Virtual College Advising Is More Important Than Ever During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Riley Martinez, current student at Princeton University and Matriculate advisor

School had always been my safe space as a child.  I excelled at a young age both academically and socially, but most importantly, it was somewhere I knew there was always going to be food at lunch and there was always going to be someone looking out for me.  I looked forward to walking a couple of miles to school every day even after struggling to get through a night’s homework with little help at home.

However, I knew almost nothing about standardized testing or anything about preparing for college.  Luckily, sophomore year, I met my own mentor.  He was a friend that taught me everything I needed to know about college, while other supposed resources had failed.  I never once heard any faculty member in my school even mention applying to an out of state school.  I grew up in West Jordan, Utah, where I attended one of the worst-performing public schools in the area which also part of a very confining culture.  Thus, had it not been for this friend, I would’ve never pushed myself to apply to colleges that were a good fit or had the mindset necessary to work towards expanding my interests.  In order to reach a goal, you must first be able to envision it.

That’s how I learned about the power of mentorship.  I went on to try to emulate this myself throughout high school, now that I learned that I could be a powerful influence even if I was just a peer.  Now that I’ve finally seen the end results in their totality, I can value how important peer advisors are, especially for something as positively life changing as the college application process.

This is why I ended up joining Matriculate, a college advising program that is part of CollegePoint.  CollegePoint seeks to empower low-income high-achieving students to apply to colleges that are an academic, social, and financial fit- a story that hits close to home for me.  The goal and work of CollegePoint is so important to me because I know the barrier to achieving higher education that comes from students not knowing all of the many possibilities in terms of scholarships, First Generation Low-Income (FLI) programs, and social networks that exist.  I could not imagine myself at Princeton before meeting my own mentor, so I hope to introduce my high school fellows to information that will allow them to showcase their amazing talents and personalities.

Working with CollegePoint during the COVID-19 crisis has amped up the importance of the organization’s mission ten-fold.  I’m supported by an amazing community of advisors who I know will always demonstrate empathy and understanding towards any problems I have transitioning to school-at-home life.  Moreover, high school students themselves are struggling right now which may have a negative impact on low-income students’ application rates going forward.  That’s why it’s reassuring to know that as a team we can help correct this potential issue through personal advising connections.   Additionally, this situation is discouraging in general, so I hope to spread bits of optimism to my advisees while we work together to get stuff done despite our respective challenges.

Helping others is vital right now to ensuring our institutions don’t crumble. I’m thrilled I can contribute my part while helping an exceptional high schoolers become aware of their best educational options they might otherwise be left out of.