Unlimited possibilities: College Possible makes student’s college dreams become reality

FOR HIGH SCHOOL sophomores, the college application process can seem foreign and daunting, but a growing program aims to help students navigate the process. This program has what every high school student needs to understand and gain knowledge about college appli­cations, environments and resources.

College Possible, a national non­profit launched in St. Paul in 2000, helps lower-income high school juniors and seniors make their col­lege dreams a reality. The program strives to encourage and motivate students to achieve their goals and aspirations, starting with college admission.

And it works.

Coach Caitlin Gibson wearing a shirt that says, "Ask me about college" and a group of students.
Coach Caitlin Gibson with a small group of juniors last year at Robbinsdale Cooper High School.

At my school, St. Paul Harding Senior High School, College Possible coaches promoted the program enthusiastically. The school staff and other College Possible students encouraged sophomores such as myself to apply for the program and experience the college process with support. I wanted to join College Possible so I would be more orga­nized and balanced with extensive support and resources.

I applied in March 2014 and had to interview with a College Possible senior coach. I was excited, not ner­vous. I had to answer questions such as, “Why do you want to join College Possible? Why is it important to go to college?”

I also asked my own questions, the biggest being, “Will I be able to afford to go to my top college?” As the interview wound down, I became more and more sure that College Possible could help me discover my academic niche and the right college to support that.

In May 2014, my high school advisory teacher handed me a letter with the return address of “College Possible.” My classmate next to me had the same envelope, and we excit­edly ripped them open.

“CONGRATULATIONS!” was the first thing I saw. I was accepted to College Possible. When I got home, I shared the news with my family. My father, who brought us to America for my and my sister’s education, looked over the acceptance letter.

He looked at me, surprised and impressed, and said, “This is such a good opportunity. You are going to have a good two years with them. America has enough opportunities and resources for everyone.” We all thought coming to America had been worth it.

I started as a College Possible stu­dent in Fall 2014, and I was curious and excited to have my first session with my coach. I walked into my class at 2 p.m., after school, happy and enthusiastic. There were 39 other students in the room, all hope­ful that College Possible would help make our dreams of going to college a reality.

We peppered our coach, Emily Johnson, with questions. What will we do here this year? How do we get a high score on the ACTs? Our excitement overwhelmed Emily, so she took a deep breath and said, “Let’s begin.” She was excited, too.

I was looking forward to preparing for the ACTs, researching colleges and finding resources for my area of interest over the next two years. During those junior and senior year sessions, I was curious and enthusiastic about college. Emily was supportive and caring toward the students. She helped us find resources and used her experience of going to the College of St. Benedict to show us how going to college is a journey.

I was always asking questions, and Emily always had the best possible answers.

“Students want their questions to be answered,” Emily said in a recent conversation we had. “I want to help students achieve their goal and motivate them to go to college.”

I prepared for the ACT exam, taking four ACT practice tests on Saturdays and three real ACT tests. I learned about college requirements, majors and minors, and scholarships to support students financially through four hours of weekly sessions. I attended weekend campus visits, college fairs and other events. We celebrated our hard work and achievements. We planned potlucks and organized fun activities between sessions as a break to motivate us. Also, I gave back to Harding’s community by collaborating with peers in fall and spring service days.

Now, I have been accepted to several colleges. College Possible definitely played an important role in helping me reach this point and finding out how to embark on a great and happy journey.