Hey, my name is Risa and I’m a college counselor with Bottom Line in New York.  Back in September I had my first trip to Buffalo. The rumors are true: it is really close to Canada! It’s also dark at night and has exceptional wings.

 Just like all Bottom Line college counselors, I visit my college students on campus monthly to meet with them one-on-one. Sometimes we problem solve (think “I don’t have my books!” or “My bill is incorrect!”), sometimes we prepare for the future (think “What classes should I take?” or “Can you help me edit my resume?”), and sometimes I’m just a familiar face from home with a handful of Jolly Ranchers, ready to listen.

 This year, I have the privilege of working with students from New York City College of Technology and Buffalo State College. After my first month of campus visits, I’d like to share some things my students have learned (and I agree with!) about transitioning to college.

 Five Ways to be Successful in College

 1. Get involved. Living in a 10′ x 10′ room with a total stranger is not easy and no one expects it to be! Join a club, volunteer, and attend activities on your floor or campus. Drag friends or roommates with you before you feel comfortable going alone (and then go with them to the clubs they are interested in). Becoming active on campus isn’t only a great way to make new friends, but it also helps many students feel like they’re part of the campus community (especially for commuters), and it helps with homesickness.

 2. Meet your professors outside of class. There’s a reason professors put their office hours on their syllabi: they want you to go to them! Lots of professors spend their entire lives studying what they’re teaching you in class and would love to answer your questions or chat about a subject you’re excited about. Hey, it doesn’t hurt for the professor to know your name (in a good way) when final grades come out.

 3. Try new things. What’s the worst that can happen? For many students, college is a time for reinvention. So what if you weren’t the type of student to participate in class in high school? Who cares if you never imagined yourself taking a dance class? Try it – you never know what may come of it if you don’t give it a shot.

 4. Start a study group. Or join one that someone else in your class created. Not only can you better understand the material if you’re reviewing it with classmates, but it’s a great way to make friends. And, teaching someone else something you already know is a great way to study for exams!

 5. Share your culture. Being away from home (physically or emotionally) can be tough. Some students who leave the city for college find a surprising lack of diversity in their new homes. Some students who graduated from small high schools and commute to college are suddenly a small fish in the proverbial big pond of NYC. Sharing parts of your home life with your college friends can help ease the transition. Have your new friends never seen a plantain? Cook it for them. Have they never heard about the Labor Day Parade? Show them pictures. Interested in vegan food and urban farming? There’s probably someone else at your school who is too! Use the opportunity to learn from others and teach others about yourself.

 
– Risa Dubow
Bottom Line Counselor
Brooklyn, New York
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Since the start of the school year, our Success Counselors have traveled to 20 campuses across Massachusetts to meet one-on-one with all of our 1,300 students. Liz Hood, a second-year Success Counselor, reflects on a busy month of the school year…

In the month of September, I had ninety-one campus meetings and traveled a total of four hundred and thirty-two miles to visit students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston College and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Despite that seemingly never-ending stretch of I-90 between Worcester and the exit off to Amherst (I went to Smith College and the Pioneer Valley will always hold a place in my heart) one of the things that I enjoy the most about being a Bottom Line Success Counselor is the ability to support students on campus and in person. A standard meeting that takes place in September is the first year check in meeting. This forty-five minute meeting addresses issues related to academics, campus life, financial aid and anything else that may arise.

Last month, I met with all of my first year students on their own campuses.  By being on campus I am able to more effectively connect students to the resources that are available to them and encourage them to advocate for themselves. First year students are often times intimidated by the idea of asking for help. The other day I met with a student who had an unresolved issue with her bill and she did not know where to go or what to ask.  We discussed her bill issue and acted out the conversation in a quick role-play, and I walked over with her to the bursar’s office.  She was able to resolve the issue on the spot. Another student I met with was struggling in Chemistry class, but did not know where to go for extra help.  We went to the tutoring center together and he signed up to meet with a tutor once a week.

I really enjoy working with first year students; I get to watch as students see the world opening up to them.  There is so much optimism and excitement as they begin to figure out who they want to be and what they want to do. I strongly believe that campus visits play an integral role in strengthening counselor-student relationships and demonstrate to students that Bottom Line is really invested in their success and wants to see them excel.

Liz Hood

Bottom Line Success Counselor

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Students Celebrate Start of College at Send-Offs

On August 14 and 15, hundreds of students in Bottom Line’s Success Program celebrated the beginning of their college careers at Success Send-Off events in Worcester and Boston. On the 14th, 75 Worcester students gathered at Hanover Insurance’s national headquarters to get to know their new college classmates and participate in team-building exercises. On the 15th, over 200 Boston students converged on Hill Holiday’s high-rise offices for a night of celebration and reflection.

