From managing rigorous coursework to making connections with new students, the anticipation of finally attending a college or university can be both nerve-racking and exhilarating – especially if you are the first in your family to graduate high school and attend a post-secondary educational institution.
While there are no textbooks that can truly prepare college-bound seniors for life after high school, many charter public high schools are helping ease the transition by establishing support systems and resources for their alumni.
Experts say this additional level of support increases college completion rates and is crucial for first-generation or “first gen” college students, especially those who come from low-income families where English is not spoken at home.
At KIPP Public Schools Northern California, teams of life/academic counselors called KIPP Forward Advisors play an instrumental role in helping alumni survive their freshman year in college.
It all begins in high school when KIPP students – also known as KIPPsters – are first matched with KIPP advisors. Utilizing a College & Career Match Playbook, advisors walk students and families through the post-secondary decision-making process. They also conduct Senior Seminars to coach and advise on college applications, scholarships, and financial aid.
Once KIPPsters get accepted and start attending college as KIPP alumni, advisors continue to work with them by utilizing this College Persistence Strategy Framework which helps students overcome common hurdles and obstacles so they persist in college and thrive.
Iduma Mendoza’s KIPP Forward Story
Iduma Mendoza graduated from KIPP San José Collegiate in San José in 2021. Like many KIPPsters in Northern California, Iduma comes from a Spanish-speaking family and was the first in her family to attend college. They were overjoyed when Iduma was accepted into the University of Southern California but going from her close-knit KIPP charter school community to a large private university was daunting at first.
Iduma Mendoza, KIPP San José Collegiate alum, Class of 2021
In a personal essay published on KIPP NorCal’s blog, KIPP to USC: What I Learned my First Year at College, Iduma explains some of the challenges for first-gen college students and the role KIPP Forward Advisors play in the lives of alumni:
"The reality of being a first-generation college student is that the people around you don’t always have a lot of experience with college and can’t pass on advice or give guidance. Signing up for classes the first time was really stressful …
That’s why one of my biggest pieces of advice is to stay in contact with your KIPP Forward Advisor and not be scared to ask for help. I’m still pretty close with a lot of my KIPP teachers and when I need advice about college, I know that they’re a text away. I’ve even FaceTime past teachers! It’s really nice to have that one-on-one support because in college, getting time with your professor can be really difficult."
KIPP Forward Advisors also partner with college and university counselors across California and the U.S. so that they can effectively and strategically support alums who experience difficulty in determining a major, finding cultural clubs and causes, and pinpointing additional financial aid options and scholarships.
Iduma describes some of the hurdles she was able to overcome:
"When I entered USC, I was originally a psychology major pre-med mostly because I found an interest in psychology in high school. But college was a very different experience. My first semester in college was not great. I did not enjoy what I was learning so I started exploring other classes.
This led me to taking a programming class in Python for my second semester. I really enjoyed coding so I started looking at majors more based in computers and that led me to my current major, Intelligence and Cyber Operations with a Minor in Forensics. So far it’s been really great and a lot better fit for me.
As I’ve gotten more comfortable with the academic work I’ve started to look at clubs I want to join. USC is a large school and in order to find people who share the same experiences as me, I’ve learned that I need to put myself out there. This has been a big change from high school where not only did many of my classmates share the same cultural background as I did, but I also knew them since I was in 5th grade.
I’m looking forward to joining more social groups because in my first year I was really focused on my academics. I think that’s part of the reason the beginning of my college journey was so stressful. But I’ve learned that part of having a healthy college experience is having a balance between social life and academics."
>>To read Iduma’s entire personal essay, check out KIPP NorCal’s blog by clicking here.
Bridging the gap between high school and college is what sets KIPP Public Schools apart from other options and is part of the mission of this charter public school network – both in California and across the country.
In fact, KIPP Public Schools has also established an official KIPP Alumni Network that connects 55,000 alums nationwide for networking, mentorship and leadership opportunities.
- To learn more about KIPP Forward Northern California, check out its webpage.
- To find out about charter public school options with KIPP Public Schools Northern California , click on this webpage.
This CharterNation blog article is a collaboration between CCSA and KIPP Public Schools Northern California through CCSA's Guest Blogger partnership. If you belong to a CCSA member school and would like your school's content featured on the CharterNation Blog, please email email@example.com.