The University of Vermont is playing host this week to a pilot program that aims to close an opportunity gap when it comes to college admissions.
It’s giving select high schoolers an up-close look at what life is like on college campuses, and what it takes to pursue a college opportunity that’s right for an individual student.
“I’ve definitely been like, ‘school, college, job,’” said Trinity Anderson, a high school senior from Washington, D.C., listing some of the priorities she has set for herself. “But I didn’t go into depth—into the different possibilities I have and the different job options I could do, based on what I like and what I’m good at.”
Anderson hopes to find that depth and greater understanding through InspirED.
Kids from both Washington D.C. and from across Vermont are in Burlington for several days of intensive college advising. They were recommended to the program by guidance counselors.
The students will also get ongoing follow-ups with mentors, tips on financial aid, visits to area businesses such as Dealer.com to connect degree work with career possibilities, and guidance on test prep.
“It makes it a lot less scary, because I really don’t like taking tests,” high school senior Sam Susco of Enosburgh, Vermont said of the SAT prep work during this week’s immersion.
To put on InspirED, UVM received an innovation grant from the Coalition for College, a group of more than 140 schools that works to ease the process of applying to college—especially for kids from historically under-represented groups.
The hosts told necn this is urgent work because of inequities in high school when it comes to accessing college counseling.
“There are some states out there where the student-to-counselor ratio is north of 6 or 700 to one,” noted Ryan Hargraves, UVM’s admissions director, who cited a study from the National Association of College Admissions Counselors. “There are places where students get eight or 10 minutes of college counseling—that’s not an exaggeration.”
“In high school, they are getting some of these talks, but this small cohort allows them to have that one-on-one interaction and really ask those tough questions that they may be afraid to ask in front of their peers,” said Ashlie Savage, a college counselor who works at a school in Washington, D.C.
No matter where the students are headed, to Vermont or someplace else, InspirED aims to boost access to key college-planning tools and show students what’s possible for them, Hargraves said.
Leaders of the program said they want to see the concept spread.
“Hopefully, this pilot is a great model of how to engage students in the future,” said Ben Skipper, an InspirED mentor.