Sonia Essaibi - New York Counselor

Sonia Essaibi – New York Counselor

It’s a fun time of year to be at Bottom Line, and I know it’s just going to get better and better. Bottom Line helped over 200 New York City students put their stars on the “I HIT SUBMIT!” wall and will continue to work with them on the path to making a responsible choice of which college to attend next year.  In the midst of all this energy, we are also thinking about those students, who in just a few short months will be in our current high school seniors’ shoes. We are going to serve an additional 100 more students bringing our total to 300 high school students in the Class of 2014.

The Outreach Team has begun putting word out that we are accepting applications for the Class of 2014 in a big way. As a first-year counselor at Bottom Line, it’s been a great experience so far. We’re reaching out to school personnel with whom we already have relationships and forging new ones to expand our reach in order to help more and more eligible students. These students should live in New York City, have at least an 80 GPA, come from a low-income family, being the first generation of their family to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States, and be U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.

Our current high school seniors are also spreading the word by telling their junior friends. This year, we are piloting “Student Ambassadors,” seniors who will spread the word about our program to juniors at their high schools. To date, we’ve reached out to more than 25 current seniors to see who would like to be a part of this student-led outreach approach.  Then, applicants can indicate on their Bottom Line applications that they heard about our program from one of these Ambassadors. It’s a fun competition for the Ambassadors, too- whoever receives the most referrals by June 1st wins a $50 gift card!

We’ve also started doing presentations at area high schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. The Outreach Team is planning to conduct over fifteen presentations across the city to publicize our program. Our goal is to talk to juniors about the services Bottom Line provides.  Additionally, we also discuss the college admissions process in general so they are better prepared as they embark on this life-directing process of college applications. Students are engaged during our presentations and ask great questions.  Students learn important milestones, for example the almost universal college decision day of May 1st. After discussing all the steps along that timeline the reactions on the students’ faces are priceless. They see themselves using our help and it shows in our numbers. We’ve just begun and we’ve already had 116 students apply!

 – Sonia Essaibi

Bottom Line – New York Counselor

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An exciting report that was released on Thursday, January 17 and was featured in The Boston Globe and on WBUR. According to the report by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern and commissioned by the Boston Foundation, the 6-year college graduation rate for Boston Public School graduates increased from 40% to 47% between the high school graduating classes of 2000 and 2005. In addition, college enrollment and persistence rates have increased steadily since 2000.


When Bottom Line was founded in 1997 here in Boston, it was because we could see that students lacked the support, guidance and preparation to succeed in college. In the 16 years since then, we have been dedicated to changing the outcomes for those students, and we have been joined in our efforts more recently by many others in the community who have also recognized this significant challenge. This report acknowledges that we have made real progress in preparing and supporting our students so they can be successful in college and beyond. From the class of 2005, nearly 7% of all BPS degree earners received Bottom Line’s support throughout college. Our guidance played a critical role in the success of those students.


However, for our organization and for the community as a whole, our work isn’t done.

 Even with this progress, more than half of college-enrolled BPS graduates still were unable to earn a degree in 6 years. However, we have continued to grow every year since 2005, and we will continue to expand so that we can make a real, significant impact on our students and the community moving forward. The size of our class has tripled between 2005 and 2012, and, within the next two years, we will grow to serve 450 Boston Public School graduates from each high school class year, in addition to students from the Greater Boston and Worcester areas. With this growth, we hope to play an even larger role in the progress of our students and our community moving forward.


Mike Wasserman

Executive Director – MA

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“Over the past three decades, our nation has witnessed great increases in college-going rates—no doubt due in part to widespread efforts by education policymakers and college access practitioners. Yet despite progress, just over half of students enrolled in four-year institutions graduate within six years (NCES 2009).”

This disparity between college access and college success rates was the motivation for the Pathways to College Network (directed by the Institute for Higher Education Policy) and the National College Access Network to release a “Research to Practice Brief” on how social supports and self-efficacy affect the success of underrepresented student populations. The brief is part of the Pathways to College Network’s effort to promote the need for college retention support services that address both the academic and social needs of college students. To learn more about the college success field, they called on Bottom Line.

Bottom Line believes as the Pathways to College Network does: that students need to be supported as both academic achievers and, well,  as human beings. That’s why our College Success Program model focuses on four areas (academics, employment, financial aid, and emotional wellbeing), not simply academics. As the brief states, “In Bottom Line’s experience, the more confident its students are in their preparation and the more supported the students feel, the more likely they are to succeed in college.”

To learn more about the role of social support and self-efficacy in college retention, read a summary of the brief or the full brief.

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Welcome to Bottom Line’s Blog, Getting Through!

As part of our newly designed website and as a unique place on the vast internet our blog will contribute to the dialogue surrounding the issues of College Access and College Success.

As one of the first community based organizations to make college student retention the focus of our work we are pleased to have this venue to share our thoughts and learnings about what it takes to help students get to and through college.  We expect that in this space, we will hear from our students, program staff and our management team as a way to foster an ongoing dialogue and to share what works in college retention.

Over the last decade and especially in the last couple years the conversation about “Getting Through” college has made it in to the mainstream.  This is a big change from the days when even our biggest supporters didn’t understand why we were spending so much time supporting college students.  However, the dialogue about keeping students in college, has raised some interesting questions that we explore everyday in our work and will share in this space. We anticipate discussing topics including: Which students are most in need of support? Where does the responsibility lie with helping students stay enrolled in college- with the high schools, colleges or somewhere in between? Can college retention support really be done from a community based organization?  What are the stories beneath the surface when students drop out of college?

We hope that you will learn with us as we address those questions and offer a laboratory of what works in college retention.  Again, welcome to our new blog and please return often.

Greg Johnson
Executive Director

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