.e., Caltech student). Caltech offers eight houses (i.e., dormitories) to live in, and in my case, I stayed with my host in Page House. Through my nights there, I was able to experience the different personalities of each house and I was able to talk to current students in the common room and explore other houses.

Day by Day Schedule

Before my trip, I was provided the name and contact information of my host, to whom I was able to reach out. My host was a first-year and was from China. We had shared interest in the UPenn M&T Program. While she was not offered admission to the UPenn program, she was offered admission to Caltech. My host had a roommate who also hosted a Caltech Up Close participant from Illinois. So during my visit, there were 4 of us in the room. 

Following is the daily schedule for my three-day visit, with my departure from California and returning to Florida on the 4th day. 

Day 1

On the first day, my plane landed at LAX in the afternoon and I was driven in a private car to the Caltech campus. When I arrived, I was greeted by admissions officers who helped me with my luggage, gave me my information, and presented me with a Caltech goody bag. The bag contained a pencil sharpener, a pencil, a notepad, my departure bus information, a shirt, a water bottle, and a brain-shaped stress ball. I was also greeted by student volunteers, who were friendly and I was able to talk to them about their majors and interests. After our initial reception, we walked to the B122 Gates Annex, which is the food court. Their food court is relatively small compared to other schools, because they don’t have as nearly as many students as a larger university. The typical class is around 200 students, while the entire undergraduate population is only 1,000 undergraduates. Caltech has an additional 1,400 graduate students, which overall, is a smaller student body than many 4 AAAA high schools. At the Gates Annex, I connected with other Caltech Up Close participants and after we ate, we explored the entire campus. The campus was quiet and peaceful. The whole vibe is not that crowded and more of a low key vibe. One interesting feature of Caltech is its turtle pond. They have ponds in a part of campus and there are so many turtles that bask within the pond. The campus overall is clean and spacious. While I was there, I was able to see current students going to class, but it was not so overwhelmingly crowded. A lot of people tend to hang out in the area near the Gates Annex to eat and socialize. There is also another eating place nearby called the RedDoor and a lot of people socialize there. 

Later on, we met in Bechman Mall, which is a place in the Caltech campus, to break up into our groups and meet each other. The groups were divided by region and I felt that the small groups allowed us to bond with other Up Close participants from our region. I met all the 3 other high school students from Florida and we were an inseparable group throughout our time at Caltech. Overall, each region had a similar amount of students. The student group included a wide variety of people and I wouldn’t say that the officers were looking for a particular group other than students that showed an interest in STEM. After that, there was a student-led tour, where we were able to see the campus and ask questions. After the tour, we gathered to meet our hosts and go to the admissions house to grab our luggage and a sleeping bag that they provided. I had another CUCer with me so this was another opportunity for us to create connections. We had dinner in Bectel Dining Hall and sat for a session called “Caltech Up Front: Honest Breakdown of Caltech” at the Gates Annex. Afterward, the admissions officers surprised us with boba (which is a bubble tea). Throughout the trip, it was evident that the school had spent a lot of time, energy, and money on us CUCers. Clearly, fly-in programs are exceptional all-expenses paid opportunities to visit and get to know schools. The airfare and other travel-related expenses to bring students from our region to Florida alone would have amounted to a significant amount of money.  

The facilities in Page House were shared showers and bathrooms on each floor separated by gender. The house was quite large. There were two stories and it was very spacious. The houses are almost like a maze in a way because there’s lots of hallways and different rooms and stairs. The dorm was normal-sized, around 6-8 feet wide and 15 feet in length. The dorm room sizes varied by houses and dorm rooms. Other dorm rooms I visited were larger. I don’t know exactly how many rooms and students, but there were an indoor and outdoor common area and kitchens on each floor. One thing that stood out was the attention that the Caltech organizers gave to details. They collected a form from each participant of our room preferences and our career/academic interests. They used the information that we provided to match us to our host student. My host had similar experiences and interests which allowed me to talk to her and ask a lot of questions about the things that were important to me in making my college choice. She was interested in STEM and business at the same time and was interested in Penn’s M&T program. To me, this meant that Caltech was doing more than simply bringing us to campus, but was intentional in cultivating a set of experiences that would help us to determine if Caltech was the right fit for us and the right campus community to begin our journey after high school. This concludes my first night since I slept early because I was exhausted from the day’s activities. 

