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.

 

This year, Bottom Line-New York placed 50 of our college students in summer internships at a variety of corporate and non-profit partners. Internships provide a unique opportunity for our students to develop professional skills and build their professional networks. All of the internships were paid or subsidized by generous funders. We’re so grateful to each of the companies and organizations that made this possible, including: BRIC, Children’s Law Center, Citizen Schools, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Community Voices Heard, Hot Bread Kitchen, iMentor, The Innocence Project, The Jed Foundation, The Jewish Museum, JUMA Ventures, Methodist Hospital, New Teacher Center, Partnership for After School Education (PASE), People.Co, Safe Horizon, Sapient, Start Elevator, and Viacom.

Below, Kassandra Rosales, a rising third-year student at SUNY Albany, explains what she did this summer and what she learned from her time at Sapient, one of Bottom Line’s corporate partners.

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Kassandra Rosales interned at Sapient, one of Bottom Line’s corporate partners.

Name:  Kassandra Rosales

College: SUNY Albany

College Year: Third

Tell us about Sapient and what you worked on there this summer:

Sapient is a consulting firm that works with other companies like tech companies, retail companies, car companies, banks, etc. They help them develop strategies in order to improve their company’s performance – now or 5 years from now.

For my first project, I worked on the finance team. I was inputting data from media plans, contracts and invoices into “wrap-up sheets” for Sapient’s clients. This allowed Sapient to keep track of how much they were paid and how much they spent for each client. If Sapient used less than the amount in the contract, the company could decide if they wanted that balance back or to use it for another project.

For my second project, I worked in the talent department. I used their talent databases to input information about each candidate and feedback from any interviews. I also did research to find recruiting agencies that focused on the specific careers that Sapient was looking to hire for.

What were the 2-3 skills that were most important for your work this summer?

First, I needed communication skills. There were a lot of things that were new to me so I had to communicate with my supervisor if I didn’t understand something or wanted to be sure that I was doing the work correctly. We had meetings every few days to check in on my progress.

Second, I became a lot more familiar with Excel. Most of my work was done on Excel, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with it before this internship.

Third, I needed researching skills. I learned a lot about where to look, the importance of knowing what specifically I’m looking for, and how to pull out key information when doing research.

What was the best part of your time at Sapient? Biggest challenge you faced?

I really enjoyed the finance work and meeting the employees at Sapient. There were all really nice and I loved hearing about how they got to where they are. For instance, maybe they majored in something totally different than what they do at Sapient. I also enjoyed being in a corporate environment because I’ve worked in schools and non-profits before.

My biggest challenge was a specific assignment – the research project. I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to this job and wanted to make sure that I was completing the project correctly. I spoke with Angela, my manager, before I started the work and she helped me break it down and set up a spreadsheet to organize the information that I was finding. Then I would check-in a few times during the project to make sure I was on the right track. Another Bottom Line intern was doing similar work, so I was able to talk to her as well.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would spend more time getting to know people on different teams at Sapient and learn more about what they do. I feel like I didn’t network as much as I wanted to and so I’d do that more next time around.

Any advice for students who are starting to think about internships for next summer?

Definitely do research on the companies that you would like to intern for, talk to peers who might know more about the companies, and practice your communication and Excel skills now. And, when you’re looking into jobs, be open-minded and flexible.

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.

 

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.

Hola,

As many of you know, I am a Bottom Line student. This means that I come from a low income household, I am the first in my family or from the first generation of my family to attend college, and I earned at least a 2.5 GPA in high school. Like the majority of Bottom Line students, I am considered a minority* student. Why am I mentioning this? Because many minority students tend to hold back from the study abroad experience. There is plenty of research proving this to be true. Trust me: if studying abroad is really what you want to do, then you can make it happen regardless of the obstacles that we face as minority students!

A year ago, my Bottom Line counselor told me that her brother did some research on minority college students going abroad. The research showed that not many of us actually went through with it. As soon as the meeting with my counselor was over, I quickly headed back to my dorm room and started researching. The research I found showed that only a limited number of African-American and Hispanic/Latino students actually studied in a foreign country (here’s results from one study). I was very skeptical of the research that had been compiled throughout the years; when I was applying to study abroad, many other Holy Cross minority students were applying to the program too. A couple of months later, almost all of my fellow classmates were accepted into the various programs. However, as I sit here in my house in Spain, the majority of the minority Holy Cross students who dreamed of going abroad are still at home.

You may wonder, “Well, maybe they just couldn’t afford to go abroad.” Then how was I able to come abroad even though I come from a low-income family? You may then think, “Maybe their major did not allow them.” I am a double major and completing a concentration and I did it! Yes, some majors or tracks make it much more difficult to go abroad (i.e. Premed, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Political Science), but 3 premed students, 2 chemistry majors, 1 political science major, and 1 economics major are currently studying in Spain with me. Do you see what I mean? Studying abroad is very possible! Of course, difficult family or financial circumstances may arise last minute that can hinder our chances of going abroad. However, although us minority students face our own unique set of challenges, I am living proof that studying abroad is possible.

