A Walk in Our Students’ Shoes

Once upon a time, there was a young girl in a small town who immersed herself in her schoolwork and extracurricular activities with dreams of attending college. At home she lived with a single-parent mother and two younger siblings. When she wasn’t staying after school for meetings, she was working a part-time job, babysitting, or completing homework. The road to college seemed like a lonely walk through the desert and college only a mirage. She did not know anyone who had made this journey successfully.

She looked for help from her family, but the process was foreign to them. She searched for help from her counselor, and though her counselor tried, she always had many students competing for her time and attention. Often, the young girl felt overwhelmed and considered just staying home to help out her family. During those times, she would look into the little faces of her brother and sister and notice how they modeled everything she did. They looked up to her.

She could only imagine a life better for them and escaping this mediocre life. She knew she had to lead by example. One day she visited her sick grandmother who gave her encouraging words and reignited her fire to make it to college. The expectation of success sat heavily on the young girl’s shoulders, so she pressed towards college on her own. Doing countless hours of research, utilizing fee waivers and, in the end, attending one of the nation’s most competitive schools.

The young girl attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, in turn, was able to help her younger sister navigate the college admissions process to presently become a sophomore at the same institution. She had started a legacy. She was lucky. Realizing how difficult it was for her to find her way to college amongst all the pressures of being a teenager; balancing a rigorous course load; and dealing with family stressors, that young girl devoted her life to guiding students, like herself, through what she felt was one of the most difficult times of her life.

After college, she joined Carolina College Advising Corps, which is dedicated to helping students just like her. She spent two years advising students using a best-fit best-match model and simultaneously healed a place where she experienced obstacles. Just one year after exiting Carolina College Advising Corps, that same girl was afforded an opportunity to return to College Advising Corps as an eAdviser.

This initiative gives her a chance to continue the work she considers an innovative means to highly impact college access virtually. She believes in Robert Byrne’s words, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” That is why she advises, that is why I advise. I believe that my virtual adviser coworkers and I will redesign college access and make college and financial aid more accessible to even more students.

I wanted to tell my story because my roots in college advising run deep. There are many students who we will serve, who have stories similar to the very ones who are advising them. I am happy to be a game changer, an advocate for college access, an ePioneer.


Ashley Thompson is an eAdviser with College Advising Corps.