We must refocus on College Guidance Programs

We must refocus on College Guidance Programs

Violet Wang, Reporter

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the fragile structures in our system that need more attention. Many high school students are settling in for summer vacation right now, but there is a more serious tone this year. As COVID-19 causes economic and academic disruption throughout the country, the systematic inequalities in our education system are being brought into light. One such marker of inequality is how high school students spend their summers.

In particular, rising high school seniors typically approach summer as a critical time to prepare for the fall college application season. The process is already a difficult system to navigate, and first-generation low-income (FGLI) persons, immigrants, and students from other disadvantaged backgrounds are often left behind. These students are often just as competitive and deserving, but face additional barriers to higher education and may not be able to afford costly college guidance programs. 

The College Key Foundation works to innovate this traditional model of college guidance.

“The College Key Foundation is a non-profit college guidance organization for disadvantaged students. The program is led by a team of college students across the country and offers a free 4-week summer program taught by admissions officers from top universities (with workshops on FAFSA, the CommonApp, essays, and more), with no barriers of admission. The fellowship also features an individualized mentorship program that pairs high school students with current college students of similar backgrounds”.

The founders of College Key, Jacky Huang (Harvard ’24) and Lucas Leanza (Stanford ’23), are both FGLI students who met through Questbridge, a college match program for high achieving low-income students. They not only formed a mentor-mentee relationship, but also a friendship that helped with the college application process and inspired the mentorship model for their organization. For many first generation students, having this kind of peer support while navigating the many  aspects in the college application process can make the process feel less stressful. 

Thus, Jacky Huang, founder and president of the organization, realized that individualized support was a key factor missing from existing guidance programs.

After reflecting upon my own college application journey, I realized just how powerful it was to give someone the opportunity to gain not only a mentor but a friend”, Huang said. ”

His hopes are that the College Key Foundation’s combination of one-on-one mentorship in addition to traditional information sessions will help support students in all aspects of the college application process.

The extra hurdles facing FGLI students and those from other disadvantaged backgrounds in the college admissions process are too often overlooked, and the current economic crisis exacerbates these difficulties. But just as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the nation’s education model to change, the growing inequalities in our education system has caused the College Key Foundation to reimagine the way college prep is delivered to students of disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Applications are due on June 30 for interested mentors and rising high school seniors. Email [email protected] directly for any questions about the program. You can also follow the College Key Foundation on Instagram at @collegekeyfoundation and on Facebook at College Key Foundation.