You’ve Got a Friend in Me

Shannon Grimsley (left), Outreach Program Director, Get2College/Woodward Hines Education Foundation

Brandi Lyndall (right), Director of GEAR UP Outreach, Get2College/Woodward Hines Education Foundation

When students across Mississippi were sent home from high schools and colleges due to COVID-19 in March 2020, our world, and theirs, changed. Get2College responded professionally in the way many of us reacted personally – we called our friends! We immediately realized the best way to reach students would require us to work even more closely with Mississippi colleges and universities if we are to succeed in meeting the needs of the students we all serve.

Get2College is a program of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation, and we serve students, families, and educators, helping students in Mississippi get to and through college. Although this has been an unusually difficult and unpredictable time for all of us, we want to share what we have learned thus far. 

We need partners more than ever. Every two years, Get2College hosts an Admissions Counselor Summit. This event is designed to provide college admissions colleagues with information on issues of college access: entry, financial aid, and college planning. In August 2020, we shifted to a two-hour virtual event, and 95 admissions professionals representing 23 institutions across Mississippi joined us. To maintain the highly interactive nature of this training (even with the shift to virtual), the agenda included three sessions of round-robin, small group (3-4 people) networking, KAHOOT! trivia game covering colleges access hot topics, and a guest presenter on implicit bias from the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation that facilitated small group (2-3) discussion.  

During the summit, two small groups were formed to address inequities in the college search process for rural and adult students. These groups will reconvene in January to share what they discovered and discuss with one another. In true SACAC spirit, we connected with our college and university friends and fostered relationships that will help us all serve Mississippi students, families, and high schools despite the difficulties we are all facing. We found this is the perfect time for testing new strategies. Get creative and try different approaches to reach your students. More than ever, this is an opportunity to “fail in service of learning,” a quote from one of our favorite consultants. Reach out to your partners and work together to meet today’s challenges. Together we can help students overcome the additional barriers COVID-19 has put in their way. 

Admissions Counselor Summit participants were asked to complete a post-event survey. Many of the participants completed the survey providing feedback about the virtual event. Below are some of the responses to the questions: 

Since Attending this Get2College Admissions Counselor Summit, what will you do differently? 

“Our institution is looking at new ways to recruit with the limitations in place because of COVID-19. Virtual admission events tailored to certain programs is one way we are approaching this recruitment season.” 

“I will do my best to incorporate more interactive activities into my virtual sessions.” 

“Since the summit, I will try to work more collaboratively with others to maximize this time despite the lack of face-to-face options we have with students. I will also work to meet my students, guidance counselors, and families where they are at by checking any of my bias at the door and understanding that one size does not fit all. Lastly, I will do more outreach with my network of ACs to see if we can bounce ideas off of each other for recruitment efforts this year.” 

“Not shy away from difficult conversations about race.” 

I will be mindful of my virtual presence, as well as work on strategies to reach students in rural areas.” 

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the Admissions Counselor Summit? 

“Since the first time I attended in 2018 I have always come away with some added knowledge that I can use in my position. Thank you.” 

“Enjoyed the breakout session and sharing knowledge regarding COVID-19.” 

“You guys always do a great job!” 

“It was very engaging, helpful, and it held a lot of knowledge and tools to use during this uncertain time.” 

“Overall great event.” 

This one small endeavor seemed to have informed and motivated many of our partners and inspired Get2College to continue thinking creatively. Connecting virtually, through social media and snail mail is less than ideal, but with all of us working together we can see this through and help our students get to and through college.

During this season of Thanksgiving, Get2College continues to be grateful for our SACAC friends and Mississippi partners. 

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