Day 2

On the second day, we woke up early and had breakfast at Bechtel Hall. In the first part of the day, we sat for informational seminars. Throughout the entire experience, our admissions officers were with us and were available to talk to us. Following breakfast, the formal session began with a keynote address by Dr. Hosea Nelson, a professor and chemist, who shared his inspiring story. He was a high school dropout and worked a construction job. However, he went back to school, where he eventually received a Ph.D. in chemistry. He landed a teaching job at Caltech and turned down two job offers to work at Tesla because he loved chemistry and pursuing research instead. We learned about the CORE at Caltech. The CORE at Caltech is a core curriculum that allows students to have an equal playing field. It has required classes that all students must take and includes humanities classes along with a strong blend of STEM classes. During your first year at Caltech, all classes are pass/fail. We also had a student panel where they discussed their personal experiences with research and internships. We were able to explore their research in a fair. The morning concluded with lunch and then we traveled to Santa Monica Beach by buses for fun in the sun. On the beach, I explored the water and played volleyball and was able to ask a lot more questions from my admissions officer and get to know more about my fellow Floridians. We concluded the day with a fancy dinner on the beach and then went back to campus. The dinner was on a balcony overlooking the beach where we were served tacos along with drinks like horchata (Mexican-style horchata is the most commonly known variety in the US. However, horchata actually originated in Spain, and there are various types of horchatas throughout the Spanish-speaking world). I made friends with a student from another house, Fleming, so I was able to explore a new house and spent the balance of the evening walking around the campus. Fleming’s house is a lot different from Page because its hallways are made out of stone and looks older than Page House. In contrast, Page looks like an air-conditioned facility. Flemings looked like a maze and was practically a maze with different stairways and houses. I think there are three stories with one story being underground. There is a library in Flemming along with a laundry room. The dorms are really nice and spacious and it’s like stepping into another world.  

Day 3

On the third day we explored NASA’s infamous Jet Propulsion Lab. This was a very early morning, but a highlight of the trip. Since the JPL is an extension of Caltech, lots of students are able to receive internships at the lab. It is approximately 10 minutes away from campus. We explored different places and learned about the different technologies used in JPL. We also had the opportunity to look at the white room, which is a massive sterile room used to build rockets, and the control room of the launching of the rockets. After JPL, we returned to campus to attend mock lectures. I had a mock lecture with Professor Antonio Rangel on Bayesian Statistics. Overall, the lecture was interactive and we were able to ask lots of questions. We collaborated with other students to solve math problems, which I feel is reflective of Caltech’s teaching philosophy. I only attended one lecture but there were three available. After that, we had lab tours and I explored the biology lab. I really liked this part of the visit as I was doing research in biology and saw a lot of connections between what I was currently doing in high school and the opportunities I would have at Caltech. Afterwards, we had some downtime that my friends and I used to explore the gym and rock climbing facilities. It was also really easy to talk to faculty members, and my friends talked to the coach about their sports and were able to attend a track practice. Afterwards, we had an admissions and financial aid session and closing remarks and downtime. 

What We Learned About Admissions and Financial Aid

The session reinforced much of the guidance learned in the Cohort. Caltech emphasizes taking the most rigorous classes that are available to you. This not only means classes available at your high school, but through your school district, dual enrollment program, or through your state’s virtual school options. They are test blind because their research indicates that admitted students who submit test scores and those who do not submit test scores perform similarly academically. Consequently, during the Caltech admissions review process, instead of test scores, they look for: creativity, curiosity in STEM, resilience, a collaborative spirit, and an outlet (something else that you do when you are stressed). These traits come from Caltech’s rigorous academics and the admissions formula that they use has been developed by identifying the type of students who thrive at Caltech. They are looking for students who not only are interested in STEM, but are also resilient enough in their approach to their academics to handle the curriculum. In my opinion, one of the best things about Caltech is their Honor Code. This allows students to take-home tests and engage in collaboration, even on homework, as a means of achieving shared academic growth—the exact type of collaboration that would be expected in the workplace after entering your post-college career. An important tip that the admissions officer shared is not to write about how you struggled in STEM classes or that you do not like STEM. Instead, if you struggled with STEM classes, you should focus on how you overcame any challenges or obstacles. Caltech also accepts extended portfolios such as for research, visual arts, performance arts, etc., to submit as supplements to your application. 

Since less than 50% of applicants submit research, having a research portfolio could provide you with a competitive edge. They also require two letters of recommendation, The first LOR must be from a math or science teacher who can provide insight into your math or science skills. The second LOR must be from a humanities teacher where you engaged in intensive writing. This teacher should speak strongly about your writing skills. They also allow one optional teacher recommendation. Last year, there were 103 CUCers, 89 of whom eventually applied for admission to Caltech. 47 (52.8%) of the CUCers who applied were admitted. In my group this year, there were around 200 CUCers. Caltech expects to offer admission to about 50 of the CUCers who apply, so the admissions rate of CUCers will likely be lower. 

The college research activity in the cohort curriculum providing guidance in researching a school’s Common Data Set (see below) was consistent with what we were learning from admissions officers. However, there were that we learned from admissions officers as a result of the fly-in experience were:

While the CDS indicates that Academic GPA is “Important,” the admissions officers stressed that grades in STEM classes are “Very Important.” They also provided insight into some of the big reasons that Caltech rejects applicants: low grades, lack of effort (as revealed either in the transcript or through recommendations), making false statements on their application, or simply having no more available space in their freshman class. In 2023, of the 16,626 students who applied to Caltech, only 672 were offered admission. 167 students were placed on the waitlist and 15 were eventually admitted from the waitlist. My biggest takeaway from listening to the admissions officers was to show that you can not only change the world but that you are committed to making the sacrifices required to do so, because attending Caltech requires lots of sacrifices. In their admissions process, they are looking for students who demonstrated (through their essays, recommendations, transcript, leadership, and service) a “never enough” mentality.

