- College Planning Cohorts
College Planning Cohorts
College Planning Cohorts (TM) Program Overview
Pictured in the photograph is Damian Lee, a member of our Lake City High School (SC) College Planning Cohort whom we nominated for the 2017 SallieMae 'Bridging the Dream' Scholarship. Damian was one of only 5 students nationally who were awarded the $25,000 scholarship. Unfortunately, many high school counselors do not have the time to make such nominations as they are often responsible for 200 - 500 students or more, and in extreme situations may be responsible for as many as 1,000 students ('The High School Guidance Counselor Shortage' Pratt 2013). Many counselors openly acknowledge that they spend as little as 22 percent of their time assisting students with college planning and nearly 1 million students have no contact with school counselor ('Undervaluing of School Counselors' Murphy 2016). Working with such a huge number of students, it is unlikely that counselors can provide hands-on and longterm college planning and scholarship guidance to students, particularly those who are most in need, such as students from lower-income backgrounds, those who will be the first in their family to attend college, students who are immigrants or undocumented, and students who are simply overwhelmed with the college planning process.
Our College Planning Cohorts (TM) are designed to compliment the role of high school counselors by assisting students and families with developing 'Strategies' to maximize the K - 12 experience, become competitive applicants for gaining admission into the 'right' colleges, and qualifying for the 'right' scholarships. After having developed effective strategies for our older son to gain admission to Amherst College and our younger son to be selected as a 2012 Gates Millennium Scholar, in 2013, my wife and I developed the College Planning Cohort (TM) Program as a means of developing ‘Small Group’ support for high school seniors at our church (Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta, GA). Working with a dedicated group of Small Group Coaches, participating students received an extraordinary and highly publicized level of college admission, financial aid, and scholarship offers (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 'Church helps students strike gold on scholarship search' 5/28/2014; Christian Post, 'Georgia Church Helps Student Members Receive $4.3 Million in College Scholarships' 5/29/2014).
Pictured in the photograph is Justin Matthews, a member of our 2017 Turner Chapel AME Church Cohort, who was awarded a $50,000 MC Lyte and Hip Hop Sisters Foundation Scholarship as part of a full scholarship package to Dillard University, where he is enrolled in a dual degree engineering program with Georgia Tech. In 2014, the Program was expanded to support at-risk students participating in the Florence County School District 3 High School Graduation Initiative (Lake City, South Carolina) through a 3-day College Planning Boot Camp. Florence County School District 3 is located along the infamous South Carolina ‘Corridor of Shame‘—a collection of rural communities located along Interstate 95, representing some of the highest poverty communities and lowest performing schools in the United States. My wife and I engaged cohort students in a comprehensive set of college planning activities, two days per month from August 2014 through May 2015. The 18-student cohort, received a historic level of college acceptances (53) and scholarship offers ($2.5 million), with 16 of the 18 students enrolling into college and 2 students enlisting into the military. Mikayla Hanna became the first Gates Millennium Scholar in the history of the school district, and the first University of Maryland-Baltimore County Meyerhoff Scholar from the state of South Carolina.
How does a student become a 'High Quality' applicant?
September 1, 2017 will bring another change to our College Planning Cohort (TM) Program. Individual students, as well as students participating in school-, community-, and faith-based cohorts will be guided through the college admissions, financial aid, and scholarship processes through online lessons assigned in Google Classrooms and taught by Mr. Wynn.
Some cohorts will have parents, mentors, teachers, or counselors also serving as cohort facilitators. Students will be able to share what they are learning with other students as they develop comprehensive college and scholarship plans. The lessons, designed to assist students in developing step-by-step college and scholarship plans consist of identifying their 'hook,' developing high quality one-page résumés, conceptualizing comprehensive 4-year high school plans, and identifying the right colleges, scholarships, and programs to which they should apply.
The Today Show video, "Inside the College Admissions Process" provides insight into the importance of students submitting applications to the right colleges and preparing themselves to become high quality college applicants. We refer to this process as creating a 'High Quality Self-Presentation'—a process that may take years to develop, as the result of a comprehensive elementary-through-high school college-bound plan.
How do students benefit from cohort participation?
Pictured are students engaged in college and scholarship research during a Saturday working session. The cohort experience is designed to expand student and family understanding of the college preparation, application, admission, and financial aid processes. Through this understanding, students are able to maximize their opportunities based on their unique gifts and talents. For example some students have top academic credentials while others have top athletic, music, or artistic credentials. Some students are proven leaders who participate in a broad range of clubs and activities in their school while other students are proven community servants who may participate in a smaller number of activities through their faith- or community-based program. Some students will be the first in their family to attend college while other students are legacy students where both parents have attended college. The cohort experience is designed to assist any student in discovering the most appropriate college, financial aid, and scholarship pathways best aligned with the student's achievements and family circumstances. For many students, getting accepted into the right college and qualifying for a few scholarships is all that is required to significantly reduce college costs and avoid student loan debt.
How much time does it take to complete the activities?
