March 1, 2020
Mychal Wynn (Northeastern ’79)

Researching Colleges and Scholarships 

During March and April, many students will have the opportunity to visit colleges during Spring Break. However, beyond programs, distance from home, dormitories, and the cafeteria, students must concern themselves with the cost of each school and how they plan to pay that cost. The failure of students and parents to thoroughly research the costs of attending college continues to fuel the disastrous student debt crisis. Each year, far too many high school seniors concern themselves with paying for college, AFTER, they have been offered admission and received financial aid award letters, lamenting, “I need to find scholarships.” In 2020, 7 out of 10 students left college owing an average of nearly $30,000 in student loans. (Student Loan Statistics for 2020) However, the cost of attendance at in-state public universities averaging $25,000 per year and 4-year graduation rates averaging less than 50 percent, explains why over 2.5 million students have amassed over $100,000 in student loan debt. Buying a Porsche Carrera GT ($98,000) with a 7-year loan might be less painful than the lifetime of student loan debt students and parents will carry as a result of making uninformed college decisions. 

During our February Atlanta-area cohort meeting, we presented an overview of how significantly the financial aid policies of colleges will impact college costs and potential student loan debt. We examined the financial aid awards of 3 students offered admission to Williams College. After completing the FAFSA and CSS Profile, their expected family contributions ranged from $29,200 to only $2,075 per year. Over 4 years, the out of pocket costs would range from $116,800 to $8,300. Clearly, searching for $8,300 in scholarships would be far easier than amassing $116,800 in scholarships. Consequently, attending Williams College could be great for one student and disastrous for another—this is why identifying the ‘right’ colleges goes far beyond dormitories, cafeteria food, and a student’s major when considering that a third of students change their major within 3 years of attending college.

College Majors
While Williams College is an excellent example of a school that meets the full financial need of families, as determined by the FAFSA and CSS Profile, the difference in costs between a student from a lower income family with a ‘0’ EFC may be the same as a student from an upper income family with a ‘$20,000’ EFC at a public university like the University of Georgia, North Carolina State, or the University of South Carolina. Such schools typically provide little financial support beyond state scholarship and grants (other than for recruited athletes).

Students from lower and middle income families must match to the ‘right’ colleges or qualify for the ‘right’ scholarships. Like Williams College, Rice University’s Rice Investment, provides another example of matching to the right college:

Determining the right school comes down to several factors—often, the biggest one is affordability. At Rice, we believe that talent deserves opportunity. For domestic students we offer need-blind admission, which means we do not consider your finances when we review your application. Additionally, Rice is a need-based institution, which means we offer financial aid based on a family’s financial needs. Students receiving aid under The Rice Investment will have all demonstrated need met without any loans.

The following table outlines Rice’s financial aid commitment


A student with a family income under $65,000 would in essence receive a $63,252 institutional scholarship to Rice (valued at $253,008 over 4 years).This is why our program focuses more attention on getting into the right colleges than on applying for scholarships. The Coca Cola Scholarship awards $5,000 per year, the Ron Brown Scholarship awards $10,000 per year, and the competition for being awarded such scholarships is fierce. Whereas, for the student who commits to earning top grades and test scores, engaging in meaningful activities and leadership, and thoughtfully working through the activities in our program, they will have a pathway to hundreds of thousands of dollars in institutional scholarships as a high school senior. As you set academic goals for each school year, it is important to understand that to benefit from Rice’s generous financial aid policy, you must meet the admission standards where median SAT scores are 1490-1560 and ACT scores are 32-35. As the college research units guide you into the right schools, you must set goals for becoming the type of student to benefit from such opportunities.


A core tenet of our program is encouraging students to “Own the Process.” Rather than becoming involved in activities to pad résumés, we want to inspire students to pursue academic achievement, leadership, and service with passion. Top academic achievers, leaders who are making a difference in their clubs and activities, and engaging in meaningful community service will make an impact on students’ local communities and expand their college and scholarship opportunities. Illustrated here are the goals of one of our Pinellas County Schools 7th graders. Developing such goals as a 7th grader, places this student onto a trajectory toward full scholarship opportunities at such schools as Williams, Amherst, Rice, University of Chicago, Duke, Princeton, and Vanderbilt.

