The Georgetown University McDonough School of Business is helping middle school students from underrepresented groups navigate the college application and financial aid processes in a new program aimed at increasing diversity at top-tier colleges.
The MSB founded Georgetown Reach last fall. The program offers various workshops and classes to help high-performing eighth-grade students in the Washington, D.C. area who might miss college opportunities due to socioeconomic status or other personal factors. Classes and workshops cover topics like college planning and preparing for the college application process.
Underrepresented minority and low-income students in D.C. lack access to information and resources about higher education, according to George Comer, Reach co-director and a professor in the MSB.
“One of the things we found was that those who have greater resources pay upwards of five figures for private college consulting to help them navigate the college admissions process, and that’s what we find one of the biggest gaps to be,” Comer said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Before founding Reach, Comer organized annual tours of Georgetown’s campus for local students and their families to see the campus and meet professors. During their visits, students and families were given the opportunity to talk to Bonnie Montano, Reach co-director and a professor in the MSB, about the college admissions process.
In the fall, MSB deans asked Comer and Montano to make the program official, according to Comer. The university has recently begun a push for greater minority representation on campus, according to Montano.
“What we noticed was that there weren’t that many people from diverse backgrounds applying, so we, along with MSB deans, decided that Georgetown Reach would try to increase the applicant pool for underrepresented minorities by spreading awareness,” Montano said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Since the program began in September 2020, Reach has hosted monthly virtual events for the 36 eighth-graders currently enrolled. These events introduced students and parents to the program and provided them with introductory college counseling.
Reach recognizes that preparing for college applications is a lengthy process, and therefore the program aims to work with students until they graduate high school, according to Montano.
“The reason why we are targeting eighth-graders is because there are counsellors in some high schools that won’t talk to students about college until they are juniors, and if you haven’t taken the correct steps before this point, it is already too late,” Montano said.
Beginning this summer, the program plans to host a virtual writing class for students entering ninth grade. In the fall, Reach students will participate in a one-day, on-campus event that will allow them to tour the university, attend a lecture and interact with university community members.
Reach also plans to incorporate mentorship into the program, pairing Georgetown undergraduates with students in the program. These mentors will serve as resources to answer questions, give advice and act as role models for these students. Furthermore, they also aim to engage families by providing support for parents navigating the college admissions and financial aid processes, according to Comer.
“Parents are very uncertain about the college process given all the information that exists on the internet, and there’s also the lack of clarification or even communication from school counselors,” Comer said.
Reach’s help and support is crucial in providing readily available information to all students and families, according to a university spokesperson.
“Through Georgetown Reach, our faculty are ensuring that young people and their families in our D.C. community know that attending a prestigious university is within their reach when they have the right tools and information at their fingertips,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Reach will continue to engage with more students from throughout D.C. in hopes of fostering diversity in elite college admissions, according to Comer.
“It has been such a wonderful opportunity to be able to provide a program that fosters diversity at a time where diversity has become a priority and to be able to help Georgetown continue to be the top-tier university that it is,” Comer said.