Yesterday, nearly 100 Bottom Line NY students, staff, and supporters celebrated National College Signing Day with Michelle Obama. The First Lady and MTV gathered dozens of musicians, athletes, actors, and other celebrities at the Harlem Armory to deliver inspiring messages to over 4,000 NYC college-bound students.

One of those students was Amina Gacevic, a Barnard-bound Bottom Line HS senior determined to become the first in her family to graduate college. Nervous about what the coming year and the college application process held, Amina found comfort in Bottom Line’s holistic services.

“Bottom Line is one of the best things that has ever been provided to me,” she said. “They made the entire college application and financial aid process a piece of cake and provided me with a wonderful counselor who went through every single step with me. I’ve gotten so much support along the way and I don’t know where I would be without them.”

While addressing the crowd, the First Lady called on her own past and challenged students to do exactly what Amina did: seek out a system of support.

“I know that if I can do it, you can do it too. I want you to hear that from me. I want you to hear that from your First Lady,” said Obama. “Ask for help. And don’t wait. Remember this: no one gets through college alone. No one.”

At Bottom Line, we share the First Lady’s belief that no one should have to get to and through college alone. Please join us in celebrating the college decisions of our 350 high school seniors this month!

Bottom Line – Chicago’s Margy Brill shares her perspective on integrating data into student counseling.


When you think about technology in the context of college access and persistence, a new platform or an app may come to mind. At Bottom Line, we see technology as less of a stand-alone solution and more of a tool that facilitates collecting and analyzing data to help low income, first generation students get into college, graduate from college, and go far in life. Harnessing technology to create carefully monitored data-driven outcomes is central to our DEAL curriculum for college persistence. As a result, it was an enormous honor for College Board President David Coleman to announce Bottom Line as the Personalized Learning Award of Excellence recipient at the National College Access Network (NCAN) 20th Anniversary National Conference based on our data-driven DEAL model.

One person beaming from the audience while Bottom Line Chief Operating Officer Greg Johnson accepted the award was Chicago Senior Success Counselor Margy Brill. A two-year Bottom Line veteran, Margy counseled students in Bottom Line’s Worcester office before joining the founding Bottom Line – Chicago team. “Our DEAL model isn’t rocket science, but it’s how we as an organization have held our counselors and staff accountable for measuring and achieving very strong college persistence outcomes with our students,” Margy said, reflecting on the significance of NCAN recognizing Bottom Line’s approach to ensuring college persistence.

Of course, BoMargy and Justin, NCAN September 2015ttom Line’s participation in the NCAN conference wasn’t limited to the awards ceremony. Margy delivered a presentation called Power In Numbers along with Justin Strasburger, Bottom Line’s National Success Program Director. The session focused on using data to make informed decisions and drive results for student success.

“We want organizations to make sure that their programs are actually working, and the best way to do this is to effectively and efficiently measure, collect, and analyze data.”

Since joining Bottom Line in July 2013, Margy has used data to determine if students are on track to graduate and go far in a way that provides a high level of organizational accountability. On a day-to-day basis, for Margy that means meeting and talking with students, documenting those interactions, and monitoring outcomes. “Through this process I can ensure that I prioritize contacting students who are facing the most challenges. Using data also helps me be more efficient, which in turn increases my capacity to serve my students better.”

After a year of helping low income, first generation college students in Chicago, the Kalamazoo College alumna is proud of the progress that the Chicago team has made. Many of the higher education administrators Margy had initial conversations with a year ago were surprised by how much data Bottom Line counselors track and measure for each individual student. “One specific question I remember getting a lot was how we were able to keep students engaged with our program. Administrators kept wondering what kind of incentives we gave our students, such as a scholarship. When we explained the level of in-person, individualized support we have the capacity to give each student, they were able to see how we’re able to help students and maintain strong relationships with them without incentives.”

We believe that this intensive, one-on-one approach delivered by our full-time, trained counselors makes all the difference. In Chicago, it already has. Last year, 100% of our inaugural class of high school seniors in the Access program were accepted into college. 97% were accepted to a 4-year college compared to 29% of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students, according to a report released from the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago in December 2014. In the Success program, 96% our first cohort of college freshmen persisted into their second year of college. Nationally, 84% of students in Bottom Line’s Success program graduate from college in 6 years or less, which is more than four times the 14% college graduation rate for CPS students.