In a similar manner, Ian F., attended our Judson ISD College Planning Boot Camp as a rising high school sophomore. Now, a high school junior, Ian has greatly expanded his college and scholarship opportunities by attaining a #1 class rank in his high school; scoring 1500 on the PSAT; and assuming such leadership roles as Captain of the UIL Computer Science Club; President of the Business Professionals of America; and Concertmaster for the Varsity Orchestra. Ian is developing an outstanding résumé as he makes himself a competitive candidate for his top choice college—MIT.

College Students

Former cohort students are now owning their college experience by becoming campus leaders, serving their communities, and pursuing summa, magna, and cum laude honors. North Carolina A&T Honors College Ambassador and 2nd-year student, Akilah Williams (TCC Cohort), graciously shared her time and insight with Florence County School District 3 Cohort high school senior, Kimani R., who left campus with North Carolina A&T rising to her top choice college. Congratulations to Cathryn Ackerman  (FCSD3 Cohort) who made the Dean’s List at Francis Marion University and Rhea Thompson (Atlanta-area Cohort), who made the Dean’s List at Xavier University of Louisiana. We appreciate Mikayla Hanna (Florence County School District 3 Cohort), 2015 Gates Millennium Scholar, UMBC Meyerhoff Scholar, and graduate of UMBC with a BS in Biology, taking the time, together with her grandmother, to visit the Lake City Early College High School College Cohort to speak to our current high school juniors. 

High School Seniors

Congratulations to Joshua W., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), who has received 3 full scholarship offers. Joshua, the Class Valedictorian and a member of the varsity baseball and basketball teams at his high school, has been offered the Chancellor’s Scholarship by Appalachian State University (full scholarship); the Lewis and Elizabeth Dowdy Scholarship by the North Carolina A & T State University Honors College (full scholarship); and the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College Scholarship by Claflin University (full scholarship). We have been working with Joshua since he was a high school junior. He is an exceptional young man who is actively engage in community service, a recognized leader, and mentor of young men in elementary and middle school. Joshua will have a busy Spring Break visiting each of the schools to determine the right fit and where he will have the opportunity to make the greatest contribution. Former cohort students who are NC A&T Dowdy Scholars and on full scholarship at the Claflin University Honors College are eager to meet Joshua and share the experiences of their respective programs.

It should be noted that less than 2 percent of all college students are attending college on full scholarship, which makes the fact that so many of our cohort students being offered full, or near full scholarships, is such an awesome achievement:

  • Bre’an M., (Atlanta-area Cohort), has received a full scholarship to Carleton College.
  • (Top Photo) Clint C., (Florence County School District 3 Cohort), has signed a commitment letter and has been awarded a generous academic scholarship to continue playing football at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina.
  • (Middle Photo) Darryl “Keith” Q., Jr., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), has signed a National Letter of Intent and will receive a full scholarship to continue playing football at the University of North Carolina – Pembroke in Pembroke, North Carolina.
  • Jayla, S., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), has been offered the Presidential Scholarship to Xavier University of Louisiana and the Lewis and Elizabeth Dowdy Scholarship (full scholarship) to the North Carolina A&T Honors College.
  • Joshua W., (Guilford County Schools), has been offered 3 full scholarships (Appalachian State; North Carolina A&T; Claflin University).
  • Mel S., (Florence County School District 3 Cohort), has been offered a full scholarship to Benedict College.
  • Sydney B., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), has been offered the Presidential Scholarship to Tuskegee University (full scholarship) and the Cheatham-White Scholarship to North Carolina Central (full scholarship).
  • Sydney S., (Pinellas County Schools Cohort) has received a full scholarship to the University of Chicago.
  • Sydney S., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), has been offered a full tuition scholarship to the UNC-Chapel Hill Honors College. 
  • Sydney S., and Sydney P., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), have been offered full tuition scholarships (+books) to the North Carolina A&T Honors College. 
  • (Bottom Photo) Zoe P., (Guilford County Schools Cohort), has signed a commitment letter to continue playing soccer at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia and has been awarded a generous academic scholarship.