College of the Holy Cross students currently studying in Spain.

If YOU are interested in going abroad and have no serious reasons not to then YOU totally should! Seek out information and resources at your college’s Study Abroad Office or ALANA Cultural Center. Talk to your academic advisor about how you can meet your major requirements while studying abroad. Look for funding that can help you pay for the study abroad experience (the Gilman Scholarship Program is a popular one). Find someone who can help you pick a suitable program and navigate the study abroad process. We all need to come together and start changing the statistics, one minority student at a time. 🙂

Hasta luego,

Kristie

 

*By “minority” I mean African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, etc.

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Greetings from España!

It has been a very long time since my last blog post and a lot has happened between the final days of school until now. I was able to successfully finish off the school year and enjoy my summer vacation by going to the Dominican Republic and working at Bottom Line with the high school class of 2012. Working with all of the students was very rewarding and it was difficult knowing that I would not be working with them for the rest of the year, but I had to leave the comfort of my family and Bottom Line in order to make the very bold decision to study abroad!

Ever since I was in high school I knew I was interested in going abroad, but never thought I was adventurous enough to actually do it. With the help of some of the Bottom Line counselors, I decided to apply to the program at my school. I am glad to say that I stuck with it and I am now currently in Pamplona, Spain, doing a 3-week orientation program. I will be spending the next year (yes, year!) in Spain with the study abroad program at my school. After the orientation is over, I will be headed with 8 other Holy Cross students to the amazing island of Mallorca, where I will be living with a host family and taking classes towards my majors at the local university. Although it is very terrifying and still feels like a dream, I am looking forward to the year ahead of me. I’ve spoken to many students who have gone through the study abroad experience and they all have nothing but great things to say, so I know I too will enjoy everything that a new country has to offer.

I know a lot of students will probably question whether or not they would also like to go abroad. My best advice is to just talk to people. Talk to your Bottom Line counselor or advisor (I would not be here if it was not for my old counselor, Marilyn), talk to students who have gone abroad, and make sure to talk to the Study Abroad Department at your school! Studying abroad is not for everyone, but if you think it is for you, I would just take the chance and apply. You can always decide not to go even after you have been accepted into the program! A lot of schools also offer Summer Abroad or Semester Abroad programs, which are perfect for students who want to go abroad, but do not want to go for very long or cannot go for a year because their major does not allow them.

Let me know what you think about studying abroad!

Kristie

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Me and my current roommate Darlene having fun (after doing our homework!)

One of my greatest fears when deciding to come to college was living with a roommate. My fear did not revolve around having to share a room, since I’ve shared a room with my siblings my entire life; I was more concerned with whether or not I would get along with my roommate. (In case you are wondering, my college has a limited amount of single rooms, which are usually occupied by seniors.) I’ve had two roommates in the past two years and, luckily, everything has turned out just fine.

Since I had no friends from home attending Holy Cross with me, I had to complete a Roommate Questionnaire before freshman year that asked me about my living preferences. Based on my answers, I was randomly assigned with a roommate in a freshmen dorm hall (Wheeler!). We quickly added each other on Facebook and started sending messages back and forth in an attempt to get to know one another before schools started. We lived together throughout the entire year and I got along with her very well. Although we are no longer roommates, we still remain friends. 🙂

This year, I live in Clark (Sophomore dorm) with my friend, Darlene. She lived three doors down from me in Wheeler last year and since we had a class together we instantly bonded. We spent a lot of time together and I have to admit that I would not have had such an amazing freshmen year if it weren’t for her friendship. Whether it was doing homework in the library, sledding on top of plastic bin containers (when we should have been studying for finals!), going around taking silly pictures, or randomly walking around campus with footed pajamas and masks on, we always had an amazing time. It was obvious that we should dorm together our sophomore year.

Our only fear about rooming together was whether it would negatively affect our friendship. Rooming with a best friend is hit or miss. It can either go very well or it can be a complete disaster. The last thing I wanted was for our friendship to be strained because we were not good roommates. Luckily, rooming together did not ruin our friendship and we are still good friends. 🙂

Many students who will be freshmen in the fall have the same fear I did when I was a freshman. I can assure you that everything will turn out fine. If there is any problem that cannot be resolved by talking it out, you can always seek out your Resident Assistant or Resident Director for advice or (in dire circumstances) request a roommate change. So don’t sweat it!

Until next month,

Kristie

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Hey everyone,

If you read my first blog post, you will know how hectic my week was days before Spring Break. I am happy to say that I survived—thinking back on it, I don’t even know how! But this does not mean that school is now suddenly calm; I have two papers and an assignment due tomorrow and I have more exams coming up within only a matter of weeks. With all of the work students in college have to handle, it is not surprising that most of them are overly stressed. I am no exception.

