Davidson has announced information sessions and application deadlines for one of its newest and most successful public outreach programs-the College Advising Corps (CAC). The program places recent college graduates in underserved high schools to encourage and help students there apply to college.
CAC advisors work with high school students on every aspect of the college application process-finding an appropriate college, filing an application, organizing parent meetings and information sessions, and navigating the financial aid process.
An information session about CAC employment will be held on campus Jan. 26, and the deadline for applicants to the program is Feb. 12.
Davidson is one of 24 colleges and universities nationwide participating in the CAC. Nine Davidson alumni were employed as advisers in the program's first year, which began in fall semester 2014. The program expanded to 19 advisers in fall 2015, and plans to continue with that number for the 2016-2017 school year.
CAC counselors supplement the efforts of high school guidance counselors, whose tremendous workloads leave many students without access to their services. The national student-to-school guidance counselor ratio is 457:1.
Funded through a $10 million grant from the Belk Endowment, the CAC began in 2005 at the University of Virginia. Today it is a national nonprofit organization with 532 counselors active in 14 states and 24 colleges and universities. The advisers last year served 114,900 students, who submitted more than 200,000 college applications.
"A lot of the high schoolers we serve would be the first in their family to go to college," said Mary Alice Katon, director of Davidson's CAC. "They might think they don't need to go to college because their parents didn't, or that they wouldn't be able to afford it. Our advisers work to increase awareness that everyone these days needs some training and/or additional education beyond high school."
Emma Huelskoetter '14, a CAC advisor at Hunter Huss High School noted that students who are in high poverty situations often don't know that college is an option.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, almost a quarter of low-income students who score in the top 25 percent on standardized tests do not go to college-even though they are qualified-and many who do go to college do not graduate.
The program intentionally recruits its counselors from recent graduates who are "near peers" –between four and six years older than the students they counsel.
"They're able to say ‘look, I did it and you can too,'" Katon said.
Huelskoetter agreed that students seem to feel more comfortable coming to her than other high school administrators.
"I feel very connected to them and on their level," she said. "I'm someone they trust as a peer instead of another authority figure telling them what to do."
Davidson alumni who have served as advisers have found the experience to be rewarding. Annie Wells '14, CAC adviser at Statesville High School, said her reward comes in "seeing the lightbulb go off."
"Whether it's realizing that they can get into a four-year college if they start at a two-year program, or seeing that they got a test score that will allow them to go wherever they want... I love that moment! One girl almost tackled me in the hallway when she got into Appalachian State, her first choice," Wells said.
Huelskoetter finds the work gratifying and feels she is making a real difference in kids' lives.
"This is probably the most fulfilling job I will have in my life," she said. "There are students who wouldn't have applied to college, or who wouldn't have been able to complete financial aid, without me. There's also nothing that compares to that moment when they find out they got into college."
Advisers are employed during their two-year assignment by Davidson College through the Center for Civic Engagement. They also receive ongoing support and training from Katon, and have access to helpful campus resources, including the offices of career services and admission and financial aid.
The Davidson CAC cohort–new and returning–will spend the month of July on campus to undergo training.
"I'm a little biased, but Davidson is one of the most supportive school environments," said Wells. "You have everyone's support–they are happy you are there, and happy to help you make it work."
For more information about the CAC and employment opportunities, contact Mary Alice Katon, director of the Davidson College Advising Corps, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-280-7580.