— I’m Tuyen Nguyen, a member of the Pinellas County School Cohort in St. Petersburg, Florida

My Williams Fly-in Experience…

— Jayla Jones – Lake City Early College High School (Lake City, SC)

In a previous posting, I talked about Juliana, the 2022 Class Valedictorian from my high school (Lake City High School – Lake City, SC), as the first student in the history of our school district to be offered admission to Williams College, and of my being the first student in the history of our school district to be invited to Windows on Williams (WOW), the Williams College Fly-in Program! Pictured below is a picture of the two firsts in my school district—Juliana (pictured on the left) and me, standing in front of the Williams College sign in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Learning about fly-in programs as a high school sophomore, and then actually attending one as a high school senior, is quite the experience. As a high school sophomore completing the college research module in the online cohort curriculum, I had no idea of the magnitude of completing the fly-in program unit and the impact it would have on my college trajectory. Learning about the Williams College fly-in program was just another one of those little known facts that I had never heard of and that no one in my school has any real understanding of. Through this article I hope to not only share my Windows on Williams (WOW) fly-in program experience, but to contribute my experience to the amazing cohort curriculum so that future cohort students from my small town community will see the opportunities for themselves.

Day 1

I was admittedly nervous on the first day of my trip. Realizing that I was going to travel alone to a place I have never been created nervous anxiety, but I was excited for the new experience. Navigating the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina airport, and my connecting flight at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport was nothing new, so that part was smooth sailing. After my arrival into the Albany, New York airport, I made my way to baggage claim, collected by bags, and spotted a Williams representative and seven other students waiting for the shuttle to campus. During the 45-minute ride, looking through the shuttle van’s windows reminded me of home. The mountains in the distance, and farms and small houses lining both sides of the road, gave me a cozy feeling reminiscent of driving through the rural South Carolina low country. I did not realize that Williamstown, where Williams College is located, borders New York and Vermont so passing the Welcome to Vermont sign was an unanticipated experience. 

I arrived on campus at the Weston Hall Admissions building where I was warmly greeted by Carolina Echenique, the Williams College Associate Director of Diversity Recruitment. Carolina, who is over the entire program, greeted each student by name. That moment was a precursor to the entire weekend—while each of us were honored to have received an all-expenses paid invitation to Williams, the nation’s top ranked liberal arts college and one of the most well known colleges in academia, we would spend a weekend in which the staff and students of Williams College appeared equally honored to host us.

As I walked into the building, Pam Shea, an Admissions Assistant, also greeted me my name and shared how she had enjoyed working with me and finalizing my travel arrangements. As I was getting lunch, Ed Bianchi, the Associate Director for Campus Programs and the admissions representative for South Carolina and North Carolina region, introduce himself. He was from Darlington, South Carolina and recounted his experiences with his father driving to my small town of Lake City, South Carolina for barbecue. In the short amount of time being on campus there were already three people who knew my name, introduced themselves, and made me feel like I was already a part of the Williams College community.  

My student host, Yoheidey (aka YoYo) and her friend Sam, escorted me to my first class. Not only were YoYo and Sam friendly, they were black students and excited to share their experiences as people of color (POC) at Williams—experiences that I was eager to hear about. 

My first classroom experience was Intro to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This was it! The cohort unit introducing liberal arts colleges and their conversational communities was happening right in front of me. The students and the professor were interacting. Students were sharing their opinions and the professor was engaging them in deep levels of thinking and learning. It was amazing. Everyone took their turn speaking, always respectful, but highly opinionated. Each student had their own thoughts and ideas and every student attentively listened to the ideas of others and eagerly shared their own thoughts and ideas. The small class size was an intimate setting, like sitting in a family room having a conversation with relatives. While I admittedly had never given thought of taking a women’s studies class, I found myself enthralled with the discussion and left eager to return as a student so that I too, could become part of the conversation.

Abby, the other WOW student whom YoYo was hosting, had also chosen that class. While waiting for YoYo, Abby and I talked about where we attended school, how we found out about the fly-in program, and our future aspirations. I had come 840 miles to find someone with whom I could share both my experiences and aspirations. That’s pretty much how the day was going. YoYo served as our tour guide, pointing out the beautiful and historic buildings: Sawyer’s Library, Paresky’s Dining Hall, and the residential buildings. YoYo lived in Williams Hall or Willy’s Dorm, built in 1911 and named after Colonel Ephraim Williams who fought, and died, in the French – Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War). Abby and I spent the day with YoYo, who was kind enough to answer all of our rapid fire questions about the school, financial aid, clubs and affinity groups, and candidly shared her personal experiences of applying to Williams, being offered admission, and having no regrets about her college choice.

