Ignatian Social Justice Essay: The Road to College

Jan 27, 2023

The Road to College was the title of a presentation that Maura Brennan, Director of College Counseling at Loyola School, gave to a group of LSA (Little Sisters of the Assumption) Health and Family Services high school students and their parents. The audience was made up of eighteen students, predominantly sophomores and juniors, who are the first generation in their families to apply to college.

FAFSA, CUNY, SUNY, PELL, HEOP, EOP, SEEK, IEP, Questbridge, Posse, and Excelsior are but a small subset of a daunting barrage of acronyms, programs, and organizations that the college application machine spits out. Families are expected to know that they exist, not to mention to understand how each one of them plays a vital role to assist them in preparing their children for college.

In my experience, the road to college is daunting at first. Still, it becomes clearer if you yourself have attended college and, more importantly, if you have participated at one time in the decision-making process. I was an emigrant without family ties that attended college here in New York City, and years later, as a parent, I was fortunate that my children attended Loyola School and Regis High School. Both schools provide excellent college guidance services to their students and their parents. I am passionate about seeing that all families, irrespective of their status, have access to the same level of college guidance that I have grown accustomed to.

We are blessed in our partnership with Loyola School because Maura shares the same passion, and she welcomed the opportunity to give this presentation. The families of the high school graduating classes of 2024 and 2025 took the first steps on a journey with Maura on January 21st. With her at the wheel, and with Melina Gonzalez, LSA Community Engagement Manager, as her guide and translator, the acronyms became details, the roles of the organizations were explained, college names in both city and state were becoming familiar, programs and organizations became welcome allies, scholarships and expected family contribution figures eased financial worries, and advice on how to select a college was shared. The opportunity to attend college became real and attainable.

The parents described the presentation as being very helpful. The families LSA is connected to within their community have no experience with the college application process. Students with younger siblings will also benefit from the presentation as their parents are learning the tools to help plan for their college education in advance. This is our second year providing this type of presentation to LSA. Last year, we were of the mindset that we were supplementing the sparse and sometimes unhelpful college guidance currently available to these students in school. We were pleasantly surprised in our feedback to discover that we were also providing a tremendous benefit to the parents in attendance, as they were excluded from the college guidance process provided by their children’s high schools.

We are fortunate to have a similar relationship with Lisa Peterson, Director of College Counseling

Guidance Counselor and College Advisor at Regis High School and her colleague Elena Troy. Both will be making a similar presentation to another group of LSA families later this year.

— Jimmy Coffey