The idea of applying to college is scary for any high school student, and even more difficult when the resources and opportunities are lesser given the pandemic, recession and other factors. For many, the extra push and support is essential to helping a diverse group of individuals tackle the first step in their college careers.
With the help of JEVS Human Services board member Bob Cohen—along with JEVS education consultant Sue Bilsky and instructor Yavuz Orbey—the Dorothy M. Cohen College Prep Program at Central High School has been aiding juniors and seniors who come from these situations in the college admissions process for the last eight years.
Originally an SAT prep class, this program has transitioned into something bigger, that offers more. With this program students are able to get guidance on developing their college lists, working on their college essays, navigating through the Common Application most universities accept, searching for scholarships and applying for financial aid by completing the FAFSA.
“We really take an interest in the whole process, not just the SAT process,” Bilsky said.
Like most students in the year of 2020, virtual learning has slowly become normalized. This environment has caused many students difficulties in progressing through their education. Central High School students are all remote for the 2020-21 school year, and many students within this program have felt defeated because the college admission process has changed rapidly due to the pandemic.
“The last thing they want to do after a full day of online school is come back on the computer for an SAT class,” Bilsky said.
Despite this feeling, these same students decided not to give up and continue with this program even in an online platform. This year, the program consists of 31 students. Meeting online has given the students the flexibility to expand the times they can meet per week.
Bilsky notes that the students who attend this course are really the ones who make the difference. They are motivated, appreciative, and with the help of Bob Cohen and his push to provide them even more resources, they continue to strive and develop as young adults.
What makes this unique from other college prep programs is that it provides individualized and unlimited help throughout the college admissions and financial aid processes. The SAT instructor and consultant monitor and support the students’ progress toward their individual goals. All these services are provided at no cost.
One student in particular stood out to Bilsky during this fall’s program. She shared with us how she was able to provide critical resources that would not have been available to him without this program.
“I have been advising a student this year who had concerns about applying to a school early decision, knowing he would have to enroll if accepted. He had doubts about what his financial aid package would be and if his family could afford tuition. Through my contacts at the college where he was applying, I was able to give him an idea of what his financial aid package would be and how that would impact his commitment if accepted. I have also helped him with his applications and college essays through approximately 30 emails/Zoom meetings,” she said. “He told me without my help ‘my head would explode.’”
All the small and big successes make Bilsky’s job all the better. Getting to help these kids strengthen their application profile and push for their college goals gives her immense pride in her work.
The Dorothy M. Cohen College Prep Program has truly given these Central High School students hope and passion to work toward higher education. With the help of Bob Cohen and JEVS staff—and despite the obstacles COVID-19 has brought—these seniors and juniors are able to feel accomplished and look forward to their futures.
by Madison Baer, JEVS intern & senior communications major at La Salle University