Later that night, a dinner was hosted in our honor at the Williams Inn where we had the opportunity to sit at any table where we could talk to an admissions ambassador and current student. Remember, Williams is a conversational community where you talk in classrooms, during walks across campus, and in the dining halls. Thinking, learning, growing, and experiencing was in itself, an amazing experience. Abby and I sat with Christopher Flores, a first-year and first gen student who is such a passionate advocate for Williams that he should be their main spokesperson. He shared the duality of his experiences as both a first-year and first gen. He candidly talked about his background as a low-income student from Arizona and he even shared some of the personal statement essay from his Common Application. 

After dinner, we attended a Jamboree of performances by ten clubs. While they were all very talented, my favorite performances were the Williams College Purple Rain A Capella; Aristocows, an a cappella group performing Disney music; The Williams College Step Team (Unlocking the Story of Step); and NBC: Williams College’s Hip-Hop Dance Team. For me, having lived my entire life in rural South Carolina where everything is pretty much in black and white, it was amazing to see the diversity reflected in each of the clubs and through each of the performances. There were amazingly talented students from throughout the country and from across the world represented. While hip-hop, step, and R&B may have had their origins in black culture, they were being appreciated and performed by students from a litany of sociocultural experiences. What an amazing end to an amazing first day, or so I thought.

Rather than finding my way to a welcoming bed, YoYo took Abby and me to a hang out with other WOW participants and current Williams’ students. Everyone in the room was a POC (person of color) and had their own perspective of the Williams College experience. One student talked about how Williams was not even one of her top three college choices, which included Howard and Cornell, both of which she was offered admission. However, with Howard’s financial aid package falling far short of meeting her financial need and Cornell’s competitive and culturally isolating environment, she found Williams to offer the perfect campus community and the financial aid was the best that she was offered. A common expression articulated by all students was to “milk the cow,” which means Williams expects student to take full advantage of their amazing financial aid opportunities, which covers tuition, fees, room and board, books, health insurance, summer storage, and registration fees and travel to attend conferences. The Williams College core belief is that no student should be limited in their learning, campus engagement, or personal growth due to their financial situation. Whatever your family’s financial circumstances at home, once you become part of the Williams College community, you are expected to pursue your aspirations and immerse yourself in all of the amazing opportunities at Williams. 

Sorry, I need another moment of self reflection. If I was not in the cohort, had not completed the units on liberal arts colleges versus research universities and the unit on fly-in programs, I would not be in this moment. If Mr. and Mrs. Wynn had not provided continual encouragement and pushed me to apply to each of the fly-in programs, including reminding me of the deadlines, I would not be in this space with these people, listening to their stories, and being able to see myself making a similar journey.

Day 2

After a restful night’s sleep, I joined Abby and YoYo for a 7am breakfast in the Driscoll Dining Hall—a campus favorite. Walking around campus I could really tell that fall was in the air. The brisk morning chill only gradually warmed throughout the day. If I choose to attend Williams’ the weather will definitely be an adjustment to the temperate low country weather of South Carolina. After breakfast, Abby and I were off to the first class of the day. Since my first class was not until 10am, I joined Abby in her Quantum Physics class. My high school did not offer physics and I have never taken a physics class through my school’s dual enrollment program. So this was my first experience in a physics class. One of the seniors in the class, a female who is an Astrophysics major, spoke to us in an incredulous tone, “You guys chose to sit in a 9am Quantum Physics class?” While I would have never chosen to sit in on this class and had no idea what was going on, the professor was incredibly passionate about the topic. Although I cannot envision ever taking the class, I enjoyed the experience. I then attended my scheduled class, Intro Psychology. I am currently taking dual enrollment psychology, so I was eager to see if there was a noticeable difference in my current dual enrollment class and a Williams College class. There were a lot of first-year students and the class was the largest of all of the classes that I had experienced. While the professor was covering material similar to what I have covered in my psychology class, it was quite a different experience. In my current online psychology class, the professor does not give lectures. Everything is learned through the readings and assignments. This class, like each of the Williams’ classes I had experienced, the professor talked and students engaged in discussing the topic, raising questions, and embracing their role in this conversational community.

After the class, I walked with Sam back to the dorm to relax a bit until it was time to attend the QuestBridge lunch. During lunch, the Questbridge students shared how they matched to Williams through the QuestBridge process. Although I am a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, I have received so much guidance through the cohort that I did not see the value in applying to colleges through QuestBridge. As I learned through the cohort curriculum, and which was reaffirmed by the financial aid officers at Williams, the financial aid package that I would receive through a QuestBridge College Match would be no different than the financial aid package that I would receive by applying directly to the college.

