Alcoa executives and Bottom Line students who attended the career event

Alcoa executives and Bottom Line students who attended the career event

Every year, January turns into “career month” for our college students at Bottom Line – New York. This month, there were a variety of career events for our nearly 800 college students to attend while they were home on break. In addition to the Go Far Forum, our signature career readiness event that is held annually, we offered a number of smaller career events at the offices of our corporate partners.

One of those events took place at Alcoa, a global leader in lightweight metals technology, engineering and manufacturing. Alcoa CFO Bill Oplinger, a Bottom Line – New York Board member, kicked off the event by reminding students that “where you start won’t be where you end up,” encouraging students to consider jobs that they might not originally have thought about and to stretch themselves professionally – a theme that his colleagues echoed throughout the day.

To learn more about one student’s impressions and takeaways, read Bottom Line student Shaquille Bent’s account of the day and how he plans to apply what he learned at the Alcoa career event going forward.

Name:  Shaquille Bent

College: SUNY Buffalo State

College Year: Senior

You’ve been to a few career events with Bottom Line now – how did this one compare to past ones you’ve attended?

This one with Alcoa was extraordinary. In a way, it was more hands-on because we got to interact one-on-one with senior executives at Alcoa from very different departments and hear about their career path. It was unique because I got personal feedback on things that I did well and things that I can improve on during that one-on-one career coaching.

Shaq receiving one-on-one career coaching from one of our Alcoa volunteers

Shaq receiving one-on-one career coaching from one of our Alcoa volunteers

What were some of your favorite parts of the career event at Alcoa?

I did research before the event because I had not previously heard of Alcoa. So, it was great to learn more about a company that I didn’t know about before. I really enjoyed hearing about people’s career paths, and I learned that what you study in college does not necessarily determine what type of job you get. My favorite part was the one-on-one conversation with Guru (an Alcoa employee), because he had a similar career path to the one I want. He studied mechanical engineering; I’m studying industrial technology. He also has a MBA, and I’m interested in obtaining one too.

What was the most intimidating or most challenging part of the event for you?

I don’t feel like there was a really intimidating part because Bottom Line has helped me really prepare for events like these. If I were still a freshman, I probably would have been much shyer and not known how to interact with everyone. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on the Alcoa executives, though!

What were some of your key takeaways?

First, I remember Sue (another volunteer from Alcoa) saying how important it was to “make sure you stretch yourself and go after all opportunities.” Guru said the same thing – to look into opportunities outside of the state where you live, to be flexible, to take risks, and do things out of the ordinary. All of the Alcoa employees that we met with have achieved professional success; they inspired me to want the same for myself.

Second, Daniel from Alcoa said that you need to find mentors and keep relationships alive. That was really important for me too. I feel like I’ve started to do that, but I’ve struggled with how to keep the relationship alive. They gave us some specific examples for what to do, like sending an email every now and then just to check in, so that you can build “a repository of advocates” as Daniel said.

What types of careers are you considering, and how did this event help you prepare for them?

I’m thinking long-term about becoming a project director or project manager. Right out of college, I think I want to be an analyst somewhere and gain experience in the business world. I can then interact with professionals as well as other project managers and learn from them. Down the line, I also want an MBA.

This event helped me prepare for that by learning about other successful business professionals’ career paths. They shared their stories about how they got to where they are. They all had very different paths, so I realized that you have to be open to all opportunities because you never know where they might lead.

Any advice for students who are graduating from college soon and starting to make plans for their careers?

One thing that I’ve learned throughout my college career is that you have to network. Networking can open up a whole range of opportunities that you never thought existed.

You also have to find mentors and keep the relationship alive. You can learn a lot from mentors because they have lots of experience and the knowledge that they share with you can help you find a career.

As the fall semester comes to a close, Bottom Line-New York counselors are finishing up their final round of on-campus meetings to help students prepare for their finals. Read below for an account of the process and what it means to our staff and our students from one of our Success counselors, Courtney Ng:

“How are you?” I ask Kelly. Those three words, as common as they may be in daily life, mean something to our students. They know that when we ask them, we ask earnestly, seeking to help.

“Overwhelmed,” she answers, “there’s just so much to do.”

Her response is why I’m there. For the past three weeks, Bottom Line-New York counselors have been traveling to campuses all across the State to help students develop a solid plan to prepare for their upcoming final exams, papers, and projects. For our students, finals are the last opportunity to give their grades a boost. But finals prep, like all of the services we provide students, is important for a larger purpose – it’s an opportunity to help students strengthen the skills and traits they can carry with them long into the future.

