The college admissions process can be daunting for even the most savvy students and their parents. But for high school seniors who are the first in their families to go on to higher education, or for students new to this country, the hurdles can be overwhelming.
In the past, as many as 37% of Stamford seniors who indicated that they planned to attend college never made it. The complexities of completing financial aid forms, submitting required admissions paperwork, and registering for classes overwhelmed them.
For the past three years, Stamford Cradle to Career’s Bridge to College program has been using technology and volunteers to reach out to students to make sure they meet deadlines and have the guidance they need to complete paperwork.
More than 800 Stamford graduates received text messages in the summers of 2020 and 2021 about key steps and deadlines. First-generation students received a phone call asking if they would like more intense support, including one-on-one meetings with counselors.
“The step in the process that I needed the most help with the was FAFSA. If it wasn’t for the help, I would not have been able to attend school in the fall,” said one Stamford High School Class of 2019 graduate and a current Norwalk Community College Student.
For the past two years, seniors faced the challenges presented by the pandemic—their families may be dealing with a loss of income or wages, and remote learning can be more difficult for students who don’t have a strong internet connection or whose first language isn’t English. Some students are making a last-minute change in plans because of considerations related to in-person versus remote learning. This summer, more than ever, students who have language and economic barriers needed extra support.
“Many of the students we worked with last year and are working with this summer would likely not have followed through to get to the classroom by August,” said Andrena Forlenzo, one of the program’s counselors. “That makes the outreach worth it.”
With backbone support from United Way of Western Connecticut, Stamford Cradle to Career is committed to ensuring the success of Stamford’s students beginning at birth. Bridge to College makes sure the ball doesn’t get dropped during one of a student’s last steps on the path to a successful life.