After the QuestBridge luncheon, I had a conversation with an admissions ambassador, who was an English major. As a future English/Journalism major, this was a perfect opportunity to learn about her experiences in the English Department. She not only answered all my questions, but gave me her email address and encouraged me to reach out to her at any time.  

With some free time, this was the perfect time for me to wander around the campus and to catch up with Juliana—a first-year student from my high school who had also participated in the cohort. As the first students in our school district to be offered admission to Williams and to be invited to a Williams fly-in program, we wanted to take a picture in front of the Williams College sign to present to our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Laura Hickson. We were only able to share that moment because Dr. Hickson brought the college cohort program to our school district.

After taking the picture, Juliana talked about how much she is enjoying Williams and the academic resources she has used to assist in her academic success. While Juliana graduated as our 2022 Class Valedictorian, she spoke candidly about the academic challenges at Williams and invaluable experience of attending the 5-week residential, fully funded, Summer Science Program, which helped prepare her for the academically intense Williams College experience. She quickly learned that this amazing opportunity came with equally amazing expectations. Teaching and learning are inextricably tied together. Engaging in a conversational community is about expressing viewpoints rooted in facts, albeit the history of the women’s movement throughout the world or discussing quantum physics and the nature of atoms and subatomic particles. Juliana and I agreed that this was a long way from Lake City, South Carolina—and it was not a matter of distance, it was a matter of consciousness. It was not long before Juliana and I exchanged good-byes with her going off to finish homework and me going off to my next class.

My last class was Poetry and Politics. This class was also a small class where another WOW student and I had the opportunity to talk to students prior to the beginning of class. Consistent with my overall Williams experience, students who were open and eager to share their experiences, talk about their aspirations, and respond to my questions. This was my favorite class. I enjoy analyzing literature and poetry, and while I only sat in on one English class, I think the English Department is a perfect fit for me. 

My final session of the day was the mandatory Admissions and Financial Aid information session. Carolina, the Associate Director of Diversity and Recruitment, and our hostess for the weekend, and Ashley Bianchi, the Director of Student Financial Services, gave an insightful presentation on everything Williams has to offer and their generous financial aid policy. One of the students raised the question, “As a WOW participant, what are our chances of being offered admission to Williams?” As Carolina responded, “While the overall admissions rate at Williams is less than 10 percent, the admissions rate for WOW students, who subsequently apply for admission is nearly 100 percent,” I could hear Mr. Wynn telling us why we needed to apply to fly-in programs as a means of building a relationship with colleges, and thereby significantly increasing our changes of being offered admission. But, going from a less than 10 percent chance of being offered admission to a near 100 percent chance of being offered admission—amazing! Needless to say, “amazing” is the adjective that most appropriately describe my WOW experience. 

After the session, Abby and I went back to the dorm, where we exchanged stories about our day until it was time for dinner. A professor was seated at each table with a name card for their subject. Since there wasn’t a table with an English professor, I sat at a table with Dr. Greta Snyder, a visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Similar to how all my conversations with current students, WOW participants, and admissions ambassadors, the table talk with Dr. Greta was insightful and provided further insight into my educational experience should I chose to attend Williams. 

The final event for the night was a party hosted by the BSU (Black Student Union). Students in attendance were mainly POC and the party lasted well past midnight. The party was still going strong when Abby and I bowed out to get back to the dorm to prepare for our early morning departure from campus. 

Departure Day

My Williams College experience was AMAZING! Francis Marion, South Carolina State, Claflin University, Benedict College, Clemson, the University of South Carolina – Columbia, and Florence-Darlington Technical College are the top college choices in my community. I have never had a teacher, counselor, student, or community member ever mention Williams College and you would be hard press to find a single person, even a social studies teacher, who knows where Williamstown, Massachusetts is located. Without the opportunity of attending WOW, Williams College would be no more than the #1 college on the US News and World Reports Liberal Arts College Rankings—something to learn about, but not realistic to aspire toward. My fly-in experience left me knowing that not only can Williams College be a school that I can aspire toward attending, but that the conversational community, educational environment, and diversity of experiences are everything that I am looking for in my future college—a perfect fit. 

I am looking forward to attending the Carleton and Bates fly-in programs (I was wait-listed for Bowdoin) and to see how they compare to Williams. At the risk of being redundant, I must reiterate that I never realized how important it was for me to complete the cohort Fly-in Program unit. And now, after having traveled 840 miles to Williamstown, Massachusetts, a trip that would be otherwise unaffordable, to learn that just having been invited to the fly-in program virtually guarantees that I will be offered admission should I apply, is an amazing opportunity. 

If you are a cohort student, my advice to you is that while there is an immense amount of work that you must put in to build your body of work and to become a competitive applicant for being accepted into these programs, Mr. and Mrs. Wynn are providing you with step-by-step guidance into unimaginable opportunities. They are opening the door and all that you have to do is to walk through. I just spent an amazing weekend with amazing students, professors, and administrators at one of the most amazing schools in the world. As we go through life, we frequently recount the moments that contributed to turning points in our life. For me, receiving the invitation to WOW was one of those moments. 

