College & Workforce Readiness

2021 Grad Builds Peer Support for College Planning

By Sarah D. Sparks — October 18, 2021 2 min read
Harvard University freshman Daniela Andrade on campus October 12, 2021 in Cambridge, Mass.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Even before the pandemic, class of 2021 graduate Daniela Andrade knew she’d need to navigate the path to college without a lot of high school supports.

Andrade’s high school near the border of Queens and Long Island in New York City serves a high number of low-income Black and Latino and English-language-learner students, and Andrade started her own college-going club in junior year, before the pandemic, where about 30 students helped each other navigate the college-application and financial-aid process.

“My junior year, around April, we had a college interview with our counselor,” she said. “Every junior had one where we like talked about our options, what was in our range and, yeah, that’s pretty much it. And they gave us a large booklet with information, but I just feel like the way they did it was just so old school that they definitely weren’t helping students just handing students a book.”

See Also

Conceptual illustration of young adults in limbo
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty

In contrast, the club met weekly on their own to go over various parts of college applications and essays, ways to find scholarships, and other college-going issues.

During her senior year, peer supports became both more crucial and a heavier lift. Five of Andrade’s family members and two close family friends died from COVID-19, while several family members lost businesses in Manhattan as a result of the pandemic’s closures and economic disruption. While neither of her parents had gone through the experience of attending college, her family and club members helped connect her the nonprofit CollegePoint, a virtual mentoring program that helped her to work through applications and scholarships—eventually pulling together several to pay for both tuition and housing at Harvard University, where she entered this fall to study neuroscience with an eye toward medical school and public health.

“I feel like COVID-19 was an eye-opener to just how vulnerable people can be and how it was rough,” Andrade said. “This year has been extremely difficult, but I definitely feel like we’re doing the best we can.”

Harvard University freshman Daniela Andrade on campus October 12, 2021 in Cambridge, Mass.

Part of that has meant keeping in touch with her high school college club to talk about her college transition and provide mentoring support for her peers still trying to navigate the college-application process. Last year, when her high school operated often in virtual or hybrid mode to control the risk of outbreaks there was no in-person teacher adviser, the college group continued to operate only as an unofficial school club. Only about half the previous students continued to work together online.

While she said she thinks it’s helpful for students to learn how to advocate for themselves and their own higher education plans, she wishes high schools and colleges worked together to provide more holistic guidance for first-generation students. She has continued to support her high school club, including offering some lectures on college applications and transitions in her native Spanish.

Andrade said she hopes college-going clubs can provide “an inclusive environment for all students, because I definitely see that Hispanic students in society face generally low expectations [for college.] That language barrier just makes it worse,” she said.

Coverage of the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need is supported in part by a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, at Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the October 27, 2021 edition of Education Week as 2021 Grad Builds Peer Support for College Planning


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School Climate & Safety Webinar
Praise for Improvement: Supporting Student Behavior through Positive Feedback and Interventions
Discover how PBIS teams and educators use evidence-based practices for student success.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says 12th Graders Took Harder Courses and Got Higher GPAs, But Test Scores Fell. What Gives?
A federal study finds that improvements in high school students' course-taking and GPAs did not lead to higher NAEP scores.
2 min read
Image of data.
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion 5 Ways Rural School Leaders Can Create Workforce Opportunities for Students
The key to offering high-quality, work-based learning opportunities to students in rural areas is community building.
Charles V. Khoury
5 min read
Screen Shot 2022 01 26 at 7.08.02 AM
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says The COVID Academic Slide Could Be Worse Than Expected
Across grades, subjects, and schools, lost learning is adding up for students, new studies find.
4 min read
Image of a line moving from point A in a disrupted path.
Serhii Brovko/iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Spotlight Spotlight on Inspiring Innovation Through STEM Education
This Spotlight will empower you on ways to include more students of color, locate gifted students in unexpected places, and more.