Bottom Line – Chicago’s inaugural 2014-2015 class of over 150 low income, first generation students came from 70 Chicago high schools and 50 different neighborhoods. During our second year in Chicago, we have more than doubled the students served to almost 350 with ambitious plans to serve over 2,500 Chicago students by 2020.

Over the past 10 years it’s become clear that the work to increase the public high school graduation rates and lower drop-out rates has had an impact, as 80% of students from the high school class of 2012 earned their diploma as the US Dept. of Education reported in their April 2014 report. However, these improvements have not translated to college success for students from low-income households. For almost 40 years the college graduation rate for low-income students has remained flat at about 20%.

Bottom Line has been squarely focused on the issues of college access and success for low-income students for almost twenty years. We know that the solution to improving the college success rate for low-income students won’t come easily. We are pleased to see more attention being paid to the disparity between the “Rich and the Poor”, as in this week’s Wall Street Journal article, Big Gap in College Graduation Rates for Rich and Poor, and the recent study, Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States published by the University of Pennsylvania and the Pell Institute for Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

As with the improvement of the national public high school graduation rates, the factors that relate to college success are complex. There is no quick fix or low-cost intervention that will solve the problem. However, we have identified one key differentiator that we believe leads to long-term college success and that is the importance of having an experienced family member, mentor or counselor to whom students can turn to when faced with a challenge.

Through nearly two decades of work supporting students through college, we have learned that virtually all of the challenges faced by low-income college students fall in to four categories:  Academics, Career Development, Affordability, and Social/Emotional.  Our DEAL Model for college success is built around this framework. When students are faced with challenges from one or more of these categories, they need a trusted resource to provide guidance, and a strategy as they work to overcome the challenges they face. Bottom Line can be that resource for some or many of those students, but we need a national investment of time, talent and resources to help.

Questions? Thoughts? Share them with us here!  


Nearly 100% of Bottom Line high school seniors from Boston and Worcester have been accepted to college and more than two-thirds of these students will be attending one of our Success colleges.

In the interview below, Tommy Suen, a current senior at the John D. O’Bryant High School in Boston, explains how his Bottom Line counselor, Laura, helped him get into college and why he’s looking forward to having Bottom Line’s support once he starts college in the fall.


Tommy and his Bottom Line Counselor, Laura

Name: Tommy Suen
High School: John D. O’Bryant
College Attending: Boston University

Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My older brother was a Bottom Line student, so from the time I was a freshman in high school he kept telling me that I had to sign up for Bottom Line. He would say, “if it weren’t for Bottom Line, I never would have gotten into college,” so I always knew how important it would be to have Bottom Line’s help applying to college. I also knew I wouldn’t have a lot of help navigating the application process at home. My mom really wanted me to go to college, but she had never been through the process before.

Can you describe how your Bottom Line counselor, Laura, supported you this year?

Laura was a huge help! It made a huge difference to be able to have individualized support throughout the application process. For a long time, I thought that I was Laura’s only student. I was shocked to learn that she was actually working with fifty other students like me; she was just always available to help me.

When I first started the college application process I struggled a lot with organization. There are so many things to remember and I was having a particularly hard time writing my college essay. Laura really helped me organize my thoughts and after several drafts I emerged with a college essay I was really proud of. She also helped me analyze my financial aid award letters and helped me choose a school that was both affordable and a good fit. Laura always went above and beyond, she even helped me get the part-time job I have working at Bottom Line’s front desk. I have worked at Bottom Line for a year, and I have noticed that all of the counselors really go above and beyond to help support students.

May 1st was College Decision Day. Where will you be attending college next year? How did you feel when you found out you got into college?

I applied to nine colleges and I was so nervous that I wouldn’t get in anywhere. I was so excited and relieved when I found out that I had been accepted to my first choice, Boston University and it would be affordable for me to go there. It was so rewarding to have all of my hard work from high school pay off in that moment.

That must be a relief! How are you and your family feeling about college now?

I am the youngest in my family and my mom worried a lot about whether or not I would get into college. She was so proud of me when she found out I had been accepted to Boston University that she dropped everything she was doing and took me out to eat in order to celebrate. Both of my brothers went to Boston University, so they are very excited to have the legacy carried on.

Are you excited about staying connected to Bottom Line? What are you looking forward to the most next year?

