The college consultants have sent 95 percent of their students to their first-choice college , and they've saved families between $50,000 - $296,000 towards the total cost of college education through financial aid. They help with SAT/ACT prep and academic tutoring.
By Blake Carter
Applying for college can be a challenging, overwhelming, and frustrating process. The days of simply having a high grade-point average and then going to the college of a student’s choice ended years ago. Students need to succeed in the right classes, be involved in extracurricular activities, know how to prepare for SAT and ACT exams, and identify colleges that are the right fit for them. Then they have to figure out how to pay for it all.
With students outnumbering college counselors at many local high schools about 600 - 1, students must find help from other sources.
Gigi Frye, president and CEO of College Connect 101, was having a difficult time eight years ago when she was helping her daughter apply for college. They did not have a set roadmap on how to navigate their way through the process.
“When I realized that there were a lot of other people in the same boat as me, I started to learn everything that I could about the ins and outs of the college admission process, financial aid, and how to successfully pay for four years of college,” she said.
After learning about the college admission process, she decided to fill a major need by starting a company that would help other parents who were in her same situation.
College Connect 101 is an Independent Educational Consultants company dedicated to helping families navigate the rigors of the college application process. They offer objective advice, access to reliable information, and the kind of individual attention that students need to make an informed decision.
Consultants like this are typically found in more affluent communities, which is one reason why students from those areas are more likely to go to college and succeed when they get there. College Connect 101’s overall mission is to effectively level the playing field for people of color to gain admission into the college of their choice.
“I think our kids are unaware of programs like this,” said Terrence Watkins, chief financial officer of College Connect 101. “These students (from more affluent areas) are getting great test scores because their parents are paying for prep courses for them to take the test. Whereas, with our kids, we’re like, ‘Hey, get in there and show them what you got.’”
"Most people understand the importance of using a tutor to maximize their chances of getting the highest grade in an academic subject but fail to realize that using a company like ours is like having a tutor for maximizing your chances of getting into college,” Watkins said. “Our proven methodologies for success are evident in our acceptance rates of 100 percent of our students getting into college, of which 97 percent get into at least one of their top three school choices."
College Connect 101 has broken down the college admission process to a science, and roughly 95 percent of their clients have been accepted to their first-choice school.
To begin the process, College Connect 101 evaluates the student’s transcripts to ensure that they are taking rigorous courses. A high grade point average (GPA) does not mean much if students are not taking tough classes. This program uses what they call road mapping to ensure high school freshmen and sophomores are taking courses that will make them competitive applicants.
The next step is having the students take a personality survey to determine if they are a better fit for a school in an urban city or a small town; what type of classes they should be taking; and what they should major in, among other things.
“The point of the college personality survey is to not only find their best-fit college, but it’s also to determine their learning style, and find a college that caters to that, as well as find a college where they can thrive and come out as employable,” Frye said. “We want them to look back and say that it was the best four years of their lives. So fit is very important to us.”
After meeting with and evaluating students, Frye and Watkins have been able to identify a major that fits the student’s interest.
“I’ve introduced engineering to a lot of students,” Frye said. “They tell me what they like to do, and I’ll ask them if they’ve ever considered engineering. Usually they say no, so then I tell them that we should do some more research on it. Some of them went on to major in engineering, and now they’re done with college and they’re working in that world. I’m always introducing students to different ideas as far as majors and careers are concerned.”
The final step is preparing a college list. Typically they identify 20 schools where the student can excel, and they cut that list down to about 10 schools that is the best fit for them, with an emphasis on the schools that offer the best financial aid packages.
College Connect 101 also helps students craft their personal essays.
“That’s probably the most daunting part of the whole process,” Watkins said. “When you write your college essay, that’s giving the admissions reader something that they can’t see from your rigor. It shows more of your personality and how you would be a fit on their campus as a citizen.”
With one-on-one mentoring, College Connect 101 is greatly enhancing students’ chances of not only getting into college, but also getting into the college of their choice, paying for it through financial aid, and selecting a major in which they will succeed.
College Connect is hosting a workshop that will help students maximize their financial aid award packages and pay less for college. This workshop will be held on Thursday, January 24, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Metaphor Club in Leimert Park. 4333 Crenshaw Blvd. Students must reserve a spot to attend this workshop.
"We have a lot of success with getting a large percentage of the students' Cost of Attendance covered by using our years of expertise and industry insight to gain extremely favorable financial award packages,” Frye said.