In my role as a summer intern this past August, I coordinated Project Rousseau’s annual College Application Boot Camp for rising high school seniors. Incoming 12th graders at all of our partnered NYC high schools were invited to a day of ‘cracking the College Application code.’ Having been through the college admissions process myself not all that long ago (ha!), I drew on personal experiences with applications to guide our seniors through the initial steps of what can be an at times stressful experience.
The event was nothing short of a success. As a group of roughly 25, we began first with an overview of vocabulary critical for understanding--and successfully surviving--the college admissions process. Key topical terms such as ‘early decision,’ ‘early action,’ and ‘test optional’ were defined and discussed for their importance to each individual’s college application process. With a solid topical foundation established, we then progressed into the Common App itself. Each student, using a Google Chromebook kindly lent by our partner high school Hudson High for Learning Technologies, began filling out the initial sections of the Common Application. Students were encouraged to ask questions and as a group we familiarized ourselves with the lay of the application. To end the day, students were asked to compile lists of the colleges to which they would apply. Their ‘homework’ was then to research what supplemental materials would be required as a part of their application.
I would be remiss to fail to note a key element to the success of that day: a sense of community. Quite frankly, and upon reflection, I found myself surprised by this air of camaraderie; the college admissions process can be quite individualized, if not individualizing. Rather than ‘do their own thing,’ or take the day as an opportunity to be competitive with one another about prospective applications, students from all over the city came together and helped each other; they helped one another reach a better understanding of college admissions decisions, and of what they each need to do to successfully survive the process.
I left the boot camp truly impressed and humbled by our students. Indeed, it was that day that confirmed for me our students’ preparedness and maturity for what is now called our Macaulay Access Program. Through an official partnership with Macaulay Honors College (CUNY), select Project Rousseau 12th graders receive monthly mentorship from esteemed faculty and administration at an elite academic institution here in the city. This program shows great promise as we continue to optimize our support to students as they prepare for the transition to college!