GW and D.C. Public Schools hosted a college fair for the city’s top high school sophomores and juniors.
By B.L. Wilson
High school students have a general idea of what it takes to get into a good college or university—good grades, commitment to an extracurricular activity or two and volunteer work in the community. Hannah Scofield, a sophomore at the District of Columbia’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts learned Tuesday from admissions’ representatives from George Washington, Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities and the University of Maryland, it is what the combination of those factors says about you.
“You have good grades, and you do a billion different things that don’t correlate, but you could do three things that you are really passionate about,” she said. “They like that more than if you do a billion things.”
George Washington University and the D.C. Public Schools hosted a forum, “DCPS Goes to College,” at the Marvin Center Tuesday evening for the top sophomores and juniors from all the city’s public high schools to expose them to the college process for admissions, financial aid and scholarships.
The forum aligns with GW’s mission to provide access and opportunity to D.C. residents to make sure they are informed about what it takes to be admitted to universities like GW.
College fairs are often held in huge spaces and can be very impersonal. Kimberly Hanhauer, the DCPS director of college preparedness programs, worked with Karime Naime, GW’s associate director of admissions, to create an experience that prepares DCPS students before they wade deep into the college application process.
“The idea is to capture students very early in their high school careers and introduce them to the colleges and universities that they should be looking at,” said Ms. Hanhauer.
The students and their parents had an opportunity to network with admissions counselors not only from GW but also from 40 other colleges and universities, small and large, rural and urban, from across the country.
Benjamin Toll, GW’s director of outreach and recruitment, said the experience gives students a look at the process through which college counselors review applications. It also provides parents tips to help their children pursue financial aid and scholarships.
Mr. Toll wanted to clear up any confusion about what happens to their applications.
“You’re going to put a lot of energy, a lot of time in putting together applications, building portfolios and writing essays,” he said. “Then you’re going to say, ‘Does it just go into a computer and into a formula?’”
By the end of the evening, he hoped they would have “an understanding of how much care we take and time we invest to get to know you as best we can.”
Karen Strum, a representative from the University of Chicago, said the students who stopped by her table had questions about interaction between students and professors, which kind of faculty taught classes and what campus life was like.
Also on hand were the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Representatives from both organizations walked families step-by-step through the basic components of a good application not only for college but also for the numerous sources of financing and scholarships.
“There’s a lot of free money,” said Nara Lee who is in charge of outreach at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which offers scholarships often for four years of college and beyond.
An example of what schools look for, Mary Williams of UNCF noted, is whether those good grades are in challenging subjects and what the person providing the recommendation specifically says about you.
“A lot of scholarship organizations are looking at your grades, but they’re also looking at the rigor of your grades,” she said.
The UNCF checklist came in handy for Kaleb Gezahegan, a sophomore from Woodrow Wilson High School, who regularly checks in with his guidance counselor and is familiar with the application process.
“It was helpful, especially how to prepare yourself for those scholarships because you think you know most of them,” he said. “You can treat it like a checklist and give yourself a better chance of getting one of those scholarships.”
Mr. Gezhegan was surprised that even though he is pursuing a career in computer science, liberal arts colleges also have engineering and special programs that cater to students with his interests.
Asia Jones, a GW sophomore from the District of Columbia and a Stephen Joel Trachtenberg scholar, told the students they would meet many people with opinions about what they should do, but there was one thing to keep in mind.
“Learn who you are,” she said. “When you learn who you are, you will know what you want and have the confidence to voice what you desire.”