Middlebury is one of 14 colleges around the U.S. that partner with Matriculate, a national nonprofit organization that strives to give high school students the confidence and knowledge to strategically apply to top universities.
Middlebury began participating in Matriculate in the fall of 2020 and last year grew to 14 Middlebury students known as Advising Fellows (AFs). Each Advising Fellow is paired with one to four high school students from around the country, in total advising 36 members of the class of 2022. As of late March, 27 of the advisees had been accepted to at least one college or university.
The Advising Fellows meet with students at least once a month to ensure that they are on track with deadlines and prepared to apply. They share their current experience at college and help give information that will enable them to make decisions about where to attend college. Last year, they worked remotely with the students to create a list of colleges, meet application and financial aid deadlines and eventually commit to a university.
Simon Jenkins ’22 joined the program in 2020 as the head advising fellow and has overseen the class of 2021 and class of 2022 cohorts. In addition to training and leading fellow Middlebury advisors, he successfully guided students through their applications and enabled them to enroll at universities like Cornell University and the University of Michigan.
“We sit somewhere in between a friend and a college counselor where we've been trained about what the application process looks like, but we've also just gone through it ourselves,” Jenkins said. “A lot of our students are coming from underserved populations, and we're stepping in to fill a gap that they might not be getting from their school or families.”
Matriculate has found that over 50 percent of high-achieving, low-income students don’t apply to a single college that is an academic match. They also reported that only 8 percent of these students apply to college in a similarly strategic manner to that of their higher-income peers. By creating relationships between these students and those currently attending college, the organization hopes to give them greater access to the best education they can achieve.
This spring, the most recent cohort of Advising Fellows is finishing up their advising of the high school class of 2022 as the students receive decisions, commit to a school, and ultimately matriculate at their chosen college. Ellie Thompson ’22 is a current Fellow and previously served on the Advising Fellowship Leadership Team. In her advising, she helped students understand the complicated admissions process and assisted them in making informed decisions about college.
“You get to help the students and guide them through the college process. For them, this might be their first time seeing the college search happen in action,” Thompson said. “Knowing that these high school students are on the brink of adulthood and are learning how to make decisions, giving them the knowledge to make decisions is something that I really think can be life changing.”
Matriculate’s impact is not limited to the high school students applying to college; student advisors who volunteer their time with this organization have also found that they have learned from the program.
“It's given me a new perspective on what it means to be a part of higher education,” Thompson said. “[Thinking about] who is a part of your college community starts before the people even come to campus, and even starts before they even know about the schools that they may be applying to and attending a year later.”
The next cohort has already been formed from applicants last fall, who are now being paired with students in the class of 2023. The organization’s leaders look forward to growing the organization so that more Middlebury students can participate and help expand equal access to college.
“I think there's definitely a lot of room for growth for Matriculate. I always said this seems right up Middlebury students’ alley just because I've sensed that commitment to service here,” Jenkins said. He also expressed his gratitude for the assistance of the Middlebury Admissions Office in establishing the program and for how Middlebury has continued to support their efforts.
For those interested in joining the program, Matriculate at Middlebury plans to recruit students next fall to serve as Advising Fellows in the 2024 cohort, guiding high school students who will graduate in two years. Any Middlebury student who is not in their senior year can apply to join the program. Those accepted will undergo training in the winter and be paired with students in the spring of 2023.
“We want anybody and everybody who is slightly interested in college access to learn more about Matriculate,” Jenkins said. “Any major, any hometown, any state, any financial background, any uniqueness that you bring will just help our program.”