Breakthrough’s College Mentor Program, a partnership that connects Breakthrough juniors and seniors with community members who support them through the admissions process, is in full swing. Last week, two admissions representatives Breakthrough to speak about their institutions.

Lee Stork, an admissions representative from the George Washington University, visited the College Mentor Program Meeting to speak to Breakthrough Seniors. George Washington University is one in a group of colleges and universities that has committed to making their admissions processes more accessible to diverse students. Most notably, GW admissions are now “test optional,” meaning that applicants can choose whether they would like to provide SAT or ACT scores in their applications.

A first generation student herself, Ms. Stork offered a unique perspective for Breakthrough students. Most poignantly, she expressed her hope that all students would have access to a variety of options in the world of higher education. She encouraged students to share authentically about their experiences when writing admissions essays, and ultimately, to “be somebody who embraces people from other backgrounds.”

Irma Encarnación, a representative from Barnard College, also visited Breakthrough. In a small group setting, Amy F. and Lizbeth P. asked questions about internship and study abroad opportunities and generally explored topics related college life. Barnard, a small women’s college affiliated with Columbia University, offers many rich opportunities for women to grow as leaders and change-makers.

A native New Yorker and first generation college student, Ms. Encarnación found out about Barnard College through a college access program called Sponsors for Educational Opportunity. And like so many Breakthrough students, her background and cultural identity was a formative part of her higher education experience. Ms. Encarnación encouraged Amy and Lizbeth to pursue their dreams because, in her words, “there is so much untapped and unsupported potential out there.” In an article published on Barnard’s admissions website, Ms. Encarnación reflected:

Being a first-generation college student, I approached everything about the college search process with wonder—everything was so new and the possibilities seemed endless. On the not-so-picturesque flip side, I also had some adults instill this sense of doubt within me—I even had a counselor once tell me that I was setting my sights too high with Barnard. When I was accepted, I was terrified because suddenly, I was on the verge of what I thought was an impossible opportunity. The utter shock, excitement, and satisfaction was overwhelmingly paralyzing. So for a long time, I didn’t think Barnard was a possibility for me. But it was. And for you—no matter where you come from, what your parents do or do not know, or how many odds are stacked up against you, it is (Read more here).

Following the information session, Amy F. reflected, “Irma was really empowering, and I really felt like she could connect with a lot of applicants. She was also willing to share about the difficulties of her college experience.”

At Breakthrough SJC, we are grateful to individuals like Ms. Stork and Ms. Encarnación who are using their experiences to educate and advocate for future students. As we head into the peak of college application season, we are committed to supporting students as they venture toward bright futures!

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