Yes! I am looking forward to staying connected to Bottom Line and having a counselor visit me on campus. Living away from home for the first time and having to manage my own schedule is going to be a huge transition. I am pretty nervous about balancing everything next year, but it makes me feel better knowing that Bottom Line will continue to be there for me. I am really looking forward to meeting new people on campus and taking classes in business, accounting and finance.

What would you tell a high school student who is just starting the college application process with Bottom Line?

Don’t take your Bottom Line counselor for granted. Listen to your counselor’s advice and be prepared to edit your college essay several times. Oh, also, your Bottom Line counselor works with 49 other students, but you would never know it.


For the third straight year, we are proud to announce that 100% of Bottom Line-New York’s high school students have been accepted to college. The path from college application to acceptance is never easy to navigate, and so our full-time counselors met one-on-one with almost 300 high school seniors this year to help them every step of the way. Below, Azza Awad, a current senior at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, explains how her Bottom Line counselor Deborah helped her throughout the entire process.

Azza and her Bottom Line-New York counselor Deborah after she decided to attend NYU next fall.

Azza and her Bottom Line-New York counselor Deborah announcing that she plans to attend NYU next fall.


Name:  Azza Awad

High School: Clara Barton High School

Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My parents left everything in Sudan to come to the U.S., invest in my education, and give me a better future than we would ever have back in Sudan. I joined Bottom Line because I needed someone who could help me with the college application process. Knowing that it would be the most stressful and difficult time of my high school career, I needed someone to guide me, and there was no one at home who had been through it before.

Can you describe how your Bottom Line counselor Deborah supported you this year?

The first thing Deborah did was to help me zero in on a collection of colleges that fit my personality and academic interests. Then we made sure that I had some reach schools, some colleges that I was likely to get in, and some schools that were a shoe-in on my list. Bottom Line also helped me write not only my main college essay, but all the other supplemental essays for schools that required them.

Deborah also took me step by step through my Private School, CUNY, and SUNY applications, helping me to highlight the best version of myself so that colleges could see why I’m a strong candidate. The opportunity to have not just my Bottom Line counselor, but also other counselors in the office check over my applications made me feel special, like I had a support system that really cared.

When it came time for paying for college, Bottom Line helped me with all the paperwork required for financial aid. It was really confusing! They asked about my parents’ income, tax returns, and other financial documents that I wasn’t aware of. Having someone there to help me through it made all the difference!

Azza speaking at the Bottom Line-New York Spring Reception on May 7, 2014.

Azza speaking at the Bottom Line-New York Spring Reception on May 7, 2014.

May 1st was College Decision Day. Where will you be attending college next year?

This fall, I’m going to NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and will major in Computer Engineering. I’m really excited because I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up. Also, I won’t be paying a dime! I got a full scholarship, thanks to Deborah.

That must be a relief! How are you and your family feeling about college now?

My family feels relieved because this pressure has been lifted. They don’t have to worry about their daughter getting a quality education, and they don’t have to worry about the financial burden that most students have. My father is a taxi driver, and recently whenever he has customers and a conversation comes up, he always tells them how proud he is of me getting into NYU. Getting into NYU Poly, with the help of Bottom Line, is a huge accomplishment for me and my family and will give us all a brighter future.

This winter, Bottom Line-New York counselors have already helped over 250 of our high school students submit their financial aid applications. Financial aid can be daunting for any student – there are many steps in the process, with various tax documents and specific forms needed along the way. For perspective on some of the financial aid challenges that one student encountered and the ways that she worked with her Bottom Line counselor to overcome them, read Valeria’s account below.

Jonathan-Valeria#1  Name:  Valeria Inamagua

  High School: Talent Unlimited HS

  Number of Colleges Applied To: 17

  Top Choices: SUNY Stonybrook, Syracuse, and Swarthmore

  Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My mother wanted to help me with college applications, but she cannot because she didn’t go through the process herself and she doesn’t speak English. When I heard about Bottom Line, I immediately wanted to join. In the future, I want to be a role model for my younger sister, both by going to college and by helping her when she starts applying for college.

What was the hardest or most surprising part about the financial aid process so far?

My father doesn’t live with us and so I had to keep reaching out to ask him for information. I didn’t realize that colleges were going to ask for that, but they did and it was challenging. On top of that, I kept getting different requests for different forms from different schools in addition to the FAFSA and CSS.

