Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Virtual College Summit

“If you have an opportunity to try something, it is worth it.”- Student presenter Dayana BlancoOn value of being involved

Chris Bird, Managing Editor

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Virtual College Summit took place on Saturday, Jan. 16. It was designed to help high school students, hopeful college attendees and their families to understand the college admissions and financial aid process.

As a celebration of Dr. King’s legacy and his message of equal opportunity, the event focused on presenting resources and information to help navigate the process of college admission and planning for financial and academic success throughout college. Students of color, first generation students and parents were particularly encouraged to get involved and get a jump start on this process, which can seem daunting for anyone who is just getting started.

Speakers and students from The College Station, Madison College, UW-Madison, Edgewood College, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the Urban League of Greater Madison came together to share advice about getting into college, in addition to what the college experience can be like from their perspectives.

For those who are currently thinking about college, Dr. Derek Johnson opened the summit by encouraging students and parents to start thinking about and planning for college early. By planning ahead and considering your options, the more time you will have to talk to councilors, advisors, teachers and even visit colleges, if you have the opportunity. By the time students are in their senior year of high school, it is time to start working on getting letters of recommendation, writing application essays and looking into the process of each college you have an interest in.

Each college can be different, so make sure that you have your high school transcript, ACT/SAT scores, letters of recommendations, personal essays and statements, as well as preparing for interviews if they are necessary. Your grades will show your abilities to an extent, but the other parts of the application process are important because they show parts of you that cannot be seen through your academic performance. Some colleges put high value on how you might fit into their campus and their mission statement as an institution, so do not skip out on letting them know who you are.

College can be expensive, as we all know, so parents are encouraged to do what they can to prepare for their child’s college education. Therefore, everyone is encouraged to take the time to review financial aid, grants and scholarships.

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is a great starting point for anyone looking to get financial assistance for college. Different colleges and regions across the country may have different financial aid opportunities, some based on different demographics, that you should also take the time to research. FAFSA is going to be a possibility for everyone looking to go to college, and it is worth checking if you are eligible for assistance. Ideally, have this ready by Oct. 1, but the deadline is Dec. 1.

Speakers representing UW Madison, Edgewood College, Madison College and Historically Black Colleges all spoke out about how important and beneficial it is to take advantage of all of the services your school can offer. Advisors, councilors, teachers and organizers of financial aid exist to help you through this process and guide you to success. So, use those resources whenever you can.

Kenneth Cole, recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award and artist under the name K. Sankofa, gave a special live performance to wrap up the speakers’ segment before students from the represented colleges were given time to share their experiences in college.

Students encouraged those listening to get involved in groups and organizations at their college. “Go to as many events as you can and just meet people. You will start finding resources and meeting people who are meeting people,” said Jaiona Spell. Vivi Velasquez and Angelica Lopez said that organizations can help build a sense friendship and even a sort of family on campus, while also helping give that support to others.

Kaylahn Jones and her sister Krystyn Jones reinforced the importance of doing more than just going to school. Connections can be important and might lead to you being in rooms that you might not expect, while your education and qualifications will help keep you in those rooms. Finally, Dayana Blanco encouraged students to explore their interests and try new things, saying “if you have an opportunity to try something, it is worth it.”