— I’m Jayla Jones, a member of the Florence School District 3 College Planning Cohort and future journalist.

My College Cohort Journey…

— Jayla Jones – Lake City Early College High School (Lake City, SC)

I attend Lake City Early College High School in Lake City, South Carolina. I am a first-generation, African American student from a lower-income family living in a high poverty community. However, neither my circumstances or household income define who I am and I have always had lofty career aspirations for my future. Yet, as I began high school, it was at the end of freshman year that I reflected, “How am I going to achieve my goals?”

Little did I know that this self-reflective question would be answered as a high school sophomore. When my school and life were in a state of perpetual disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I received an email from my guidance counselor about a program that helps students with college planning. I knew right away that this was something I needed—where else was I going to learn what I needed to ensure the best college and scholarship options? In fact, what were the best college and scholarship options for students like me? 

The first meeting intrigued me so much that I knew that the program was God sent. Like most students, I entered the program thinking of the whole college planning process in a single-minded way. I was a “good student.” I got good grades. I had a high GPA. I participated in some after school activities. I was all set, right? Wrong! I had the notion that I was going to apply to highly selective schools like NYU, Syracuse, or even Columbia. However, I quickly learned that it would take a lot more than good grades and participating in some after school activities to get into these types of colleges (NYU Receives 100,000 applications). Through the curriculum, I learned to align my day-to-day efforts with my long-term college and career aspirations and through my discussion group, I learned to be intentional in my efforts and to overcome my tendency to procrastinate. These were the firsts of many epiphanies.

Through each meeting, lesson, and monthly discussion, I learned that what I thought I knew about college planning was not correct in the slightest. I had to adjust to not only absorbing this new information and reorienting my thinking, but learning about who I was and the changes that I needed to make in myself to have the greatest college and scholarship opportunities. At the beginning, I had thoughts of “This is too much work” and “Why is this even important? I already know about myself and what I want to do.” Even with these plaguing questions, I continued to complete the work and engage in the monthly discussions.

Not long after beginning the program, I began internalizing things that I never thought I needed to. I learned about my gifts and talents and how to align them with my leadership and service today, and career aspirations for the future. While I learned about such programs as QuestBridge and the Gates Scholarship, I learned so much more about colleges that were looking for students like me and offering full scholarships to first generation and lower-income students to diversify their campuses. 

Perhaps the most important thing that I learned as a high school sophomore was how to make a difference in my school and community as a high school junior. It was these actions—those learned through my cohort participation that placed me onto a different college trajectory than most of my peers. I initially began the program with a large group of students from my school. However, it was not long before one by one, they began dropping out of the program. I must admit that I was perplexed. Like me, they were high achieving students with big dreams and aspirations. Yet, they became fixated on the work and not on expanding their college and scholarship opportunities. While I tried to encourage others to join the cohort and invest in themselves, I accepted that we are not all on the same pathways or share the same future aspirations.

While I was the only remaining sophomore from my high school participating in the cohort, I was not alone. At the virtually monthly meetings I was surrounded by academically accomplished students from throughout the country like Omar, from Georgia who was also selected for the Yale Young Global Scholars Program and the 5-week LEDA Program at Princeton University. And Collin, a student in the IB Program at St. Petersburg High School in Florida who attended the AI4ALL 3-week Computer Science Summer Camp at the University of Maryland – College Park, and has applied to the Swarthmore fly-in program. 

Unlike students in other parts of the country who only get to work with Mr. and Mrs. Wynn once per month, our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Laura Hickson, contracted with the Wynns to work with our school district on Tuesday and Thursday each week during my sophomore year and Monday – Thursday each week during my junior year. With their hands-on guidance, together with the monthly curriculum, I was introduced to amazing opportunities. Last year, most of the seniors participating in the cohort in our school district received full scholarships. Juliana, our class valedictorian, received a full scholarship to Williams College. Most students and teachers at our school have never heard of Williams College because Juliana is the first student in the history of our school district to be offered admission to Williams. The full scholarship that she received from Williams is valued at over $360,000. As I sat in our high school gymnasium listening to her valedictorian speech announcing that she had received a full scholarship to Williams College, the top ranked liberal arts college in America, I thought about how blessed I was to have received the email from my counselor inviting me into such an extraordinary program.

Well, now I am a senior and it is my turn. I have learned that the cohort is more than a college planning cohort journey has taught me that it is more than a college planning program. The program is guided by the 3 pillars of scholarship, leadership, and service. I have embraced these pillars and intentionally built my résumé through scholarship, leadership, and service. After establishing a chapter of the National English Honor Society at my high school, serving on the cohort your leadership board, serving as an intern and mentor at a college planning boot camp for middle school students, and creating a blog, I have made on impact in my school and community and I am reaping personal benefits.