Honors Colleges

Congratulations to our Guilford County Schools Cohort students who have been offered admission to honors colleges: Angelina, M.; Jayla S.; Joshua, W.; Kennedy J.; Sydney B.; Sydney P.; and Sydney S. Colleges include: Claflin University Honors College; North Carolina A&T Honors College; UMBC Honors College; UNC-Chapel Hill Honors College; UNC-Charlotte Honors College; UNC-Greensboro Honors College; and the UNC-Wilmington Honors College.

Meyerhoff Scholars Selection Weekend

Congratulations to Angelina M., and Kennedy J., (Guilford County Schools Cohort) who have been invited to the Meyerhoff Scholars Selection Weekend at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. The Meyerhoff Scholars Program is at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, technology, engineering and related fields. The UMBC Meyerhoff family is now more than 1300 strong, with over 1100 alumni across the nation and 281 students enrolled at UMBC. Over 300 graduates are currently pursuing graduate and professional degrees in STEM fields. Mikayla Hanna, the first Meyerhoff Scholar in the history of South Carolina, from our Florence County School District 3 Cohort (SC) recently received her BS in Biology from UMBC and Samuel Patterson, from our Turner Chapel AME Church Cohort is a current Meyerhoff Scholar pursuing a BS/PhD in economics.

Disney Dreamer’s Academy

Congratulations to one of our newest Atlanta-area Cohort members, Adonna M., who has been selected as 1 of only 15 students from the State of Georgia invited to attend the Disney Dreamer’s Academy.

High School Juniors

The February Module: Researching Colleges and Scholarships guided students through researching the vast array of college and financial aid options. For many students, this is a much more exhausting process than anticipated. Students in Georgia began the process thinking about either the Ivy League, UGA, or Georgia Tech. Students in North Carolina began focused on UNC – Charlotte, UNC – Greensboro, or East Carolina. Students in South Carolina began focused on USC – Columbia, Clemson, or Francis Marion, while students in Florida began focused on the University of Tampa, University of Central Florida, or Florida State. However, most students began their research with little understanding of liberal arts colleges, research universities, cooperative education programs, honors colleges, test optional colleges, dual degree programs or the wide array of financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

We had a great Atlanta-area Cohort meeting. Students who were unable to complete the monthly activities were encouraged to bring their laptop computers and work with volunteers. Students who completed the activities had the opportunity to participate in round table discussions with other students through which they shared their narratives and engaged in a deeper analysis of what they learned through the activities and the direction in which their college-bound strategies were developing.

The March Module: Net Price Calculator guides students through answering the single guiding question, “What are the best college opportunities for students with my interests, academic achievement level, career aspirations, and financial need?” The unit guides students in developing a comprehensive college list and in identifying scholarship opportunities to which students are well matched.

Fly-in Opportunities

Academically accomplished students who will be pursuing the hyper competitive admission to selective colleges and universities may gain a competitive advantage by being invited to a Fly-in Program. These all-expenses paid programs not only provide opportunities to visit campuses, speak with current students, and meet professors and admissions officers, but build relationships with schools. Cohort students invited to Fly-in Programs have gone on to be offered admission to such schools as Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Carleton, Case Western Reserve, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, University of Richmond, Washington and Lee, and Williams.

Registration for the following programs is now open:

Grades 9 – 10

The March Module: Researching Colleges and Scholarships (Part II) guides students in continuing their college research and exploring the wide range of college opportunities, from HBCUs, first generation friendly college, military service academies, and unique opportunities for athletes. The single guiding question is, “What are the best college opportunities for students with my interests, academic achievement level, and career aspirations?”