What’s one way that your BL counselor has helped you with financial aid?

Jonathan went through the details in each application and each form. He didn’t just tell me what to write; he explained what each form meant and why they were asking for this information. I feel like it’s important that students know what they’re filling out. It’s going to pop up in the future and I need to know what to do after this year.

One piece of advice for students currently filling out financial aid:

To have all important documents ready in advance (even the ones that you don’t think they’ll ask for), so that you can input the information all at one time.

This winter, Bottom Line – NY counselors have already helped 191 of our 300 high school seniors complete nearly 3,000 college applications. As our wall continues to fill up with stars for students who’ve hit the submit button, we wanted to share one student’s story of her college application process below.

Tiffany Rosario 1 Name: Tiffany Rosario

High School: High School of Arts and Technology

How many colleges did you apply to?  I applied to

What is your first choice and why?

My first choice is NYU. I’m interested in going there because it has so much of what I look for in a college. It’s in the City, plus it has good undergrad and graduate programs. I also am interested in the community service opportunities and the emphasis on studying abroad. It’s one of my reach schools, though!

When I go to college I want to major in either political science or creative writing. I really like writing and things in the English field. After college, I want to be either a lawyer or maybe even a judge. I know that NYU has a great law school, too.

How did your Bottom Line counselor help you with the college application process?

The process wasn’t something that I was expecting. We started off by making a college list, even though I already had my own list in mind. My personal list only had colleges that were really hard to get into. When we made our college list together, I told my Bottom Line counselor, Christine, that I didn’t want some of the schools that she listed. She explained to me why she put certain schools on my list and reminded me that it’s important to have a balanced list of colleges so I have some options if I don’t get into the schools I want.

After that, I started applying to schools. I thought the college application process was going to be harder before I came to Bottom Line, but I really liked how Christine narrowed everything down into deadlines and helped me figure out what I needed to do and when. She reminded me when all of my supplements and applications were due and helped me create to-do lists to make sure that I got everything done on time. If I was the only one looking at the applications, I might have missed some things. I thought I was organized, but Christine is one of the most organized people I know!

What has been the most challenging part of the application process?

I guess the hardest part was coming up with an idea for all of the essays I had to complete for all of the supplements. I have a few things on my resume that I could talk about, so I needed to figure out what to highlight for each school and what to focus on. Also, I felt like my Common App essay had to be perfect because every college was going to see it. I ended up writing three different Common App essays.

What have you learned from the college application process so far?

I learned that you have to be able to put yourself at the table. If you want someone at a college to know who you really are, you need to put as much detail into an application as possible to increase your chances of getting in somewhere since they might not meet you in person.

What do you plan to do this winter and spring to help make sure you are ready for college next fall?

I’ve already talked with Christine about the need to fill out my financial aid forms and get information from my family to apply for scholarships and to fill out the FAFSA. The earlier you apply for some of these scholarships, the more you get.

What are you most excited about for college?

I’m excited about so many things! I’m excited to meet new people, to get to choose my own classes, to learn more about topics that I didn’t get to learn about in high school, and to be independent. I’ve gone to programs at colleges for 2 or 3 weeks in the summer before, so I know a little bit about what it’s like already.

This fall in Boston and Worcester, Bottom Line counselors will guide over 600 high school seniors as they apply to college. As students hit the submit button on their college applications they put a star with their name on the wall. See below to learn more about two high school students who recently completed their college applications and put their star up on the Bottom Line wall.

photo 1Name: Iris Pena

High School: O’Bryant High School

How many colleges  did you apply to?
I applied to ten colleges.

What is your first choice and why?
Emerson College because it is a great place to pursue creative writing.


How did your Bottom Line counselor help you with the college application process?
I definitely appreciate the individualized attention I have received from ShaCara. At first, I was nervous about interacting with her because I wasn’t sure what kind of a person she was. I wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate my humor or care about my rants or if she was the type of adult that made the difference of our levels clear (I’m an adult; you’re the teen; stick to the script). However, with each meeting, I realized that I got more comfortable with ShaCara and she seemed to enjoy my company and working with me just fine. I also realized that I know her. Not just like I know she exists and we deal with each other because that’s what we have to do. I know her on a personal level: I know her favorite color and family situation. It works the other way around, too. I think that because we have this familiarity, it is easier for us to work together to accomplish things. We know what to expect from each other and are able to meet in the middle, each doing our parts to move along with the process. Whenever ShaCara noticed that I was having trouble taking writing my supplements, she made sure I came into Bottom Line to get them done. That extra push went a long way in helping me to get ahead on my application process. I also appreciate how ShaCara takes into account my opinion on certain aspects and makes sure that I understand everything that I am supposed to be doing.

