As we enter the new year, we are amazed by the resilience of our students in the face so many challenges. Both our high school and college students have confronted the challenges and continued forward. We have enjoyed the many college students who have checked in and shared their first semester stories and our high school students who worked so hard during the first semester. We so very much enjoy our work and are looking forward to a wonderful 2022, despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Delta Variant, the Omicron Variant, and whatever else is awaiting us.
Our 2021-22 Youth Leadership Board
We are pleased to announce an exceptional group of students who will serve on our 2021-22 College Planning Cohort Youth Leadership Board. Jocelyne (President); Josiah (Vice President); and Anna (Social Media Manager) are all 9th grade students in our Pinellas County Schools Cohort. TaRetta (Communications Secretary) is a high school senior in our Atlanta-area Cohort and Omar (Social Media Manager) is a high school junior in our Atlanta-area Cohort. Jayla (Media Coordinator) is a high school junior in our Florence School District 3 Cohort. Each student brings unique gifts, talents, and leadership skills to our leadership board.
University of Chicago student, Sydney Soskin, is the college adviser for our 2021-22 Youth Leadership Board. Sydney is a 2020 graduate of the St. Petersburg High School IB Program and has served as a summer intern for our college planning boot camps (through a paid internship sponsored by the University of Chicago) and is a Discussion Group Leader for our 9th grade discussion group.
Our exceptional College Planning Cohort Youth Leadership Board released their first collaborative project today—a video summarizing the benefits of our program. They provide an example of how any student can use his or her gifts and talents to collaborate with others to have a meaningful impact in their activities and communities.
Tyra — Georgia Tech
While our curriculum has always been culturally diverse through the examples of students from diverse backgrounds who have been offered admission to selective colleges and competitive scholarships, we have further updated our curriculum to ensure that it is as inspirational as it is informational. The first unit in each monthly module profiles a student who has come through our program. In January, we profile Tyra, who was introduced to our program as a middle school student accompanying her older sister to our monthly meetings. Tyra joined our program as a 9th grader, and together with her family, made the hour-long drive from Suwanee, Georgia to attend our monthly meetings at the Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta, Georgia. A 2021 graduate of Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia, Tyra is now attending Georgia Tech on a full scholarship as a Clark Scholar. Her story, her first mid-year assessment as a 9th grader, and the résumé that she intentionally developed throughout high school is an inspirational story of grit and determination.
New High School Junior Classroom
We have closed the 2021-22 High School Junior Classroom and transitioned all juniors into our 2022-23 Junior/Senior Classroom. The second semester curriculum guides high school juniors in finalizing their college and scholarship research and developing college and scholarship application plans. In June, students returning to our program as high school seniors will begin operationalizing their plans. This will place all rising high school seniors on a pathway, well ahead of their peers, to finalizing high quality college and scholarship application packages prior to the start of their senior year of high school, and well in advance of college and scholarship deadlines.
(Grades 9 – 11) Mid-year Assessments and Student/Parent Meetings
Students in grades 9 – 11 are at the midway point of their 2021-22 college planning projects. The January Module requires students to complete a first semester assessment and set second semester goals. High school juniors have one remaining semester to develop the body of work they will present to colleges in the fall. 9th and 10th graders have the opportunity to assess their first semester successes, and challenges, and make adjustments to their high school plans.
Mr. and Mrs. Wynn will be scheduling one-on-one meetings with students and parents to review students’ plans and to discuss such areas as:
Students’ 4-year high school schedules
First semester grades
PSAT, SAT, or ACT testing
The student/parent meetings will provide each participating student and family with our assessment of where students are in the college-planning process and areas that students can strengthen during the second semester. Students must submit their first semester transcripts or report cards; and complete the January Module prior to scheduling a mid-year assessment meeting.
High School Seniors
We continued to work with high school seniors over the holiday break to finalize college and scholarship essays. We also worked with students who were denied admission to their Early Decision colleges as they revisited their college admission strategies. Any senior may schedule a 1-on-1 meeting following our monthly meetings. We encourage seniors and parents to prepare questions regarding financial aid awards; navigating student portals; or responding to college admissions and financial aid information requests.
Need 1-on-1 Writing Support?
Many of our high school seniors learned the tragic lesson that their high school curriculum did not provide adequate preparation for writing their college and scholarship essays. Even students in IB Programs or who took AP Language Arts classes found themselves ill-prepared. While the narrative writing in our curriculum engages students in developing this critically important college-readiness skill, it also reveals students’ writing weaknesses. Our 1-on-1 Writing Sessions with Florence School District 3 students (funded by their school district) have proven an effective pathway to becoming better writers. Consequently, we are now offering 1-on-1 Writing Sessions to any student. Email us to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calculus – A Gateway Class
Prior to COVID, over 1,000 colleges had test optional admissions policies. Since COVID, many more colleges have adopted test optional policies. While many college admissions officers say that student applications are evaluated within the context of how students’ maximized course taking opportunities in their respective high schools, we believe that Calculus may be a little discussed gateway class, or Gate Keeper, into selective colleges—even for non-STEM majors. We recently learned from a student that her admission offer to a liberal arts college, together with a $70,000 annual scholarship, was at risk of being withdrawn because she was planning to drop AP Calculus from her second semester course schedule. This, despite her 28 ACT score and straight A’s in rigorous honors and AP classes throughout high school. What was most revealing in the email to the student was the following statement:
“Our faculty recommend one year of calculus coursework for entering students to be prepared for the rigor of coursework at …”
The school’s Common Data Set states that the school requires 3 years of math, but recommends 4 years of math. However, the school does not recommend calculus as a required math class so how would students know? More so, the typical math trajectory for millions of high school students is Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Algebra III/Trigonometry or Pre-Calculus. Why would a student pursuing a non-STEM major at a liberal arts college assume that they should take calculus to be considered for admission?
