The “Why” of eAdvising

There are two truths that have become apparent to me over the course of these past five months as an eAdviser with the College Advising Corps:

1. Applying to college is startlingly complicated and difficult for students across the U.S, particularly low-income, first-generation students; and

2. It is critical that these students end up attending university.

During my own higher education journey, I never had to face the obstacles our students confront constantly throughout the college process. My family never questioned my intention to go to college, my counselor didn’t have 500 seniors to manage, my parents were English-speakers, and the FAFSA and CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile were basically completed for me! The majority of students we work with don’t have any of these luxuries, and are often left to their own devices to navigate finding colleges in which they can thrive, and applying for funding to attend those colleges. If selected for the FAFSA and CSS Profile verification, the process alone is enough to make anyone wonder how an entire college application actually gets finished.

What is especially concerning is that many who have to tread these complex waters alone are some of the highest achieving students. One study from Harvard estimates that there are at least 35,000 high-achieving, low-income students who do not even apply to selective colleges. This is a travesty both for the students themselves, as well as our country as a whole.

A couple of years ago the New York Times discussed recent research indicating the significant economic impact that attending a selective college can have for low-income, minority students. It is well established by this point that a college degree greatly increases your income over the long term, but this research suggests the impact is even greater for those underrepresented student populations. This is exactly the demographic of students we are advising in our work.

In our day-to-day eAdvising, our main role is to be a support system. Nearly all the students we work with are already highly driven and possess the desire to attend a good college or university. What we do as eAdvisers is show students that another person is invested in their college journey, and provide resources and information that the student can utilize to manifest their ambition. This means the following:

  • Building virtual tools, like college match lists;
  • Having consistent communication with students through emails, texts, phone; calls, and video to answer questions and keep them on a productive timeline
  • Taking part in one-on-one meetings to edit essays; and
  • Participating in a myriad of other services that empower our students to complete their college application process.

The success of these activities can help have a significant benefit on our nation. This is a population of students with untapped potential whose contributions to our society could be earth shattering. I’m talking about students like Liz*, a first-generation college student who tells me about wanting to integrate engineering and fashion design to create garments that regulate vital signs to support public health. I am talking about students like Tony*, who expresses his desire to use a college degree to return to his hometown and improve his community through local politics. Such underrepresented students ought to be brought into the fold of our top-tier colleges. Our students have the minds and will to confront these crises, whether it is the challenges of public health, climate change, or healing the deep social wounds we have inflicted upon one another.

These two truths are what ignite me in this work. We cannot afford to let these students merely drift on the periphery of our concern. We must be that beacon on the shore which guides students towards their aspirations. With just a small bit of direction, these students will amaze us all.

*Aliases have been provided to protect students’ identity.

Andrew Meriwether is a first-year eAdviser with the College Advising Corps. eAdvising is a new initiative within the College Advising Corps in which well-trained, recent college graduates help increase opportunity for underrepresented students through virtual college advising. College Advising Corps’ eAdvising initiative is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.