One of the biggest battles I struggle with during school is trying to figure out how to maintain my sanity. Dealing with family and relationship problems, health issues, and financial difficulties are only a few of the things college students have to deal with. On top of all that, we have to worry about exams, papers, and a ton of assignments. Although I am currently finishing my second year in college and I am not as wise as the seniors when it comes to this topic, I have been able to learn so much about ways to cope with stress in an environment like this (especially since it is often talked about in Psychology, my major). Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Talk to your professors: This is probably one of the most important things college students should do but don’t take the time to do (including me until this semester). Talking to your professors can reduce an enormous amount of stress, especially if you are unable to understand a concept or even if you completely bombed one of the exams. It is amazing how sympathetic and encouraging a professor can be when you just take the time to communicate!

2. Reach out to others: Pretty much everyone on campus is on his or her own with no siblings or family members to rely on. I learned that, for me, I need to have support from others since my family is not around. Professors, faculty, friends, and roommates can contribute greatly to helping you out when you need to talk with someone. I’ve noticed that one of the biggest supportive relationships someone can have on campus is through their roommate (I will blog about my roommate experiences next month!). Having someone you can vent to and someone who understands you is so helpful and can reduce the amount of stress that you feel.

3. Take time for yourself: I struggle with this so much! In fact, I almost never do things for me. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who have already gone through the college experience stress how important this is. Even joining a weekly club or a sports team is very beneficial. College should be a time to get good grades, but also a time to have fun and enjoy life! I vow that I will start spending more “me time” from now on.

My advice seems like common sense (and it is!), but when you are in college you suddenly seem to lose track of the little things that you can do in order to make your life much easier.

Wishing you all a stress-free month,

Kristie

PS: I mentioned how I am planning to blog about my roommate experiences for next month. Please, please, please let me know (in the comments section) if there is anything you would like to hear about regarding my college experiences.

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My name is Kristie Simonó and I am one of the many college students in Bottom Line’s Success Program. I am currently a sophomore at the College of the Holy Cross, where I study Psychology and Spanish and (if I keep my fingers crossed) I will also be completing the Latin American and Latino Studies concentration. From now on I will be blogging about my college experiences and my journey through life on “The Hill” (that’s Holy Cross’s nickname) with the help of Bottom Line.

Kristie at Bottom Line's send-off celebration for new college freshmen.

You may recognize me since I worked at Bottom Line’s front desk (my 2-year anniversary is coming up in March!) and recently I started working as a Bottom Line Counselor Intern, helping the high school Class of 2011 complete their Financial Aid paperwork. I am excited to say that I will be returning this summer to help the Class of 2012 get in to college! If you have not been able to tell, I am obsessed with Bottom Line and I am practically a walking advertisement.

This semester I am enrolled in four rigorous courses that are very time consuming. I am currently in Physiological Psychology, Language and Diversity in Latin America, Research Methods, and Liberation Theology. One of my favorite things about Holy Cross is that it is a Liberal Arts school, so I am taking courses outside my major. This will help me get a well-rounded education and give me insight into the world outside of Psychology and Spanish.

Although I love Holy Cross’s rigorous academics, I have to admit that it can be very stressful at times. Next week, I have my Spanish exam on Monday, Physiological exam on Tuesday, Liberation Theology exam on Wednesday, and my Research Methods exam on Thursday. Did I mention that I have a Spanish paper due on Friday too? If I manage my time well, I am hopeful that I can survive that dreadful week. I just always need to remind myself that the tears shed and the sleepless nights will all be worth it in the end!

While juggling all of the work that I have to do for my classes, I have to remember to complete my Financial Aid paperwork before the deadline passes. Luckily, my Bottom Line meeting with my counselor Marilyn is coming up this week, so I will be able to submit everything on time.

I promise to keep you updated on all of my college experiences through this blog.

Until then,
Kristie

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Since my last blog, a lot has changed as far as college applications go. After getting called for my third POSSE interview, I decided that Denison was not the right choice for me and politely declined the opportunity. I came to this decision due to the distance of the school from Boston. Ohio is pretty far for a hometown girl.

However, declining this scholarship worries me about the financial aspect of college. I think that I need to apply to many other scholarships in order to afford tuition. My FAFSA meeting with Bottom Line is coming up next week and I am anxious to get it done accurately and as soon as possible.

The farthest school on my college list is in Syracuse, New York. My top-choice school is still Boston College, but I am open to attending any of the other eight colleges that I applied to, which includes Syracuse, Bentley, and Boston University. Remembering my college list incontrovertibly keeps me from catching senioritis… Well, for now it does. =]

Yaritza

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