Our advice is not to give any school or scholarship provider a reason to dismiss your application. Take the most rigorous classes offered at your high school and choose rigorous classes, including calculus, when selecting your dual enrollment classes. Chris Millet, a long-time friend and partner, and one of his best students and one of our best mentors, Kimberly Hadaway, now pursuing a PhD in math at Iowa State University, are the most effective tutors with whom we have worked to assist students in AP Calculus, AP Physics, and AP Chemistry. Do not limit your college opportunities by avoiding rigorous classes.
While we encourage all students to finalize their presentations prior to our cohort meeting on Saturday, January 8, 2022, all students will be allowed to participate in their discussion groups during the first meeting of the new year. The Discussion Groups will provide opportunities for students to engage in a candid discussion regarding their mid-year assessment and second semester goals. Please submit first semester report cards and transcripts. Students or parents who are considering joining our program may request a guest pass by emailing: email@example.com.
December College Cohort Presentation Award Nominees…
Congratulations to 9th grader, Jocelyne L. (Pinellas County Schools Cohort), and 11th grader, Omar D., Jr. (Atlanta-area Cohort) who were awarded the November College Cohort Presentation Awards for their outstanding November presentations.
Congratulations to the following students whose presentations were nominated for our December College Cohort Presentation Awards:
9th – 10th Grade Cohort:
Anna N. – Pinellas County Schools Cohort
Griffin S. – Pinellas County Schools Cohort
11th Grade Cohort:
Jayla Jones – Florence School District 3 Cohort
Recipients of the December College Cohort Presentation Awards will be announced at the January meeting.
Congratulations “They Got In!”
We congratulate cohort students who received notification of offers to highly competitive colleges and programs:
Georgia Tech: Justin C., Malachi J., and Rachel T.
Georgia State: Rachel T.
Georgia State Honors College: TaRetta B.
Johns Hopkins University (Full Scholarship): Joanne L.
North Carolina A&T Honors College: Caleb M., Imani H., Joshua S., Justin C., Kalila T., Kaylie S., Parris C., Rachel T., and TaRetta B.
Tennessee State University (Full Scholarship): Caleb M.
University of Georgia: Rachel T.
University of Georgia Honors College: Justin C.
University of Maryland – Baltimore County: Justin C., Kaylie S., London S., and TaRetta B.
University of South Carolina – Columbia: Sydney M.
Xavier University of Louisiana (Full Scholarship): Justin, C.
Yale Young Global Scholars Program (Full Scholarship): Omar D., Jr.
Thank you to our December guest speaker, Ms. Stephanie Gonzalez, former Williams College Associate Director of Admissions and current Associate Director of College Counseling for Trinity School in New York. Stephanie who is an outspoken advocate for first generation and marginalized students, provided invaluable insight into competitive college admissions; how students of color and those from lower-income families can make themselves competitive applicants for selective colleges and universities; how applications are evaluated; and the impact of essays and recommendation letters. Stephanie encouraged students to keep a journal throughout high school chronically significant experiences, challenges, and achievements, from which they will draw upon in writing their college essays as a high school senior. Her advice further enhances the focus of “Writing Your Story,” to which students were introduced in the September Module.
Monthly Meeting Schedule:The second Saturday of each month. January 8, 2022 – 10:00 am – Noon:9th – 11th Grades (click here to register; Meeting ID: 884 7893 8939). Students will present their January presentations in their Discussion Groups. January 13, 2022 — 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm — Pinellas County Schools Title I Meeting for Rising 6th Grade Parents and Students (click here to register: Meeting ID: 851 1117 0834). Part II or a 3-part College Planning Series. First 50 families to register will receive a free book, “A Middle School Plan for Students with College-Bound Dreams: Quick Guide,” (click here for more information). Florence School District 3 Writing Sessions –5:00 pm – 6:30 pm — Any Grade (click here to register; Meeting ID 892 5369 6183) Monday and Wednesday. Florence School District 3 Cohort Sessions –5:00 pm – 6:30 pm — 9th – 12th Grades (click here to register; Meeting ID 868 3691 5004) Tuesday and Thursday.
Attention High School Juniors – Join a Cohort: Register Now
This is a critical time for cohort students to invite their friends, family members, and classmates to join our program. While any student in grades 9 – 11 may register for program, it is particularly important for high school juniors to sign up now. The second semester is a critical time for high school juniors to finalize the body of work (i.e., grades, test scores, leadership, and service) that will be represented in their college applications.