College Tours in the Delta
The equation is simple: All of the handbooks, pamphlets, guides and orientations can’t eclipse the knowledge that high school seniors gain from simply talking to their peers in college.
“Those college students will tell them, ‘you think that college is going to be one way, but it’s really like this,’” recounted Stephanie Gilmore, director of the College Readiness/ACT Prep program, part of the Indianola Promise Community’s commitment to the city’s high school students.
In November, 40 Indianola high school students traveled to the campuses of Mississippi State University and the Mississippi University for Women to get a first-hand view of college life. At MSU, they were given a mobile tour of the campus with guides who introduced them to the university. They met with an admissions counselor and provided detailed information on how to gain acceptance to college.
And they met former Indianola high school students.
“Living arrangements, dorm life, the quality of food, life on the weekends, how to get your books; these are the kinds of things that the older college students pass along to the younger high school kids,” said Gilmore. “Some students struggle with finances, so they can tell them from a peer standpoint whether to get a job or seeks loans, all those kinds of things that are so important.”
The college tours are one component of the college readiness program aimed toward Gentry High School seniors who are on track to graduate. They participate in academic preparation and mentoring that assists them on their road to college and beyond. Forty-six seniors are participating in the fall 2013 program, while 50 more will join in spring 2014. In subsequent years, the program will also assist sophomores and juniors.
To be accepted into the program, students must have a grade point average and course record indicating they are on track to graduate, and a commitment to attend no fewer than 90 percent of the class sessions, completing all required coursework and practice tests.
The program provides:
- Extended learning time in reading, math, writing and science.
- An online program that incorporates the skill sets needed for ACT preparation.
- ACT registration and practice tests.
- Assistance in completing admission and financial aid applications.
- Tours of Mississippi college and university campuses.
From a survey of the participating high school seniors, three colleges were chosen for tours: MSU, MUW and the University of Southern Mississippi. The second tour at MUW included a meeting with the school’s assistant admissions counselor and a meal at the school’s Harcourt Cafeteria.
The final tour, at USM, will be the largest of the three and will include parents.
“It is so important to have these parents along,” said Gilmore. “They are key in the success of their children, and the knowledge they gain from the college visits really helps them in planning their children’s college careers. There’s not much more of a monumental step than the one from high school to college. Our job is to make it as seamless as possible.”