A color-coded finals prep calendar

A color-coded finals prep calendar

In a finals prep meeting, we guide students through creating a calendar to map out their plans to prepare for finals. On a basic level, the act of calendaring when finals will take place helps students think about managing their time. Realizing they have three finals in two days triggers them to think about when they will have time to study and to consider starting to study sooner, if not right away. The meeting also challenges them to think about how they will study, taking into consideration the practices that have or have not been useful throughout the semester. For example, we often talk to students about how reading over notes is a passive form of studying, whereas making a study guide that synthesizes key ideas and facts is an active way to internalize information.

For some students, finals prep is a prime opportunity to talk about using their resources   and seeking out help when they need it. We guide them to this realization by asking specific questions about their finals: what topics will be on exams, how comfortable they feel with the material, and whether they understand why they might not have performed well previously in the semester. If they are unsure of the answers, we nudge them. Ask your professors. Sign up for tutoring. Make an appointment at the writing center. Where can you get the help you need? When will you get it? In asking these questions, we challenge students to take responsibility for their own success and remind them that if they struggle, they don’t have to do so alone. We wish for students to walk away with more than a colorful roadmap for finals prep, but with the skills and confidence to guide them through the numerous obstacles to come later in life.

At the end of that 45-minute planning session, I often ask students how they feel now that they have a plan. Relieved, some say, that they now know what they need to do. Scared, say others, that things won’t go according to plan. You’re right, I tell them, they probably won’t.

In that moment, finals prep opens a conversation about a skill we value deeply at Bottom Line-New York: flexibility. We know that students won’t walk away and follow their plans to a tee. We know that distractions will arise and students will fall off track. This reality, I reassure them, is an opportunity to embrace a valuable life lesson, that even the best laid plans have to be reworked at some point. And when they do, when you need help, we are at the other end of the phone, ready to ask those same three words.

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.

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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.

On January 9th, nearly 100 of our college students and over 50 volunteers attended Bottom Line-New York’s Third Annual Go Far Forum. Students had the opportunity to work one-on-one with volunteers to edit their resumés, learn from a variety of professionals about their career paths, and practice their networking skills. Below are three of our students’ reflections on the event and what action the Go Far Forum has inspired each of them to take:

  IMG_2254Name: Taiwo Akande

  College: Brooklyn College

  Graduation Year: 2015

  Career Interests: Lawyer, but now I’m also thinking about other careers after this year’s Go Far Forum

What was your favorite career roundtable and why? The Law and Criminal Justice roundtable was my   favorite. Cristina (a Bottom Line – Massachusetts alum) was a volunteer on the roundtable who stood out to me in  particular. I talked to her one-on-one after the roundtable and appreciated how honest she was with me about  the  good and bad parts of entering the legal field.

What’s one piece of professional advice that you learned at the Go Far Forum? Everyone that I communicated with advised me not to focus solely on the job field that applies most closely to my major. They encouraged me not to limit my options. I used to think that with my Political Science major all that I could do was go into politics; the volunteers helped me open my mind to new ideas.

One next step that I’m planning to take after the Go Far Forum: Cristina encouraged me to start practicing for the LSATs if I really want to go to law school right after undergrad. She told me about a great summer program and I’m planning to apply.

 

IMG_2396  Name:  Randa Naim

  College: College of Staten Island

  Graduation Year: 2017

  Career Interests: Undecided, but I’m studying electrical engineering right now.

What was your favorite career roundtable and why? I really liked the business roundtable because it was pretty inspirational. There was a volunteer from Nickelodeon and he was telling us about the business of getting stars to sign contracts. I found that really interesting because when you watch Nickelodeon you think about Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, but Joel showed us that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

What’s one piece of professional advice that you learned at the Go Far Forum? There was a volunteer from Canon during the networking time who reminded us to keep reaching out. He said that it’s good that we’re starting early by going to the Go Far Forum, but that we should reach out and not limit ourselves. We should go for lots of internships and get lots of experience while we’re young.

One next step that I’m planning to take after the Go Far ForumI was already applying to some internships and fellowships, so now I’m definitely going to finish those applications.

 

IMG_2350  Name: Tiffany Acevedo

  College: SUNY Albany

  Graduation Year: 2017

  Career Interests: I definitely want to go to law school, but I’m not sure specifically what I want to study – possibly international business.

What was your favorite career roundtable and why? I enjoyed the law and criminal justice roundtable because I really liked that one of the panelists, Adi, said that if you want to go to law school, you don’t have to major in anything specific; you can study what interests you in college and law school will help you with the legal stuff.

What’s one piece of professional advice that you learned at the Go Far Forum? When you’re having professional conversations, there is never a negative attitude. When professionals were speaking to us, they treated us like adults and not just college students. That made me feel really good about myself.

One next step that I’m planning to take after the Go Far ForumI’m  going to attend more networking events because something good always comes out of them. You could meet someone who will have opportunities that you can take advantage of in the future or you could learn a new piece of advice.