As if this was not enough, while Juliana is the first student in the history of our school district to be offered admission to Williams College, I am now the first student in the history of our school district to be invited to the Williams College Fly-in Program! I know that few, if any, of the students at my high school have ever heard of these schools, because prior to joining the cohort I hadn’t either. 

There are so many more opportunities for me to share, but this is already a long article so check in on this space next month and I will tell you about my Yale Young Global Scholars Experience.

— I’m Jayla Jones, a member of the Florence School District 3 College Planning Cohort and future journalist.

University of Tennessee – Sneak Peak (Diversity Weekend)

Sneak Peek

This event is perfect for:

  • High School Juniors
  • Multicultural Students


April 20, 2018 to April 21, 2018
All Day

Registration Deadline: Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions cordially invites you to participate in the UT Sneak Peek 2018 Overnight Visit Program on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21, 2018. Our office will provide round-trip transportation to and from the Knoxville campus, overnight lodging, and meals while on campus for a select group of qualified multicultural high school juniors from across the state of Tennessee and the region.

The Sneak Peek 2018 Overnight Visit Program will be a unique two-day experience that will introduce students to the many features UT has to offer in the areas of academics, financial aid, and student life. You will have the opportunity to meet and speak with a variety of UT faculty, staff, and students, participate in student life activities, and take tours of the campus and residence halls.

Note: Participants must have a minimum of 3.0 cumulative GPA on their 5 semester transcript to be eligible. Qualified students will be selected based an overall cumulative GPA from the entire time the student has been in high school and not just the current semester or a one term GPA.

Contact Us

Kevin Berg, West TN Office, admit2utk@utk.edu, (901) 448-8289
Julian Wright, Knoxville Office, jwrigh68@utk.edu, (865) 974-0455


Reed College Junior Scholars Program

Multicultural Visit Programs

Diversity of thought and experience is valued as central to the Reed experience. Who we are—in our many identities, experiences, and ways of being—informs not only what, how, and why we learn, but what we bring to the conference table, where a plurality of ideas and voices deepens the conversation.

Junior Scholars Program

Junior Scholars, Reed’s spring travel scholarship, invites a highly qualified group of high school juniors from historically underrepresented communities to visit Reed between February 1-28, March 1-9, 20-23. Students are encouraged to visit during our Junior Visit Day on Monday, February 20, a program designed to help students explore the college admission process. All air travel, on-campus meals, and on-campus lodging will be covered by the college.

Visiting Reed is transformative. We have a saying here that “only Reed feels like Reed” and we make sure that all of our campus visitors have the opportunity to truly engage with our community.

As part of this program, you’ll be able to:
• stay overnight with a current Reed student;
• attend classes of interest;
• enjoy meals with current Reed students;
• learn more about Reed through an information session and campus tour;
• attend Junior Visit Day (if you are selected to come on February 20).

Applications submitted by January 20 will be prioritized, but we will be accepting applications on a rolling basis subsequently. If you have any questions, please contact the Multicultural Outreach Coordinator, Wayne Kim at 800/547-4750 or email juniorscholars@reed.edu.


Discover Reed Fly-in Program

Reed invites a highly qualified group of high school seniors from around the US to campus for a three-day, two-night exploration of Reed and the City of Portland. Students stay in residence halls with current students and participate in Discover Reed, a program of classroom visits and student-professor engagement opportunities. Just ten minutes from downtown Portland, Reed also arranges trips to explore highlights of the city. All travel is arranged and paid for by the college (including flights to and from Portland).

Spring Invitational Program for Admitted Students

Reed offers travel vouchers each spring to admitted students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds for visiting campus during Reed Admit Days or through our regular campus visit program during the month of April. There is no separate application for the program. Selected students will receive an invitation and travel voucher at the same time that they receive their decisions, in their admission packets.

January 20 Deadline for priority consideration


Cornell Engineering Summer Programs

CURIE Academy

The CURIE Academy is a one-week summer residential program for high school girls who excel in math and science. The focus is on juniors and seniors who may not have had prior opportunities to explore engineering, but want to learn more about the many opportunities in engineering in an interactive atmosphere.

Cornell University’s world-renowned faculty and graduate students will lead CURIE participants in classes, lab sessions, and project research. Social events, panel discussions, and other out-of-classroom activities will provide participants with opportunities to network informally with Cornell faculty, staff, and students.

Join us for the CURIE Academy and spend a week making new friends, experiencing life on a university campus, and exploring the many exciting possibilities awaiting you in engineering!

For more information about the CURIE Academy application requirements, program dates, and tuition information, click here to LEARN MORE…


The CATALYST Academy is a one-week summer residential program for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The mission of the CATALYST Academy is to advance diversity in engineering and its related disciplines. Therefore, applications from students from backgrounds (African American, Latino/a, or Native American) critically underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math are especially encouraged.

This summer spend a week making new friends, experience life on a university campus, and explore the many exciting possibilities awaiting you in engineering!

