March 20, 2009- Having grown up in rural Missouri, I never take for granted the allure of living in a world-class city like Boston. Renowned museums, dynamic theaters, and unique shopping are always just a short walk away. But take a longer walk off the beaten path and you’ll discover a city you never read about in the local entertainment weekly or see in a guidebook. These are the “best-kept secrets” of the city, like my favorite 16 seat cafe in the South End that serves the city’s best lobster bisque. You’d never expect such a culinary masterpiece in a place like that, but I’m sure glad I found it. It might not be served on white linens with a silver spoon, nor get the 4 star review in the Globe, but take it from me, it’s a hidden jewel.
That gets me thinking about the hidden jewels we find in education- no, not the “picture-perfect” college campus alongside the ocean with the “amazing” faculty and “extraordinary” student life. I’m talking about the “hidden jewel” students; those that might not have benefited from hours of test preparation resources and therefore have lacking test scores but have aced all of their honors classes… including calculus. Perhaps they take two buses and three subway stops to their inner city, under-funded high school… or maybe they wake up at 4:30AM to feed the livestock before catching the two-hour bus ride to the county school. Unfortunately, because of the way that colleges pursue enrollment marketing today, these students often times remain a “best kept secret”. I guess this is OK for a hole in the wall restaurant that can only handle 16 patrons, but it’s not OK for a high-performing young person with unlimited potential that is handicapped by an inefficient system.
What many don’t realize is that the way colleges find out about kids today is by buying their names and addresses from standardized testing organizations. Remember all that mail that showed up right after your child took their PSAT? Yep, that wasn’t by accident. Unfortunately, some of the most sought after students in college admissions don’t have great standardized test scores… they’ve never been in an after-school test prep program, their high school doesn’t “teach to the exam”, their parent’s can’t afford a prep tutor, and the commercial companies that offer test prep can’t justify a center amidst the corn fields. But these kids are strong performers academically and cross numerous hurdles that many don’t every face.
At ConnectEDU, we set out on a mission to help higher education change how it approaches the recruitment of the 3 million students who’ll step onto a college campus for the first time each year. In fact, we are focused on replacing “recruitment” with “relationship development”… something we also believe will positively impact student attrition rates. We’re helping build access to these students by breaking down barriers, opening communication and connecting students with the opportunities they deserve. That’s why we’ve forged a recent partnership with Questbridge, an organization matching under-served students with the nation’s most select universities… these kids go to colleges like Yale, Duke, Stanford and others FOR FREE! Our goal is to make sure students in our network who belong at a college, get noticed by that college and have a pathway to enroll at that college.