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Breaking Down Barriers

Swarthmore hosted its third annual College Access Summit this summer, bringing together more than 80 high school counselors, community-based organization advisers, and college admissions officers to brainstorm ways to boost college access for underrepresented students by reducing barriers and building collaboration.

The summit included an immersive college counseling experience. Facilitators from Philadelphia public schools and nonprofits guided attendees through three module sessions: building a college list, serving on a mock admissions committee, and selecting a college. The attendees considered the backgrounds and best outcomes for four fictitious underrepresented students. In doing so, they gleaned insights from the perspectives of those students and their families, as well as those of college admissions officers.

“The module format replicates the real challenges and issues counselors face with incomplete information, new circumstances and challenges coming from all directions, and advising very different students with unique assets and issues,” says Andrew Moe, director of admissions.

The College Access Summit is free of charge to attendees, many of whom have never had the opportunity to participate in professional development programming, and counselors are reimbursed for any expenses they incur.

“Just like we need to break down barriers for students,” says Moe, “we need to do the same for the adults who serve them.”