College admissions

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Do you have children who are considering college soon?  How do you best prepare for the process?  Where do you even get started?

Embarking on the college admissions journey is an exciting yet often overwhelming experience for students and their families. Navigating this critical phase of academic life through careful planning, thoughtful research, and strategic preparation can significantly enhance the student’s chances of securing a spot at the college or university of their dreams. This Dana Being Dana episode aims to provide families with information and resources that aid in the college admissions process and maximize success for the student.

When should you start the college application process?

Joining Dana Michelle on her first segment are guests Timothy Fields, Sr. Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admission at Emory University and Co-author of the book The Black Family’s Guide to College Admissions: A Conversation about Education, Parenting, and Race, and Shereem Herndon-Brown, Founder and Chief Education Officer at Strategic Admissions Advice, LLC and Co-author of the previously mentioned book.

Dana Michelle began by inquiring when families and students should start to think about the college admissions process. Her guests both agreed that for many the admissions process begins towards the tail end of middle school leading into high school. That is when students should start thinking about and plotting the courses that they should take in order to be competitive at some of the elite schools. Academics should be coupled with extracurricular activities and some standardized test prep.

They both urged students to start the process early, “Pease, people do not wait until senior year,” said Herndon-Brown.

What the experts are saying about attending an HBCU

Michelle questioned Fields and Herndon-Brown on their thoughts on HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and if they had recommendations for students/families considering that as an option.  They said while they didn’t really have a preference they did want families to be informed. “We want families to look at both kinds of schools because we do think that there is a necessity for students, particularly black students, to understand what they’re looking for at this critical time in their life,” explained Herndon-Brown.

They went on to say that the decision is a very personal one. “We don’t want anyone to overlook HBCU’s and we definitely don’t want families to overlook predominately white institutions, particularly if there’s money attached,” stated Herndon-Brown.

Fields agreed with Herndon-Brown’s assessment and went on to mention that one of the things they are trying to do is redefine success and what success look like as it relates to college admissions. He explained, “There’s no one path towards success. And so we want families to keep an open mind about the schools that they are thinking about, why they’re thinking about them, and just not so much get caught up in what is its name, but what is going to be the experience.”

How does race play into the college application process?

Dana Michelle asked her guest Terance A. Gonsalves, Partner & Chair of the Education Practice at Alston & Bird LLP, to explain the combined cases of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of Carolina, and how the recent ruling overturned over 40 years of legal precedent and rejected race-conscious admissions in higher education at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She inquired if based on the ruling in that case, if it changes the college application process drastically because institutions can no longer consider race as a factor among many factors when they’re making the decision as to admit a student.

Gonsalves responded by saying that while it doesn’t change the process too much for the student, it changes it dramatically for the institution. “They can no longer consider race as a factor among many factors when they’re making the decision to admit a given student. But what the students still can do and what the institutions still may consider, is a student essay”

He went on to talk about how a student can write about their background and discuss race in their application if it is something that is important to their upbringing that might help the institution see the whole picture. “For the institution if that discussion of race drives sort of an objective criteria as to why that student should be admitted to that institution and aligned with its missions and its goals-that application can be considered, said Gonsalves.”

Herndon-Brown expounded on that thought by explaining that while college essays have always been a rite of passage it’s even more essential now for students to include their cultural, spiritual, religious, and lived experience. He said you are allowed to be personal and reflective, “Document your life, write about something that is unique to you.”

Navigating the college decision and financing process may have its challenges, but with careful planning, research, and the right resources, everyone can make well-informed choices that align with their educational and career goals. A commitment to your or your family members education and your proactive approach will ultimately pave the way for a successful college journey.