At UVA, Sara Larquier was a scholarship softball player from California, a politics major and your typical busy student, stuck with other Wahoos in the bubble of the Corner and Grounds.
She never thought that in her first year after graduation she would spend her days in an office off the library at Charlottesville High School, getting to know a whole different segment of the city’s population.
As a College Guide, Larquier helps kids pick colleges, fill out applications, schedule tests like the SATs, or fill out financial aid forms. This month, she says, CHS students, some who never thought they were headed for college, are starting to see acceptance letters and scholarships.
College Guide Mark Tenekjian (left) helps a student with the college admissions process. UVA’s College Guides program has placed 37 guides in high schools with low college attendance so far.
The 2-year-old College Guides program places former ’Hoos like Larquier at high schools with low college attendance around the state.
Statewide, the picture is still grim: Only 53 percent of Virginia high schoolers are headed for college. But administrators say College Guides are having success at helping more students become college-bound.
UVA saw a 10 percent increase in applications from the 14 schools that had College Guides last year, says Nicole Hurd, UVA’s director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence and the pioneer of the College Guides program. Other state schools saw as much as a 112 percent jump in applications from targeted high schools.
National education organizations have noticed. March 2, representatives from KnowHow2Go, a $30 million campaign sponsored by the American Council on Education, the Ad Council and the Lumina Foundation for Education, held a conference with the College Guides. National program admins want to find out what it’s like “in the trenches” at schools with low college-acceptance rates.
Hurd says, “As much as a lot of universities have aggressive financial aid programs, it’s really hard to get that message to those students.”
The College Guide program is the first of its kind in higher ed. Also announced this month, 10 more universities will be getting on board with similar programs through $1 million grants from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. College Guides for UVA make a $20,000 stipend, plus about $5,000 in future tuition or loan forgiveness.—with additional reporting by Stephanie Woods
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