The Program Model
The Virginia College Advising Corps (VCAC) model is a targeted approach that integrates recent college graduates into the secondary school to address non-academic barriers to post-secondary matriculation:
1. VCAC is a "near-peer" mentoring model. The program recruits recent college graduates who are near in age and have similar backgrounds to the high school students they serve.
The benefits of this model are noted in a White House report, "Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students." It says, "Many successful programs around the country rely on near-peer mentors and advisers - both professional recent college graduates and paraprofessional students - to not only provide direct advising and college prep, but also to help create a college-going culture in low-income high schools. Employing college students or recent college graduates as mentors and advisers is not only a cost-effective way to increase access to college advising, but it also means advisers are more relatable and may have more shared experiences with their mentees."
2. VCAC College Advisers attend a comprehensive summer training program before entering their school sites.
Areas covered during training: Admissions, Financial Aid, Match and Fit in selecting post-secondary institutions, the school counseling profession, historic barriers in educational attainment, counseling and communication skills, a state-wide view of other access programs, and many more. After this intensive training, our Advisers are exceptionally well-trained college access professionals.
3. VCAC College Advisers serve the whole school, rather than a cohort of particular students, in order to foster a school-wide college-going culture.
The Consortium of Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago found that, "across all our analyses, the single most consistent predictor of whether students took steps towards college enrollment was whether their teachers reported that their high school had a strong college climate."
4. VCAC focuses on best-fit and best-match colleges. College Advisers help students identify and apply to postsecondary programs that will serve them well academically and socially--thus increasing the likelihood that these students will earn their degrees.
From the same White House report referenced above, "Relative to their high-income peers, low-income students are less likely to attend colleges and universities that give them the best chances of success. Too few low-income students apply to and attend colleges and universities that are the best fit for them, resulting in a high level of academic under-match. That is, many low-income students choose a college that does not match their academic ability.”
5. VCAC participates in a national, external evaluation conducted by Evaluation and Assessment Solutions for Education, a research group at Stanford University, to quantitatively measure outcomes and qualitative results.