Creating Bigger Futures Together: College Contact
The college admissions process can overwhelm and intimidate even the most confident student. Now, imagine being a student like many of our BBBS mentees who have little to no experience with college, much less with the application process. The whole ordeal could cause you to give up on dreams and goals you’ve worked on throughout high school.
Enter a new company – College Contact, a platform for ‘near peer’ college admissions advising, created to provide students with the information and support they need to successfully enroll in the college of their choice. As part of a new partnership with BBBS and BBBS’ Big Futures program, College Contact is offering a few BBBS mentees the opportunity to participate in a pilot program.
College Contact was formed by two young women who are passionate about helping students navigate the college admissions adventure. “Sofie Smith started it in 2020 after she posted a TikTok video that offered tips to help students with their college applications,” said COO and Co-Founder, Leah Guesman. “It went viral and ended up with a waitlist of 3,000 students. It was apparent that there was a problem that needed a solution.”
“It turns out that 20% of schools do not even have a college guidance counselor who can help students with this,” she said, “and among those schools that do have a college counselor, the average time they get to spend with students is about 10 minutes per year, and that is not enough.”
While there are private resources available to help students navigate the college application process, these services cost around $250 per hour. With public resources being limited and private help being expensive, about 75% of all post-graduate high school students are simply ‘going it alone.’
As Leah points out, there are a lot of issues for students to address in determining their futures after high school. “There is the financial piece, there’s the ‘What do you want to be doing 10 years from now’ piece,” said Leah, “and the ‘What am I good at’ piece. There are all these factors, and right now the resources for answering these questions are siloed. It requires a lot of research. Most students are not equipped to handle this alone, plus it is exhausting to do a deep dive on college admissions.”
College Contact offers a centralized location for college admissions resources, where students can get help with things like crafting an exceptional college application and essay, understanding financial aid options, identifying the college that is a good fit for them, even how to conduct a good Zoom interview with college admissions counselors. “It is much more than that, though,” said Leah. “We also offer psychological support as well because the process is so stressful.”
Initially, the company began with Leah and Sofia and their friends helping students with the college application process. Today, they have up to 70 counselors available each month. All the counselors are required to be current undergraduates, so the application process is fresh on their minds. Each is equipped with admissions material and undergoes 10-12 hours of training as well as a background check.
What was apparent at the beginning was the wide gap between college counseling services and those who could afford them. “There were basically three tiers,” said Leah. “There was the private level which was a lot of money. Then there was a middle group who could afford something, and then the final group whose budget was basically whatever was free.”
It was this information that led to College Contact’s desire to offer their services at a reduced rate for students in need and that led them to reach out to non-profits to create partnerships. They wanted to find a way to make their services available to students who did not have resources.
“I reached out to Christina Eisenlord, BBBS’ Big Futures Director, because we are an Austin-based start-up and BBBS is such a well-regarded organization,” said Leah. “We are offering this pilot program for free because we want to show its impact and gain some background knowledge.”
The pilot program they are offering to BBBS mentees will not only help the students, but it will also provide College Contact with information on areas they need to be focusing on with these students. “A lot of these kids have said, ‘I want to pursue college, but I don’t know how to get there,’” said Leah. “We want to learn how to help them plan earlier and achieve their goals.”
“Three BBBS students are currently signed up for the pilot program,” said Christina Eisenlord, “but there are still 5 slots available for the 2024-25 year. I’m excited by what I see from College Contact, and I think that this is something that is needed by our Big Futures mentees. We are also looking into the possibility of counselor employment opportunities for our Big Futures mentees as well.”
College Contact has helped around 2500 students so far and their success rate is top-notch. “100% of the students we’ve worked with have been admitted to college,” said Leah. “We have a huge social following, and we post a lot of free content to help students as well.”
“The direction you take after high school can significantly alter the trajectory of your life,” said Leah. “We are working to offer opportunities for all kids to get on the path they want.”