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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Deb blog picSupporting students through the financial aid process has always been an integral part of Bottom Line’s services. Each January and February, counselors are busy meeting with students to submit their FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS Profiles, and sometimes additional verification materials to make sure that they secure financial aid awards from their schools.

Here in New York, though, things look a little different. There’s a state-wide college access program in which all public colleges and many private colleges participate, collectively referred to as “Opportunity Programs.” The program was developed by the state legislature in the 1960s to provide access to higher education for the “educationally and economically disadvantaged” students in New York State. The great news is that this gives many Bottom Line students the chance to be admitted to colleges where they otherwise might not get accepted to because of grades and test scores.

The other part of this process, however, is that before students can officially be admitted to one of these Opportunity Programs, they must provide financial verification to prove that they are in fact “economically disadvantaged.” For some students, this process is pretty straightforward. They get their parents’ tax forms, fill out some paperwork, and send them off.

However, for those of our students who have more complicated family situations or whose parents receive public benefits, verifying family income becomes a much more complex process. We are coaching students to compile a whole host of financial documents that they have never heard of before. We are tracking down 1099s and W-2s from agencies and employers; we are helping students find a notary to sign their non-tax filer form; we are on the phone with families to compile all sorts of legal and financial documents.  Plus, spaces in these Opportunity Programs fill up on first-come, first-serve basis, so time is of the essence.

Financial aid can often be a frustrating and time-consuming process.  More importantly, financial aid is a critical piece of our students’ future success.  When all the pieces come together after a lot of hard work, it is fulfilling to see students get accepted to great colleges and receive the financial aid they deserve.

– Deborah Steinberg

Bottom Line Counselor

New York

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Here in New York, our counselors have the opportunity of working with both our high students in our College Access Program and our college students in the College Success Program.  December is a stressful time for all of our students, and as counselors, we are charged with helping them see that their hard work will help achieve an end goal – whether that is submitting their college applications or excelling on finals.

 

Many of our college students are nervous and stressed out about final exams, unsure of exactly what to expect and eager to end the semester on a positive note. After Thanksgiving we have ventured to all our campuses to meet our students for “Finals Prep,” where we gather information about upcoming finals and create a study plan unique to each class. Ideally, our students leave these meetings knowing exactly what stands between them and the end of the semester, and have a detailed calendar and plan on how to excel on their exams. Because of Hurricane Sandy’s visit, these meetings are especially crucial since our students must seek out information about finals that have changed due to their impromptu week off from school.

 

New York Counselor Victoria Hulit with studentsMeanwhile, as we are prepping our college students for their finals, we are also helping our high school students submit all of their college applications! These “Packaging” meetings are an exciting and stressful time for our students. We reassure them that they will get into college and their essays are perfect. Coaching students to press the “submit” button is often a process that requires patience and encouragement – clicking that one button changes each student’s life trajectory. The smile on our students’ faces as they hang up their star on the “I Hit Submit” wall is worth every second of essay editing or common app review. Some of our students are already receiving acceptance letters. These letters are confirmation that their hard work was worth it and bring further excitement that their dreams of being the first in their family to attend college are becoming a reality.

 

Visiting our college students on campus gives the counselors in NY an inside perspective on many of the colleges on our high school students’ lists. This information helps us provide our access students with more detail about the student experience at each school, and ultimately informs where we encourage students to apply and attend.

-Victoria Hulit

Bottom Line Counselor, New York

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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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