Bottom Line students at the Share The Dream Banquet, Feb 2013

Bottom Line students at the “Share The Dream” banquet, February 2013

This past February, I had the privilege of attending the annual “Share the Dream” banquet for students in the College Now/START program at UMass Dartmouth. Carol Spencer, Director of College Now Program, said that it is held every year to, “celebrate the success of the College Now/START Program.” The first-years are “officially welcomed into the University by receiving a certificate acknowledging their completion of the program.”   Staff say that, “The Banquet is a wonderful way to celebrate and empower our students to continue striving.”

College Now/START is an alternative admissions program that supports students throughout their first year of college, by providing additional academic support and mentoring. Many Bottom Line students are enrolled in this program and have begun to see the benefits of taking a reduced course load and attending extra tutoring hours their first two semesters of college. There are currently 30 first-year students from Bottom Line in College Now/START Program, and 52 Bottom Line students have participated since 2009.

My student, Etiene, was asked to be one of two current College Now students who gave a speech at the banquet. In the days leading up to the event, he said that he was nervous and yet his speech was ready, thanks to the support of his College Now advisors and the Writing Center. At the “Share the Dream” banquet, Etiene brought the crowd of students, parents, faculty, administrators, and supporters to their feet! I could not have been more proud of him and was truly moved by his speech.  Etiene was also awarded a $3,000 Talent-Merit Scholarship from College Now.  It was a testament to his hard work this past semester.

Etiene, as he gives his speech at the Share The Dream Banquet

Etiene, as he gives his speech at the “Share The Dream” Banquet

I believe that alternative admissions and bridge programs at colleges are great options for hardworking and determined students who need more help preparing for college. UMass Dartmouth is not the only school with these types of programs. Students can often find summer programs or first year intensive programs that will help support their academic needs. Programs such as Passport at College of the Holy Cross, AID at Worcester State, OTE at Boston College, and PLUS at Framingham State are all great examples of alternative admissions or bridge programs.

Some students are discouraged or disappointed to find out they have been selected for such programs because they may have to take a reduced course load, spend a few weeks of their summer taking college classes or attend mandatory tutoring sessions. These students should be excited for such programs! Not only do they offer lots of academic support in order to succeed in the first year of college, but a chance to build stronger relationships with peers and school administrators with which many students to not normally get the chance to interact. Bridge programs help students gain comfort with the rigorous coursework found in many college-level classes and understand what the rest of their years in college will look like. Over 90 Bottom Line students from the high school Class of 2012 went on to attend bridge programs at Bottom Line’s target colleges.  I love it when our students are able to take advantage of existing resources to better handle the transition to college and help them reach graduation.

– Kira Terrill

Success Counselor, Worcester

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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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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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Hola! My name is Yaritza Peña and I’m a Bottom Line high school student. I also work at Bottom Line’s front desk, so they asked me to blog about my college process so far. I was born and raised in Jamaica Plain, Boston, just a few years after my parents’ emigration from the Dominican Republic. Their decision to come to America was wrapped around the idea that their child would be able to go to one of the leading colleges in the country. To their surprise, they had two children, a set of twins!

The first step to get into college was to attend a top high school, the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. While at O’Bryant, I strive to get good grades so I can achieve my goal of attending Boston College next fall. Boston College is my top choice of schools. Its campus, course offerings, and location are what intrigue me.

Second step was to receive as much help as possible to reach this goal. That’s when I found out about Bottom Line. “Bottom Line helps with financial aid, essays, basically the entire college application process,” was the typical response following, “What does Bottom Line do?” And that is exactly what they are doing for me, as well as for all their other students. So far, I have received help with my common app and college essay. Further along my application process my counselor, Stefanny, will continue to help me with supplemental essays and with packaging my applications.

Packaging my applications means I will be one step closer to college. I can’t wait for the new setting, and new faces. Being a senior is great, but being a freshman will be even better. I will get a chance to attend a brand new school, something I have not been able to do since I started the 7th grade. I am ready for college!

During this year, I’ll be blogging to let you know about how my applications are coming. Wish me luck!

Yaritza

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