Getting the Most Out of Your College Tour - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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NEWS_QACollegeTourAs a high school guidance counselor, Deidre Cuffee-Gray, was confident that 100% of the senior class at the Springfield Renaissance School in Massachusetts would get accepted into a college. Although 75% of the seniors at Springfield Renaissance were African American and Hispanic and from low-income families, she felt the school’s rigorous curriculum had reduced the challenges most kids in their situations faced with meeting criteria for enrollment.

But she also knew that getting accepted was no guarantee that the students would actually graduate. After all, college graduation rates for black and Latino students are much lower compared to white students (41% and 46% compared to 57% for first-time, full-time college freshmen starting at public universities in 2000).

Since some schools have better matriculation rates for first-generation African American and Latino students, Cuffee-Gray wanted to make sure that her students learned more about them. But she knew that because of costs, many of her students wouldn’t be able to visit the schools they were considering.

Since Mohammad couldn’t get to the mountain, she decided to bring the mountain to Mohammad, so to speak.

Using a $5,000 grant from The Fund for Teachers, she conducted a 13-day, one-woman tour of 20 colleges and universities that were listed on Black Enterprise’s “Top 50 Colleges for African American Students,” Hispanic magazine’s “25 Top Colleges for Hispanics” and “The Graduation Rate Watch: Making Minority Student Success a Priority” published by the Education Sector.  She recorded her experiences at, writing articles about the application process, financial aid, testing, and interviewing. She also videotaped interviews with admissions counselors and students. Her hope was that by learning more about the schools her students would also learn more about themselves and what types of environments in which they would best thrive .

Here are Cuffee-Gray’s  recommendations to assist students of color to choose schools that will increase their chances of graduation and success as a professional.

Be prepared to look at the school and yourself with a critical eye. “Have a sense of your own needs,” says Cuffee-Gray. She suggests students take an introspective look at what learning environment they best succeed in. Understand the different options that are available at a large school versus a small one, and vice versa.

Before the visit, thoroughly examine the school’s Web site, says Cuffee-Gray. Prepare several questions for tour guides, admissions and financial aid counselors, students and professors; by doing so you can create a measuring stick by which to judge the schools.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.