Two future Framinham State Alumnae

At both Send-Offs, students were grouped into teams according to the college they will attend, giving them an immediate support network of peers when they arrive on campus. The groups were led by their Success Counselors, who support the students throughout their college careers. Students also received t-shirts representing their individual college and ate dinner with their new classmates. At the end of the evenings, teams competed to create and perform the best school cheer, and gift cards for textbooks were raffled off.

At the Boston Send-Off, Robert Lewis, Jr., Vice President for Program with The Boston Foundation, gave a rousing speech encouraging students to live up their potential and to work with their Success Counselors.

“Knowing that you have someone from Bottom Line here, knowing that you’re coming here with other great students that are your support network…the shot you have to succeed is great,” said Mr. Lewis.

At the Worcester Send-Off, Yuisa Peréz Chionchio, Advanced Placement Coordinator for Worcester Public Schools and member of Bottom Line Worcester’s Advisory Board, stressed how college can help students become America’s future leaders.

Bridgewater State and UMass-Lowell were well-represented

“You are future CEOs, politicians and educators like myself,’ said Ms. Chionchio. “You guys are going to college that is your solid foundation. Bottom Line is going to help you to succeed in that.”

Students left the Send-Offs energized and hopeful. And, when they need support, as Mr. Lewis reminded students, “Bottom Line is only a phone call away.”

See video of Robert Lewis’ speech>>

See video of Yuisa Perez Chionchio’s speech>>

 

Students who plan to attend one of 20 popular Massachusetts colleges are invited to join our Success program and participate in summer transition programming. This June and July, several hundred students attended 7 training camps in Boston and Worcester. Rising freshmen participated in teambuilding activities and learned useful college survival skills like planning their course-load, navigating a syllabus and engaging in college classes.

Students appreciated learning insider knowledge from counselors. An incoming Boston University student remarked, “I learned that financial aid isn’t always provided for summer classes.” After completing the time-management workshop, a student noted, “[in college], opportunities are constantly thrown at you and it’s better to plan your schedule ahead of time.” Most importantly, students left prepared to tackle their first few days of classes with confidence: “There are so many resources on campus!”

What college survival skills do you wish you had as a first-year college student?

Class participation is one of the easiest ways to promote success in college. Being engaged can boost your grades, help you stand out to your professors, and help you learn more! Participation may also make you a more likely candidate for scholarships, research opportunities, jobs, and special recognition for which your professors may nominate you. The following tips will help you or a student you know be an active learner in the college classroom:

1 ) Be prepared for class
Completing your homework and assigned reading is the most important factor for doing well in class. If you attend class prepared, it will be easier to participate, pass tests and quizzes, and learn the material (which is why you are there in the first place!).

2 ) Arrive on time
Punctuality shows that you are serious about the class and you value the time you spend there.

3 ) Sit in the front
You will be easily visible to your professor and you will listen better from the front of the classroom.

4 ) Hold a pen
Having a writing utensil in hand is a signal to your professor that you are ready and willing to take notes.

5 ) Take notes
In a lecture class, you need to write down information – at the very least – every 5 minutes. This will help you stay present and retain information.

6 ) Nod your head
What better way to show your professor that you are listening and engaged than with your body language!

7 ) Make eye contact
Keep your eyes up and watch your professor as he/she lectures. Sooner or later your eyes will meet and he/she will see that you are engaged in class!

8 ) Speak up
Make sure your voice is heard at least once a week in your classes. If you have a question, ask it. If you have an opinion, share it. Your professor will recognize your effort if you make a point to speak up!

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On Thursday August 11th, two-thirds of Bottom Line’s incoming class of 325 college freshmen gathered to celebrate the start of their college careers. Thanks to the generosity of Hill Holliday, these students participated in team-building activities in a stunning space that overlooks the city of Boston. Each student received a t-shirt, generously donated by Follett Higher Education Group and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, from the college that they will attend. Throughout the evening, students met other Bottom Line participants who will attend the same school and got to better know the Bottom Line counselors who will support them on campus. Whether they were participating in a scavenger hunt or performing a school cheer, these students demonstrated the excitement and nervousness that come with taking the first steps on campus.

With so many students gathered only weeks before the fall semester, our staff was reminded how important our transition programming is. The summer is a time when many students give up on college. There’s housing, tuition bills, orientation, payment plans, insurance forms, loans, and much more for students to schedule, pay, and plan before they can become full-time college students. Each of these 325 students had a counselor to help them with the paperwork and plans that they needed to complete over the summer and each will begin classes in the next two weeks. We look forward to seeing them through the rest of their journey to a college degree.