During the CATALYST Academy, Cornell University’s world-renowned faculty and graduate students lead participants in classes, lab sessions, and project research. Social events, panel discussions, and other out-of-classroom activities provide participants with opportunities to network informally with Cornell faculty, staff, and students.

For information about CATALYST Academy’s program dates, application requirements and tuition information, click here to LEARN MORE…


University of Wisconsin College of Engineering

Engineering Summer Program (ESP) is a six-week residential program for students who will be high school juniors or seniors in the upcoming school year. The ESP course curriculum includes math, physics, chemistry, engineering, and technical communications. Other structured programming such as industry site visits, fieldtrips, guest lectures, workshops, and faculty mentoring will help you gain a better understanding of the field of engineering and its applications. Click HERE to learn more about the Engineer in Summer Program


The ESP Program is targeted to high school students from groups traditionally under-represented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. African-American, Native American, Latino/a, Laotian, Vietnamese, Hmong, and Cambodian students are especially encouraged to apply. Students from rural regions, as well as women from all backgrounds are also strongly encouraged to apply.


To take part in ESP you must have a strong interest in math and engineering; be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; be entering your junior or senior year for the upcoming school year; have completed at least one year of algebra, geometry, and chemistry by June of the program year; and have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.


The Program challenges students to think creatively, work in teams and draw on previous knowledge and experiences to solve problems both inside and outside the classroom. The program consist of rigorous preparation in engineering foundation courses consistent with our engineering degree programs.

ESP provides participants with a hands-on experience in design; group study and problem solving that will be transferable to the students’ future high school and collegiate coursework. Students will also participate in faculty-led discussions, team building, professional development programming, as well as workshops that will help students navigate the college admission and financial-aid process.

Housing and Meals

Housing and meals are included as part of the program. While attending ESP, participants will reside in University Housing. Lodging will be in Dejope Hall — a University Housing residence hall conveniently located on the Lakeshore campus. To foster a real sense of community, you will share a room with another program participant. Each air-conditioned room includes twin beds with bed linens and pillows, minifridges, desks, and internet. Floor lounges include televisions, comfortable seating, and an attached kitchenette. There will be no telephones in individual rooms; therefore, students are encouraged to bring a cell phone. Laundry and vending machines are located on the main floor of Dejope Hall. Meals will be served three times per day, seven days a week in the Four Lakes Market, located in Dejope Hall. Dining services will provide a variety of youth-friendly and healthy selections, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.


Participants will be supervised by program staff. Current undergraduate students are hired and trained to provide supervision and daily programming — including weekends. The counselors live in University Housing on the same floor as participants.


ESP is designed to focus on academic enrichment related to math, science, and engineering; provide an orientation to the UW-Madison environment and collegiate experience; and demonstrate the importance of early preparation for the college-bound student. Participants will interact with UW faculty/staff, students, program alumni, practicing engineers and other talented peers who share the same interest in mathematics, science and engineering.

Elon University Diversity Weekend

Come see Elon for yourself!

Phoenix Fusion is a special open house program held each spring for those interested in learning more about the multicultural experience at Elon. Students lead campus tours, provide helpful information and answer questions from prospective students and their parents. For more information or to arrange a campus visit, please call the Admissions Office at 800-334-8448 or 336-278-3566. Or register online for a campus visit. Hours are Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Resources you can count on
Financial aid opportunities such as grants, scholarships, loans and work-study programs are available to students. Our financial aid counselors will be happy to discuss your options. Click here for more information.

Need More Info?

For information about admissions, scholarships or campus visits for prospective multicultural students, call Natalie Garza at 800-334-8448 or email her.


Connecticut College Explore Weekend

A Multicultural Leadership Program for High School Seniors

Ask questions. Make discoveries. Explore the possibilities.

Hosted during October and November

Explore Weekend is a program for high school seniors from underrepresented groups and those committed to issues of diversity. Over two days, you’ll get a sneak peak at a challenging liberal arts environment and learn about campus resources for students of color.

Some parts of your college experience will be easy to figure out. Intellectual drive? Lifelong passions? You’ve got that covered. Building a successful future? It’s at the top of your list. To make it happen, you need to find a school that supports and challenges you. That’s where Explore Weekend comes in.

Here is a sample schedule of the events of a typical Explore Weekend.

Connecticut College sponsors the Explore Weekend program for high school seniors over two weekends in the fall. During that weekend, you and your peers will:

  • Attend Explore Weekend classes and discuss big ideas with your professors
  • Tour the campus
  • Interview for admission
  • Stay overnight with a host in a residence hall
  • Make new friends from across the country
  • Learn the ins and outs of financial aid
  • Meet College deans and professors
  • Learn about our home, New London, through a community service project

Applications for Explore Weekend are now closed. We look forward to your application for Fall Admission.

If you have questions, please contact Will Tran, Assistant Director of Admission:

Telephone: 860-439-2200 or
Fax: 860-439-4301.