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What is a Community-Based Organization?

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Brian Swann College Coach

Written by Brian Swannon April 2nd, 2024

I started my career in higher education as program coordinator at the Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching at Hamline University’s School of Education. My interest in diversity, equity and inclusion work took me to the Carleton College admissions office, where I initially served as Assistant Dean of Admissions & Coordinator of Outreach Programs. While in this role, I directed the Carleton Liberal Arts Experience (CLAE) summer program, worked closely with the POSSE Foundation and read applications from students all over the United States. After I was promoted to Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions & Coordinator of International Recruitment, I became responsible for crafting the strategic direction of our international recruitment. This included developing in person and virtual recruitment strategies, revamping application review policies, making final decisions on applications, and managing the financial aid budget for international students. While serving in this capacity, I also served as the men’s athletic liaison for our office.
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by Brian Swann, former admissions officer at Carleton College When I started working in admissions, I knew part of my responsibilities would involve traveling to high schools across the country to speak with prospective students, attending college fairs, and eventually reading applications. Through my travels, I witnessed the sometimes stark differences in the college counseling support available to students from suburban, rural, and urban settings. Over time, I learned there were other ways to recruit and support students outside of the standard methods—by working with community-based organizations (CBOs). What is a CBO? Understanding and navigating the ever-changing landscape of college admissions is an overwhelming task for students and families. While many high schools have college counseling offices with wonderful and dedicated staff, the quality of support offered through these offices varies greatly due to budgeting and staffing constraints outside of the counselors’ control. These challenges can make it difficult for students and their families to find dedicated support during the college search and application process. Fortunately, there are many nonprofit CBOs that seek to fill in the gaps around equitable support for college-going students and their families. What can I expect from a CBO? While some CBOs work with students before they enter ninth grade, most tend to work with high school students. Many of these CBOs exist to help promote a college-going culture within a school or broader community. CBOs are often staffed with educators who have a passion for helping demystify the college search and application process. When working with a CBO, a student may receive help with selecting curriculum, searching for summer enrichment opportunities, and gaining exposure to different colleges through campus visits or college fairs. Additionally, some CBOs work closely with students through the college application process and the scholarship search. This may include help brainstorming application essays, researching colleges of interest, and understanding how to navigate financial aid forms. Where can I find a CBO? Thankfully, there’s a wide variety of CBOs that offer excellent support to students and their families. Some CBOs like AVID or TRIO Upward Bound have a wide national reach and are offered in many communities. Both of these programs work closely with school districts across the country and often collaborate with a high school’s counseling office. Students can check with their school or district to see if either program is available to them, and they can also seek out programs like College Track or Minds Matter, CBOs that exist entirely outside of a school setting. The Coalition for College Access keeps a registry of CBOs, a great resource to help families looking for additional support.

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