Why I Am Excited about Our eAdvising Initiative

“Right now, thousands of bright, industrious high school students from lower-income families miss the chance to go to our leading colleges and universities each year, and our country is poorer for it. This is a solvable problem — one that requires opening doors, not lowering standards.”

Michael Bloomberg in the Huffington Post

To help open more doors, College Advising Corps and a coalition of non-profit organizations and philanthropic leaders are joining forces on a new initiative that leverages technology in an effort to increase the number of high achieving, low-and moderate-income students who enroll in and graduate from selective colleges and universities.

College Advising Corps’ role with the coalition is to do what we do best – college advising – in a slightly new way. Instead of serving students in a high school setting, like other College Advising Corps advisers, we will be serving students virtually. We are calling it eAdvising. Our near-peer eAdvisers utilize a variety of methods, including video-conference, email, text message, phone, and social media to provide one-on-one support and guidance to students across the country.

I am extremely honored to be a part of this innovative initiative and manage our 15 eAdvisers. As a first-generation, non-traditional college student, my mother included my younger sister and me in her college experience. I was five years old when my mother returned to school to pursue her passion for teaching. I distinctly remember looking at thick course catalogs, standing in long course registration lines, learning to use the microfiche machine in the library, and the click of the typewriter long into the night.

Long gone are those days! Technology has not only changed the mechanics of daily college processes and teaching, it changed the overall learning experience for students, as well. College admissions officers conduct interviews with potential students via Skype, academic advisers now communicate with students virtually, and college professors utilize online communications tools to engage students outside of the classroom.

It is only natural that College Advising Corps utilize technology to reach more students. Here are some things that I have learned and observed from my involvement with the project over the past 5 months.

1. Without a doubt, this opportunity to innovate arose from the proven success and impact of College Advising Corps’ program model. The mission of the initiative is exactly the same – we are translating our proven methodology and unique pillars (near-peer advisers, one-on-one approach, focus on match and fit, etc.) to the digital universe.

2. Our organizational culture thrives on innovation, creativity, and a dedication to serve our nation’s youth. Our near-peer college advising and evaluation and impact strategy drive decisions and practices that increase matriculation to college. The eAdvising initiative is actively engaged in a national evaluation with Dr. Ben Castleman and Dr. Eric Bettinger to gauge eAdvising impact and identify strategies for future success. As a partner in the Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, we also share best practices with fellow college access programs, including College Possible, Strive for College, and Matriculate.

3. Working with our 15 eAdvisers is inspiring. I call them ‘pioneers’. Many of them are College Advising Corps alumni (67%, to be exact) and, although they bring a wealth of college advising knowledge and experience, they are translating in-person advising to a new dimension. eAdvisers approach their work with enthusiasm, passion, and flexibility.  We are creating and developing each and every day, making adjustments to our approach in order to best serve our students. One student shared, “[He] was very helpful and showed a genuine interest in my success. [He] can help me with anything and that really sets this program apart from others.”

It is an exciting time for College Advising Corps to experiment with virtual college advising. Author Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This quote rings true for our eAdvisers. I truly believe they have the potential to change the world in their own way.

Jennifer Tywater is Director of Strategic Initiatives at the College Advising Corps.