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Recap:IB Higher Education Access Workshop

Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.

Hello IB family and Happy New Year! It’s been a few weeks since I last posted but we are back and ready to jumpstart the year. Here in the office, it has been an exciting and very busy time for the University Relations Team. Part of that excitement stems from the higher education access work that has been near and dear to our hearts over the past year.

Back in July of 2014, we hosted the first Higher Education Access Summit. This was the first stage of the IB’s vision to bring together experts in the area of serving underrepresented, low income and undocumented students in the United States, and learning what initiatives and resources the IB could provide to students, their families and educators to help with the college counseling process. Much of the summit was focused on knowledge sharing and getting a foundational understanding of the landscape and types of students an IB toolkit would be geared to. In January 2015, we reconvened to begin brainstorming about the actual content that would be essential to include when developing such a package for secondary school counselors, teachers and any adult responsible for this college guidance.

Paul Campbell and Marie Vivas opened with brief remarks about the importance of this meeting and provided context of why we take a serious look at these groups of students and counselors. Marie then outlined the structure of the day as a “work day” in which participants were broken into four groups and, together, would develop strategies and content respective to their working topic.

The four working groups and an overview of the content each group discussed are below:

1. “Starting the conversation: Encouraging students and families to pursue various higher education opportunities”

  • Start early. The college counseling conversation needs to be initiated at least by the start of the 9th grade year.
  • Get Alumni involved. Use recent IB graduates as a resource for current high school students and middle years students as well.
  • Create college partnerships that allow for student exposure as well as a means to gain a deeper understanding of higher education options.

2. “Show me the money: A toolkit for scholarships and financial aid opportunities for underserved students and families”

  • Introduce financial aid literacy/lingo in the early 9th grade years and reinforce them throughout college. Overtime more financial knowledge could be retained.
  • Incorporate financial aid discussions into IB curriculum. Students need to be engaged with the financial process to avoid feeling detached altogether.
  • Encouraging families and adults doing the college counseling to become comfortable speaking about financial aid. It is important to talk realistically and openly.

3. “Presenting your IB school/programme and students”

  • Advocacy of the IB programme to potential college should be dually focused and takes work from both the counseling professional and the student.
  • Schools and counselors must have inclusive and comprehensive school profiles to attach to university applications.
  • Students must be able to clearly convey the “IB experience” in their application through CAS, extended essay, course selection and other avenues.

4.  “Hands-on college counseling: Guiding your students through the admissions application process”

  • During any counseling, it is important to address familial and student fears that may complicate the process. Examine how barriers and/or fears can affect post secondary options or choice.
  • IB and College data should be transparent to students and families. One of the first steps is to ensure that all parties are well informed at the onset.
  • Fit and belongingness should not be used interchangeably. A student’s social belongingness on any campus includes not only campus life, cost, size (the traditional factors to consider) but also the student’s social and cultural ability to adapt.

During the general plenary sessions with Lynda Lopez, University of Chicago graduate, and Chelsea Jones, Associate Director of Student Programs at the Center for Student Opportunity, they spoke extensively on how to prepare students for the big college transition. Each came from a first generation minority college graduate perspective while Chelsea added the insight from her non-profit organization.

Here are some of their thoughts:

  • As individuals guiding these students in the process, it is important to keep cultural and socioeconomic circumstances in mind and acquaint students with college realities and awareness about the implications behind their socioeconomic status.
  • We must dispel ingrained and oftentimes misguided notions or expectations of low income students and what they are capable of doing on campus; Therefore avoiding assumptions of cultural capital because of academic strength.
  • Any real conversation needs to highlight student supports on campus; whether they exist and how are they targeted.

The workshop then moved into a panel with Kedra Ishop from The University of Michigan, Panetha Theodioisa Ott from Brown University, Jeffrey Smith from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Debra Von Bargen from Stanford University. The panel discussed questions around changing expectations of low income IB students on campus.

Some of their answers were:

  • Connect the HS faculty with the college faculty of potential colleges so they can gain insight into the particular needs of the students they are admitting.
  •  IB students are assumed to be able to maneuver the “thickets” of college life. However, this does not necessarily mean they are prepared to navigate the full social scene.
  • There should be availability of data about IB students which should be communicated to the students themselves, their parents, and universities.

Overall, the day was full of engaging conversation that is moving outside of the designated workshop day. We will be continuing the work in developing this toolkit as a viable resource to use with students and will keep you posted on its progress!

If you would like the full minute details, please reach out to me directly at .

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