NACAC - Spring 2020 - 36


dam Sapp, assistant vice president of admissions at Pomona College
(CA), grew up in a town with a population of 950 residents. He
graduated with 47 other seniors and was one of only five in his class
headed directly to a four-year college.
Sapp's experience mirrors that of thousands of other students nationwide,
clearly demonstrating that we need to proactively pave the way for students
from rural areas or small towns to access a college education.
"There were so many moments when being rural and a first-generation
(student) created new hurdles to navigate," Sapp said, remembering the
challenges he faced as a 17-year-old. "There was a secret language you
had to speak in order to negotiate academic spaces."
In our role as counseling and admission professionals, we have a
responsibility to develop and promote resources that help translate this
language. One of the primary ways NACAC and its members support
students from rural and small towns is through the Rural and Small
Town Special Interest Group (SIG). SIGs are communities within NACAC
composed of members with shared interest and knowledge.
In addition to the resources developed by NACAC and the Rural and
Small Town SIG, here are some ideas that can serve as a springboard for
counselors or students in rural communities.

Counselor Fly-In Programs: Fly-in programs provide rural and smalltown counselors the opportunity to visit colleges or universities at low- or
no-cost. Though not all programs specifically identify as "rural-friendly,"
a number of deans and directors who were contacted by the Journal
indicated that counselors who reach out to the sponsoring institution to
explain their interest in providing access to rural students would be given
additional consideration. (Read more about fly-ins on pages 38-42.)
Webinar or Skype Virtual Visits: Every dean, director, or vice-president
we spoke to for this article indicated that, if given an invitation, they
would support one of their professional staff members hosting an online
information session for students in rural areas. This unanimous and
resounding support reflected the dilemma many enrollment leaders in
colleges are facing: with limited resources, it is difficult to invest in travel
to rural high schools. Yet there is a strong commitment to increasing
access for rural students. Colleges are eager to address this challenge
through virtual visits or information sessions.
Inquiring as a Student: Since many colleges still don't have online
information request forms for school counselors, one of the easiest ways
to ensure you receive the most up-to-date materials and information is to
inquire as a student through the college's website.

Travel Grants: Many institutions offer travel grants to admitted
students to encourage them to visit campus. Though these grants often
have parameters, we encourage students to ask about these kinds
of programs. By reminding admission counselors of their personal
circumstances, they may be awarded one even if they don't meet the
established requirement.




Research Rural-Friendly Colleges: More and more colleges are
identifying resources for students from rural areas and small towns.
Through scholarships, resource pages on their websites, summer
opportunities, and more, students can seek out institutions that have
the expertise to support their transition. Colleges engaging in this work
include Lycoming College (PA), Swarthmore College (PA), University
of Georgia, Carleton College (MN), and others, but it is important for
students to ask any college they are considering how the institution
supports students from small towns
or rural communities.
Virtual Interviews: If you are unable
to travel to colleges you've applied
to for an in-person interview, request
a virtual interview. These interviews
are typically added to your application
record and give you an opportunity to
share your story.


Even as we
consider the
resources students
from rural areas
need, we must
also consider the
strengths these
students bring to
our campuses.

Even as we consider the resources
students from rural areas need, we
must also consider the strengths
these students bring to our campuses.
Sapp shared how his small school
prepared him to persevere in college,
stating that even though his high
school "lacked the ability to deliver rigor, it made up for it by surrounding
me with buckets of love and instilling within me in a high level of selfconfidence and ability to persist."
Such stories remind us that, regardless of geography, all students are
worthy of our best efforts to create access and opportunity.
And Sapp's personal and professional experiences give him significant
insight into small changes colleges and universities can make to impact
students from rural communities and small towns. Here's just one:
"Ask your communications office to tell the stories of those rural
students you already have on your campus. Sure, I get why we all
talk about who wins research grants and Fulbright scholarships
and athletic championships, but let's not forget that our students
also have stories. Making this invisible community visible through
the power of videos, students blogs, viewbook and publications
features, alumni magazine features, and more can promote
inclusivity while at the same time signaling to rural high school
students and counselors that your institution is a place that
assigns value to that experience."
Janelle Holmboe is vice president for enrollment at McDaniel College
(MD) and a member of NACAC's Communications Committee.


NACAC - Spring 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NACAC - Spring 2020

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