Chicago nextScholars paves way for local students

View the visual journey of these young Chicago students.

By Audrey Plank, Elizabeth Schuetz and Phillip Shilling.

Despite 40 mile per hour winds and possible tornado warnings, students from over 80 different local Chicago high schools gathered together on Oct. 26 to attend the 4th annual Chicago Scholars Onsite Admissions Event at the UIC Forum.

While the morning was dark, dreary, and rainy, the atmosphere inside the UIC Forum was anything but. Amid interviews and introductions were cheers of joy and excitement as scholars gained admission and scholarships to national universities on the spot.

A student wades through the crowd. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northern Illinois University, and Colgate University were just a few of the participating institutions stationed throughout the crowded room.

With set appointments at five self-selected colleges, over 300 students were able to meet with admissions counselors, like Diamond Weathersby from Columbia College, to learn of whether or not they were qualified applicants for the upcoming school year.

However, in order to attend this event and possibly finalize their college career plans, participating students were to have researched and applied to these five schools before the September school started and also after attending summer college preparatory workshops.

Chicago Scholars is committed to partnering with organizations working with high school counselors and students from lower-income households, like CircEsteem, Deloitte Scholars, and LINK Unlimited, to provide individualized college counseling.

With $1 million worth of financial aid awarded each year and about half of admitted students being the first in their families to attend college, Chicago Scholars works with students in advance to avoid the anxiety often experienced at this stressful time.

Help with application and essay completion along mentoring support for both students and families is provided so that when it is time to make the big decisions, scholars are well prepared.

The Chicago Urban League, one particular organization participating in this past October’s event, works to provide African American children with the tools, programs and experiences, to reach their full economic potential. They strive to ensure that children are well educated and prepared to succeed in the local economy.

A student interviewing for university admission. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

Daisha Daniels, of Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, was one particular Chicago Urban League member to attend and commit to a university at the Onsite Admissions Event.

After a brief interview with Northern Illinois University’s admission counselor, Richard Tom, she learned of her definite admission. She was then able to review final admission requirements and how to go about applying for financial aid.

While many high school seniors learn of their college admittance through letter and e-mail notification, they often do not get immediate advising from university counselors. Daniels discussed her interests and potential majors and was given concise advice on how to settle on one in particular.

“It’s awesome to be able to admit students on the spot and to make their day,” said Weathersby. “This early in senior year, to really have them seal the deal, it’s much more rewarding than I ever could have fathomed.

Weathersby also stressed the importance of finding the proper fit at a university and that tuition, financial aid, available courses, as well as student diversity, are all extremely valuable aspects to be aware of prior to decision time.

Chicago Scholars strives to provide such students with as many college options as possible.

For example, Erin Baker, 17, another Chicago Urban League member and Morgan Park High School student, was able to get accepted to both the University of Arizona and University of Illinois at Chicago at the event.

“It helps students know what to improve on when applying to schools outside of this,” she said. “And it’s fun to know you are accepted really early.”

A final decision is made. The celebration begins. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

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