Greg Johnson
CEO

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This month, newly graduated high school seniors from Boston and Worcester, MA, attended Training Camps at Bottom Line’s Boston office, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University. Each Training Camp featured four workshops designed to prepare these incoming freshman for college. Here’s a recap of the advice that we gave to these students:

Be engaged during class.
If you sit up front, listen, take notes, and raise your hand during class, chances are that you’ll get a much better grade than the student who comes in late, sits in back, texts, browses the internet, and falls asleep during lectures. Not only do many professors count class participation as part of your grade, but your professor is more likely to remember you if you speak up. When your professor learns about a scholarship, research opportunity, or job, he or she may think of you! And don’t forget, you’re spending time and money to be in college: you don’t want to be paying for an F.

Read and understand your class syllabi.
A class syllabus contains pertinent information about what a professor expects of you in his or her class, including the number of allowable absences; what books you need to rent or buy; what assignments you’ll be completing, when they’re due, and how much each will contribute to your final grade. A syllabus will also list your professor’s contact information and office hours, so you can reach out or meet with him or her if you need extra help!

Manage your time.
College is busy, exciting, and full of expectations. You may need to fit class, homework assignments, studying, sports practice, theater rehearsal, work, family obligations, and your social life into one week. To ensure that you meet all of your commitments and keep up on your class work, you should use a planner, whiteboard, Google calendar, or other tool of your choice to block off your time during the week. This will keep you organized, on task, and on time!

Be open to your college’s community but also prepared to encounter cultural differences. The community at your college may or may not be completely different from the place that you grew up or the high school you attended. Entering college with an open mind will help you meet new people and feel connected to life on campus. Should you encounter jarring class, race, or religious differences, just remember that you are all part of the same community and pursuing the same goal: a college degree. Should you ever feel maligned based on your background, speak up! Colleges are supposed to be learning environments where it’s safe to explore differences and learn about new cultures.

 

With these tips, our students will be better prepared to tackle college life and academics this fall!

Sarah Place
Program Director – MA

While finally picking a college and mailing out a deposit is relieving, there’s plenty left to do to ensure that a student can officially begin college. Fulfilling final requirements to enroll in the fall and planning for the transition to college should be a top priority. Here’s the steps a student should take over the summer to successfully begin freshman year:


-May

Set up your email account and online system log in.
Your school has probably already started to send you important emails at your school account! Make sure you are aware of them. If you have trouble logging in, call your college’s IT department.

Sign up for on-campus orientation. This may be your first chance to meet classmates, become familiar with your campus, and get excited about college! While orientation is often mandatory, it will introduce you to the college life and help you feel more comfortable there come September.

Complete housing forms (if you will live on campus). This paperwork ensures that your dorm and roommate are good matches for you. Housing forms should be mailed to you by your college. Contact your school’s Residential Life office if you do not receive them.

Sign up for a payment plan (if necessary). A payment plan will help you manage your bills and ensure your tuition is paid on time. These plans can typically be set up online, but call your Financial Aid office if you need assistance.


-June

Submit a final transcript and any AP score records.
These documents should be sent to your college’s Admissions Office by your high school guidance counselor. For that reason, try to get this done before school is out for the summer.

Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Required health and immunization forms must be completed by your doctor and submitted to your college. These forms should be mailed to you, but they can also be found on your school’s Health Services webpage. Be sure to tell your doctor that you need a check-up for college since he/she will need to sign several forms.


-July-
Finalize your payment plan. Make sure you know how you will pay your bill for the fall semester and the remainder of the year. Payment plans can typically be changed online or through your Financial Aid office.

Complete loan paperwork. If you have loans, you need to fill out the appropriate forms to release the funds to your college. Completing this now will ensure a balance isn’t left on your account when the semester begins.

Complete health insurance paperwork. Whether you will receive health insurance through your college, the state, or your family’s policy, you need to inform your college of this decision. These forms can typically be found on your college’s website or at the Health Services Center.

Take any required placement tests. Many schools require students to complete math placement tests. This ensures that you will be enrolled in a class level that suits your current abilities rather than a course that you may find overly challenging or under-engaging.

Apply for work study jobs (if applicable). Work study is a great way to earn some money on campus. These jobs fill up quickly, so apply ASAP! Work study jobs are typically listed on your school’s website.


-August-
Prepare for move-in day. If you are living on campus, you will need to go shopping for dorm room supplies. While this can be stressful and costly, don’t forget to have fun as you prepare for your new life!

 

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