We encourage parents and cohort facilitators to engage students in conversations about their research to ensure that students are expanding their understanding of the array of postsecondary college and scholarship opportunities.

Did You Know?

A survey of college admissions officers, determined the following elements in their admission decisions to be considered as of “Considerable Importance:”

  • Grades in All Courses: 75.4%
  • Grades in College Prep Courses: 73.2%
  • Strength of Curriculum: 62.1%
  • Admission Test Scores (SAT, ACT): 45.7%
  • Positive Character Attributes: 25.9%
  • Essay or Writing Sample: 23.2%

March Meeting Dates/Times

Sunday, March 1, 2020: United Ghana Christian Church Cohort (10:00 am – 12:30 pm).

Sunday, March 1, 2020: Rockdale County College Planning Cohort Presentation (4:30 pm – 6:00 pm).

Sunday, March 8, 2020: The Next Episode: Teen Bible Student/College Planning Session for high school juniors and seniors. Turner Chapel AME Church • Marietta, GA Boardroom (9:30 am – 11:30 am).

Sunday, March 8, 2020: Atlanta-area Cohort: Turner Chapel AME Church • Marietta, GA (11:30 am – 12:45 pm). Bring your laptop computers. Note: In recognition of Easter Sunday, the April meeting will be moved from the second Sunday to the third Sunday (April 19).

Sunday, March 8, 2020: Crossroads for Teens Cohort grades 9 – 12. Johnson Ferry Baptist Church • Marietta, GA (3:00 pm – 4:30 pm).

Saturday, March 14, 2020: ASA Guide Right Mentoring Workshop

Friday, March 20, 2020: Lake City Early College High School Juniors Cohort (9:00 am – 2:30 pm). Students will be excused from class to the College Corner. Seniors will be seen by appointment.

Saturday, March 21, 2020: Guilford County Schools Cohort: Seniors (9:00 am – Noon); Juniors (Noon – 3:00 pm). Location: GTCC Greensboro Campus.

Saturday, March 28, 2020: Pinellas County Schools High School Cohort grades 9 – 12. Lakewood High School Media Center • 1400 54th Ave, S • St. Petersburg, FL (9:00 pm – 2:00 pm). 

Saturday, March 28, 2020: ASA Guide Right Cohort Fortis College (9:00 am).

College Planning Boot Camps: Register Now

June 1 – 4: Rising 9th Graders. Judson ISD (Converse, TX).
June 8 – 11: Rising 10th Graders. Judson ISD (Converse, TX).
June 16 – 18: Rising 11th Graders. Guilford County Schools (Greensboro, NC).
June 22 – 25: High School Students. Pinellas County Schools (St. Petersburg, FL).
July 6 – 9: Middle School Students. Pinellas County Schools (St. Petersburg, FL).
July 27 – 30: Rising Seniors. Florence County School District 3 (Lake City, SC).

Registration for our 2020/21 Cohorts opens on July 1. 

Why rising high school seniors must attend a boot camp:

  • Ensure that you have packaged correctly for each of your colleges
  • Ensure that your essays reflect non-cognitive variables and speak to the institutional mission of your colleges
  • Ensure that your essays tells the story that college admission officers need to hear
  • Ensure that you are applying to the ‘right’ colleges, to the ‘right’ admission cycle, and for the ‘right’ scholarships
  • Ensure that you do not begin your senior year of high school behind and overwhelmed 

Atlanta Area College Planning Boot Camp for Rising High School Seniors

We are tentatively planning 2 4-day boot camps for the Atlanta area (July 13-15 and July 20-24). Each session will be hosted at the Turner Chapel AME Church. Current registration fees are:

  • $595 in advance and $795 at the door for non-cohort members
  • $195 for cohort students registered for the 2020/21 academic year
  • $195 for Turner Chapel AME Church members

The primary focus of the boot camp will be on finalizing college applications and essays. Attendance is limited, and registration fees are subjected change, so RSVP to reserve your seat. Click here to register…

We encourage our new students to review past newsletters posted to our blog.

Click here to learn more about our cohorts and other programs…