October is a peak time for high school seniors to work on and submit their college applications, and many universities have early application deadlines as early as November 1. During the 11 days when Chicago Public School (CPS) classes were cancelled due to the October 2019 teachers strike, high school seniors were unable to meet with school counselors, obtain copies of transcripts, request letters of recommendation, and more.
The University of Chicago’s College Admissions team was prepared to offer support to affected students. UChicago extended its November 1 early application deadline for CPS students and also organized a series of college application workshops that all CPS students could attend—even if the students were not applying to UChicago.
“Students got to meet one-on-one with our team of college advisers,” said William Carlos Herald, Director of the College Advising Corps, a branch of College Admissions that has full-time advisers based in 10 CPS high schools focused on supporting the needs of first-generation, underrepresented, and low-income students. “Staff also gave presentations on essay writing and need-based aid. It was great that kids who really needed help were getting it.”
The first two workshops were held on campus, but when it became apparent that the strike would last longer than anticipated, UChicago decided to bring the sessions into communities across the city. Additional sessions were offered at Chicago Public Library branches in neighborhoods including Back of the Yards, Rogers Park, and Portage Park. Each workshop site included student support in English and Spanish, and a session in Chinatown also offered assistance in Mandarin. In total, more than 400 students attended the workshops during the course of the strike.
When CPS teachers last went on strike back in 2012, similar workshops were coordinated by the University’s College Admissions office. During each strike, the UChicago workshops were created and organized by staff, taking advantage of the varied expertise at the University to provide sessions on financial aid, essays, and scholarships.
“It’s the depth of the engagement that we’re most proud of,” said Veronica Hauad, Deputy Director of Admissions and Deputy Director for Access, Affordability, and Inclusion in College Admissions. “This program had an impact that was felt well beyond campus. We had many students come back multiple times to attend different sessions and get additional assistance. Students commented that they had never received so much individual attention.”
College Admissions and the College Advising Corps are currently brainstorming other ways they can continue to serve students in the greater Chicago community, as the demand for these resources is high.
“Our office philosophy is to lift everyone up,” Hauad said. “We’re committed to removing potential barriers for students as soon as they are identified, which is why we also extended the application deadline for CPS students. We saw an opportunity to serve students and we acted on it.”
Learn more about other ways the College Advising Corps is serving CPS students by visiting its website.