SEED Academy seminars teach local high school students about college admissions and financial aid


On October 18, Diane McKoy of Columbia University spoke to SEED Academy students about navigating college admissions. “You want to find that place where you can grow as a person,” McKoy said.

By Sydney Lester 

The fall semester of Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery (SEED) Academy – a science and engineering enrichment program at MIT for students from Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence, Massachusetts – concluded Saturday, December 6 with project presentations and an award ceremony. While much of the semester focused around hands-on science and engineering coursework, the students also attended seminars to learn more about the college admissions and financial aid processes.

A place to grow

Diane McKoy of Columbia University Undergraduate Admissions spoke at one seminar on October 18 during which she offered advice to students on college admissions and the art of choosing the right university. Discussion highlights included the benefits of studying science and engineering in college and the opportunity for students to further enrich themselves by taking humanities classes and working in science labs. Students also discussed their interests in exploring fields outside of science and technology.

By pursuing paths in science or engineering at Columbia or anywhere else, according to McKoy, students will learn valuable skills needed later in their professional lives. McKoy herself dabbled in a few different courses of study during her time in college, learning as much as she could at Columbia before entering the workforce. “I was premed, prelaw, and pre-engineering by the time I graduated,” she said. For McKoy, a balanced education in science and engineering supported her as she moved through her career to where she is today.

McKoy also stressed the importance of seeking out an institution that will incite personal growth and individual passion. “Find the right place that will allow you to be challenged and be the best that you can be,” said McKoy. “You want to find that place where you can grow as a person.”

For those interested in applying to Columbia, 5,000 internship opportunities await students enrolled in undergraduate education, as well as $900 million in research grants. SEED students also found through the event that the majority of undergraduates at Columbia find jobs in their fields of choice after graduation, a concern of many high school students entering college. SEED students left with confidence to apply to scholarships and the knowledge to strategically approach the college application process.

Personalized college guidance

In another seminar, Gabriela Gomez Coates of UAspire Boston, a non-profit focused on college access and affordability for area high school students, provided SEED participants with information about choosing the right school to fit needs and interests, building a network in college, and financial aid. Coates also led a discussion about the importance of researching and applying to scholarships. “Scholarships may take two or three or five hours, but the payoff is really good,” said Coates. Coates explained that colleges and universities have a large sum of revenue devoted each year to financial aid awards, which is why students need to do the appropriate amount of research when looking into and applying to schools.

Once scholarships and financial aid are awarded, students and their families need to review all aspects of their financial preparedness for college, Coates said. “UAspire sits down with you and your award letters and we talk about award money, work study, and where the gaps are,” said Coates.

UAspire plays a role in helping students comprehend their pre-college financial situation in a way that makes sense for their families and makes sure that they understand how to take action and appeal when necessary. Whatever students’ ideas and educational goals are, UAspire works to make them happen. “If this is your dream college, we’ll help you afford it,” said Coates. Because UAspire works hard to advance students in the direction of college, students are expected to reciprocate those efforts. “Juniors and seniors, you have a lot of academic responsibilities.”