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

, , , , , , ,

 

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

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In 2011, Bottom Line…

  • Guided 145 high school seniors and 91 college students from Worcester to and through college
  • Guided 493 high school seniors and 852 college students from Boston to and through college
  • Helped 137 new graduates finish college, which expanded our alumni network to include 608 individuals
  • Increased our lifetime graduation rate to 74%, which is nearly twice the typical graduation rate for students from Boston
  • Helped 97% of high school seniors who completed our College Access Program enroll in college this fall
  • Launched a third office in New York City and began to serve 125 high school seniors in Brooklyn

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters (that’s you!), students from low-income homes and the first generation of their families to attend college received the guidance they need to earn a college degree. With a college degree, these students are much more likely to obtain high-paying jobs, build meaningful careers, provide adequate care for their families, and become engaged members of their communities.

To read more about the incredible feats that you helped students achieve during the past year, download Bottom Line’s 2011 Annual Report or the Year in Review of our Massachusetts or New York programs.

, , , , , , , , ,

Samantha Louis, Bridgewater State University '11, shares her college experiences with Bottom Line.

During a video interview conducted last fall, Samantha Louis—a senior at Bridgewater State University who will graduate this spring with a degree in Psychology—was asked what might have gone differently if she hadn’t worked with Bottom Line. She described the benefits of campus visits and help filling out the FAFSA, and ultimately replied that she probably would have enrolled in a community college rather than the 4-year university she currently attends.

This isn’t the first time a Bottom Line student has given this answer. Jeanette Sanchez, a senior studying Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College, said that she would have gone to community college because it had a lower price tag. But with a 4.5 high school GPA and a goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in writing, Jeanette was already well-suited for directly enrolling in a 4-year college. In education lingo, Samantha and Jeanette both said they would have “undermatched” if they had not come to Bottom Line for help with college applications.

The concept of undermatching has been talked about more and more since the release of Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities, written by William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, and Michael S. McPherson. Undermatching basically means that a student doesn’t enroll in the best college that he/she could have. This problem is particularly prevalent among students from low-income households or the first generation of their family to attend college. As economics columnist David Leonhardt recapped in The New York Times, “about half of low-income students with a high school grade-point average of at least 3.5 and an SAT score of at least 1200 do not attend the best college they could have. Many don’t even apply.”

So why is undermatching a problem? The National Center for Educational Statistics released a study in December 2010 that states only 12% of students who start at community colleges earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. Of the first-time, public 2-year college students who transferred to a 4-year college, 29% attained a bachelor’s degree and 15% remained enrolled at a 4-year college. While many community colleges have effective transfer programs and continue to build partnerships with 4-year colleges, on a broad national scale, your chances of earning a bachelor’s degree are higher if you initially enroll in a 4-year college. In many ways, this is a shorter and less complex journey. For this reason, if your goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree, it makes sense to enroll directly in a 4-year college if you can.

To ensure that the low-income/first-generation students who are qualified to enroll directly into a 4-year college do so, they need a knowledgeable guide to lay out their feasible college options. Having an informed mentor allows students to make decisions based on all the information—information they don’t necessarily have access to through their immediate friends and family or, in some cases, their high schools. By building a relationship with a counselor, these students have someone who will lead them step by step through the inconceivably complex world of higher education.

But undermatching isn’t the only danger for low-income/first-generation students. Helping a student get to the right college is just the first step. Samantha illustrated this when she explained that Bottom Line was on campus every year helping her fill out the FAFSA. She insisted she would have had student loans if it weren’t for this help.

When asked what motivated her to succeed, Samantha said her mother and the fact that she is a minority. “I don’t want to be one of those statistics,” she said. If there’s anything to be learned from Bottom Line students, it’s how ambitious and resilient you have to be to succeed in today’s higher education system. Bottom Line students show that undermatching or dropping out of college doesn’t occur from any lack of motivation or effort.

Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson said they think undermatching is caused by “a combination of inertia, lack of information, lack of forward planning for college, and lack of encouragement.” To address this wide range of reasons, the advice low-income and first-generation students receive needs to be holistic: academic, financial, vocational, and personal. This need is particularly apparent this month as high school seniors from the Class of 2011 are making final decisions about where they will attend college during the next 4 or more years.

While we have a long way to go before our public schools and higher education systems completely adapt to accommodate the needs of the modern-day student, it’s comforting to know that there are solutions brewing, some of them as seemingly simple as offering a one-on-one counselor.

, , , , , ,

It’s financial aid season! That means time for college students to fill out FAFSAs and CSS profiles. Applying for financial aid can be daunting and confusing, particularly if you’re from a family that is unfamiliar with the process. Since applying for financial aid is somewhat complex, there’s many misconceptions about how paying for college actually works. Below are the five common myths that Bottom Line counselors often debunk for students.Student-Counselor Meeting

1) My family doesn’t have any money, so I can’t afford to go to college.

All college students are eligible for financial aid, which will help you pay for college! To determine how much you and your family pay for your education, colleges and the federal government have you calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This lets them know about how much you are eligible to receive in financial aid, based on you and your family’s income, savings, and other indicators. So the less money your family has, the more aid you should expect to receive for college.

2) My dream college costs nearly $40,000 a year—I can’t afford that!

Just because a college has a high price tag doesn’t mean that you can’t afford it. For some colleges, you will only have to pay the amount calculated for your EFC. For other colleges, there will be a gap between your EFC and the college’s price tag. If there’s a gap, you can always advocate with the college’s financial aid office and apply for outside scholarships.

3) Public colleges are always more affordable than private colleges.

On the contrary, some private colleges award “full need” financial aid packages. That means they provide students with enough grants and low-interest loans to make up the difference between their family’s EFC and the school’s cost of attendance.

4) The only way I can get money for college is by having perfect grades.

Colleges and the federal government award scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans based solely on financial need—that’s what financial aid is! Merit-based scholarships and grants are awarded separately from financial aid packages.

5) I was awarded $5,000 in work-study, so the rest of my tuition expenses are covered.

Not so fast—work-study is money that you have to earn throughout the semester… by checking students into the dining hall, logging packages in the mail room, or answering phones at an administrative office. You can’t subtract this money from the bill that’s due at the beginning of the semester, since it will take you all semester to earn the money. In addition, you only get paid for the number of hours that you work. While you’ve been awarded $5,000 in work-study, you may only have time in your schedule to earn $4,000 of this award.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hey everyone,

Since my last blog, I have been doing very well. Senior year is a bit stressful, but soon it will all cool down. Working at Bottom Line has been going great. I have been lucky enough to receive help from many of the counselors here since I have built a relationship with them through work.

I will soon be sending out all of my applications (this Saturday to be exact). I am super excited about this! Although this does not mean I am done for good, it will ease most of my stress.

The rest of my stress will hopefully disappear after December 8th. Why? Because it’s my Posse Denison University interview date! I was lucky enough to make it this far, so let’s hope I don’t blow it (fingers crossed). Posse is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and their networking is amazing, hence the reason for my excitement. I will keep blogging to inform you of my progress.

Talk soon,

Yaritza Pena

, , , , , ,

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

, , , , , , , , , , ,