A Holistic Approach to College Application Support

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Katherine Cusik, COL ’23

This summer, I worked with Project Rousseau as a College Application Mentor for high-school students attending New York City public schools. Project Rousseau is a non-profit community-based organization which has its main office in New York City, but has chapters nationwide, including in Native American reservations in Minnesota and South Dakota. They aid youth in underrepresented communities, providing a wide range of resources, such as academic, housing, food, and legal support.

I worked virtually for the New York City offices, although I was able to visit New York City for a field trip to the Little Island Park with some of my mentees in August. While interning there, I had 10 mentees who I spoke with regularly in order to prepare them for college applications. This involved standardized test preparation, composing a college list, filling out the Common Application, and writing a personal statement. While my main objective was to provide college application support, we also focused on using a holistic approach when planning programs for the Project Rousseau Summer Institute students. Programming included academic support, such as language classes and SAT classes, community service opportunities, weekly Broadening Horizons field trips, discussion panels with staff on a variety of topics, and clubs, such as Creative Writing club, LGBTQ+ Ally club, and STEM Activities club. These activities offered students the opportunity to implement structure into their summer break and attend some in-person events, which helped them to prepare for their senior year of high school this fall.

I attended two meetings weekly with the full-time Project Rousseau staff to discuss student support, but spoke with my students regularly. As a mentor, I encouraged them to participate in Summer Institute programming, met with them weekly on Google Meet to discuss college applications, emailed them resources, and texted with them regularly to catch up on their progress and offer guidance. Throughout these ten weeks, the students that I worked with made incredible strides while working on the college application materials document that I prepared for them. We began with discussing college options, and after hearing the students’ preferences, I developed a personalized college list for each of them. We then began creating Common Application accounts and writing activities lists and awards lists, which we added onto through the Summer Institute programming. Finally, we worked on their personal statements. To provide the best guidance, I took time before meeting with each of the students to do research, helping with issues ranging from preparing for scholarship interviews, to researching majors, and addressing financial aid concerns. By the end of the summer, my mentees had an extensive document with resources for their college applications, and they had gained a better understanding of their pathway to higher education.

This experience was certainly a positive one for me; I was able to develop connections not only with my fellow interns, but also with my mentees, who I plan to keep in touch with to provide support on a volunteer basis for Project Rousseau. This experience also gave me insight to working within the nonprofit sector, which is something I would love to continue with in the future. It was incredibly rewarding to support the development of my students, and I greatly appreciate the funding that made this opportunity achievable for me!

By Career Services
Career Services