How do you feel now?
I am relieved, but I definitely still have some work to do. I need to follow up about my recommendations and most importantly, apply for financial aid!

Now that you have hit submit, what advice do you have to a student who is still going through the application process?
Be open minded and trust your Bottom Line counselor.


photoName: Wenxie Ye

High School: Malden High

How many colleges  did you apply to?
I applied to nine colleges.

What is your first choice and why?
Wentworth Institute of Technology because I would like to major in Computer Engineering and they have a great program.

How did your Bottom Line counselor help you with the college application process?
Laura helped me so much! The Common Application website wasn’t working very well today, but we still get everything done. She always helped motivate me when I was overwhelmed and made sure I stuck to deadlines. It was also helpful to have someone look at and edit my writing.

How do you feel now?
I feel so great! I am excited to be done applying to college.

Now that you have hit submit, what advice do you have to a student who is still going through the application process?
Be patient and listen to your Bottom Line counselor!



NoelaniMeet October’s alumna spotlight, Noelani Guerrero!

Noelani D. Guerrero is currently a Human Resources Coordinator at Nutter McClennen & Fish, LLP. She received her B.S. in Communications and Human Development from Boston College in 2007. Her goal is to continue working in the Human Resources field as a Generalist and ultimately a Manager. Noelani was born and raised in Boston and enjoys staying involved in community service. She currently serves on the Bottom Line Alumni Board and volunteers with the Hyde Square Task Force College Bound Mentoring Program. At some point, Noelani would like to go back to school and earn a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management.

High School: West Roxbury High School

College: Boston College

Graduation Year:

Job: HR Coordinator Nutter

Bottom Line Memory: Go Far Dinner my senior year of college where I had made a connection with Eastern Bank employees and later got one of my first jobs out of college with them.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with: Hand Sanitizer and Chap Stick (can never get enough), healthy snacks, chocolate, pens & pencils (that always manage to get lost), and a quote of encouragement.

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: The staff and supporters made a huge impact on my college application process and beyond. 

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: Stroll at parties with my sorority sisters….(I still do on occasions!)

The BEST part of being a college graduate is: Not being a student! No more early classes, homework, midterms or finals – although that prepared me for the real world experience, so I’m grateful for it.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Finding a job that you like, with a company that you like where you can grow and see yourself long term. 

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by…. I supported the Rodman Ride by donating $100 dollars of my own money and fundraising another $500; join me and donate today!


BL Students attend Success Send-Off at Hill Holliday

Bottom Line Students attend Success Send-Off at Hill Holliday

Bottom Line hosted its Success Send-Offs in Worcester and Boston. More than 300 students attended to celebrate the start of their college careers with Bottom Line.

In Worcester, students gathered at The Hanover Insurance Group campus where Assistant Vice President of Community Relations Jen Luisa addressed the group and acknowledged their tremendous accomplishment: applying and being accepted to college. Students heard from Yuisa Pérez Chionchio of Worcester Public Schools who wrapped up the Success Send-Off with an inspiring speech recognizing the importance of Bottom Line’s College Success program and its college counselors.

In Boston, students gathered at the Hill Holliday office in downtown Boston. The event kicked off with an address from Ruthanne Russell, a Salem State University alumna and Chief Human Resources Officer of the Hill Holliday. Russell has been on the Bottom Line board in Massachusetts since 2012. She encouraged the new college freshman to work hard in the future but also enjoy their success. Students also received advice from Bottom Line and Bridgewater State University alumnus Joe Bogle who drew on his own experiences to emphasize the importance Bottom Line support.

Students at both Send-Offs had the opportunity to meet peers attending the same colleges and their college counselors. They performed school cheers and discussed their excitement and anxiety about starting college in the fall.

The Success Send-Off is the culmination of a series of Bottom Line transition events designed to prepare the high school graduates to successfully enter college in the 2013-14 academic year. Students who complete Bottom Line’s College Access Program and attend one of 20 popularly attended Massachusetts colleges are eligible to join Bottom Line’s College Success Program.