Activities are assigned as 2-3 page lesson plans, which guide students through research, viewing videos, guided reading, and writing narratives. The timeframe to complete activities typically ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours. On average, students are only required to complete one activity per week—a reasonable and relatively insignificant demand on a student’s time when the potential benefits are being well-prepared for college, getting accepted into
top colleges, and qualifying for tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and financial aid.
How long is the cohort experience?
The cohort experience is designed to cover the academic year from September through May. However, there is so much to learn about college planning and applying for scholarships that many students choose to repeat the cohort experience each year of high school to expand their understanding of the college planning process and maximize their opportunities of being accepted to Diversity Weekends, summer and pre-college programs, increasing their essay writing skills, updating résumés, revisiting goals, and applying for scholarships. Ideally, high school based-cohorts are formed with rising 9th graders, who engage in college admission and scholarship planning over the course of their 2 Million Minutes of high school.
Can’t I just purchase the materials and do everything myself?
Pictured is Rebeca Pacheco and her twin brother, David. In 2015, Rebeca became the second Florence County School District’s Gates Millennium Scholar. The comprehensive nature of the books and materials will assist any self-motivated student in developing a comprehensive set of college admission and scholarship strategies. However, because the college-planning process is constantly changing—new scholarships, changes in websites, changes in college admission practices, and the introduction of new pre-college and summer program opportunities—Mr. Wynn is continuously introducing and updating the College Planning Activities. The activities are designed to guide students through the books and materials and provide a context for conversations with parents and mentors.
Why is the annual registration fee $349.95?
College planning consulting services range from $250 to $40,000 (College Consultants: Worth the Price Tag? Tuggle 2012) and (How much would you pay to get your kid into Harvard? Booth 2014). Clearly, such costs are unfordable for most students. We believe that $349.95 is a reasonable cost for guiding students, in grades 9 - 11, through the process of developing a a comprehensive college-bound plan, and positioning students for acceptance into colleges with generous need-based financial aid policies and scholarship opportunities worth tens of thousands of dollars. The cost is also reasonable for a fraternity, sorority, mentoring program, faith- or community-based organization, athletic department, or high school to sponsor a small cohort of students.
What if I join or start a cohort after September?
Pictured are rising Judson ISD (Universal City, TX) 9th grade students attending a College Planning Boot Camp, in which they are planning their 4-year high school schedule of classes, activities, leadership, and community service. The cohort registration fee is $349.95 for students in grades 9 - 11 (seniors must call in for pricing), and covers the academic year, no matter when a student joins a cohort. However, students have the option of purchasing a $199.95 registration for each semester. Students will have access to all activities assigned during the academic year and will be able to catch up to current students, based on their own commitment and work ethic. Individual students may join our national cohort or small groups of students make start a cohort at their school, church, community program, or with other families. Our experience is that students who make the greatest progress and develop the most comprehensive college and scholarship strategies are working with other students in small groups with a counselor, mentor, coach, or parent.
What is the annual renewal registration fee?
The registration fee is the same for each year, but is subject to change without notice.
All students, programs, and schools participating in our College Planning Cohort (TM) Program receive a 20% discount on all books and materials.
Will you come and make a presentation for our school or program?
Based on availability, we can schedule Mr. Wynn to make a presentation for any school or program. Mr. Wynn is available to speak to interested students, school counselors, teachers, parents, or mentors. Normal speaking and training fees will apply, however, discounts are offered to nonprofits, and faith- or community-based organizations.
Are students guaranteed success?
Pictured is one of our first, and most celebrated cohort students who was offered admission to a broad range of institutions, including Cornell, and a full scholarship offer to Howard University. While there are no guarantees, the program is designed to provide guidance where the level of success experienced by each student is based on each student’s body of work (i.e., grades, test scores, gifts and talents, leadership, service, etc.). Each year, cohort students are accepted into top colleges, awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in institutional financial, and qualify for millions of dollars in private scholarships as a result of their efforts in completing the activities, developing comprehensive college-bound plans, and personal resilience.
How do I create a ‘Small Group?’
Most faith- and community-based organizations, high schools, girl and boy scout troops, can make can play a huge role in expanding college access by sponsoring a 'Small Group.' A small group may consist of 3 - 10 students, who come together monthly to complete activities and discuss what students are learning. To establish a small group, submit a Speaking Request indicating your desire to register a ‘Small Group.’ Small groups may consist of students being mentored by a counselor, coach, or teacher; organized by a parent; organized for students who are members of a faith- or community-based program; players on an athletic team; or a group of friends with similar college/career aspirations. We will set up usernames and accounts for all participating students, provide a table for parents, mentors, or counselors to manage student work, and provide all of the required books, materials, and lesson plans to facilitate the small group discussions. Most small groups meet once per month, but are free to establish a meeting schedule which best meets the needs of their school and program.
How can I schedule a presentation to determine how many students in my school or program are interested in participating?
Contact our office and we will provide dates of availability and the cost to make a presentation to your students, either as a small group or a school-wide assembly.