Georgetown Reach Guides Rising Eighth Graders Through the College Application Process

Male student on graduation day

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Ninety-three percent of middle school students report their goal is to attend college. However, only 44% enroll in college, and only 26% graduate with a college diploma within six years of enrolling, according to the National High School Center. This fall, the university launched its new program, Georgetown Reach, for rising 8th grade students and their families to understand how to prepare for the college application process and the college experience. 

Georgetown Reach understands that college preparedness reaches far beyond a well-written college essay as many students may face distinctive challenges, including insufficient college readiness, financial instability, lack of familial support, and low self-esteem. The program kicked off with its inaugural Meet the Georgetown Student event virtually where students are given expert insight on which classes to take, how to understand the financial aid process, and so much more. 

“Interacting with current Georgetown students is the first exposure our Reach students have to learning about the advantages of not only a Georgetown education, but what college is truly like,” said Bonnie Montano, teaching professor and co-director, Georgetown Reach.

The goal of the program is to increase diversity at top-tier academic colleges by preparing students from underrepresented minority groups for, and exposing them to, the wealth of opportunities at these institutions. The process can also create less pressure for parents, guardians, and middle school who want to get a head start on the college admissions process.

Originally planned for the summer, the program shifted its events to the fall to ensure there would be adequate time to plan and provide value to students during the pandemic. 

To help participants feel more comfortable and confident speaking up, undergraduate business students in the Georgetown Aspiring Minority Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs (GAMBLE) club volunteered their time to provide multiple perspectives. 

“Working with the Reach students was such an impactful program for me as a graduating senior,” said Bryce Badger, co-president, GAMBLE. “Programs like this help get minority students excited about the future and show us what’s possible, which is absolutely critical to continuing to strengthen the college pipeline for minority students.”

Each Georgetown Reach student prepared questions for the GAMBLE students to provide a rich conversation that would answer student questions about the Georgetown college experience.

“All of the Reach students were engaged during the session and each asked thought-provoking questions about time management and the transitions from high school to college,” said Comer. “It was important for the Reach students to hear from the GAMBLE students first-hand about their experiences and the volunteers were so impressed by their eagerness to learn.”

George Comer, associate professor and co-director of Georgetown Reach, explains the general lack of awareness about what is needed to prepare a successful application. He understands that everyone has a compelling story to tell. The issue is not only that high school students do not have meaningful life experience, but also they often need guidance on how to view their experiences as meaningful.

“While academics are critically important, developing a compelling story and introducing young students and their families to the college selection process and college life can dramatically influence choices they make in high school,” said Comer.

The Georgetown Reach program includes programming for both students and parents. Each year, those families continue to have access to professors and programming — from middle school until their children attend college.  

“Families felt like they truly benefited from the information and parents left feeling more encouraged than ever that their children should consider top-tier universities, and that they are better equipped with the information needed to achieve that dream,” said Comer.