College dreams often melt away in summer months. ‘Near-peer’ counseling is helping keep them alive.
NEW YORK — Monnojan Tasnia needed all the pieces to fit together. The 19-year-old, who moved to New York City from Bangladesh four years ago, was trying to envision her fall: Four days of classes each week at the New York City College of Technology (City Tech).* Two to three days working as a cashier at Marshalls. Long commutes on the subway between her home in Queens and the campus in downtown Brooklyn.
She had friends whose college dreams evaporated once they started summer jobs, their paychecks providing a sense of security that a college acceptance letter could not. But Tasnia was determined to make it to campus in September. “My family always says, ‘If you get addicted to work, you might stop your studies,’ ” said Tasnia, who wants to become an accountant.
On this sunny July day, she’d come back to her old school, the International High School for Health Sciences, in Elmhurst, Queens, for some advice on balancing college with ways to pay for it. Most urgently, she needed help setting up a direct deposit account for her financial aid. Her counselor, Ruth Camacho, turned on her desktop computer, pulled up a chair for Tasnia and logged into the Bursar’s Office page of the City Tech website.
For aspiring college students, the summer before freshman year can be a perilous time, as they contend with swelling concerns over how to pay for college, often inscrutable paperwork and uncertainty about whether they belong on a college campus at all. Low-income students and those who are first in their families to enroll in higher education are particularly vulnerable. Research shows that up to 40 percent of low-income students who are accepted to college succumb to what’s known as “summer melt” and don’t make it to the first day of classes in the fall. At the same time, programs to fight this phenomenon are expanding amid a growing body of research suggesting that they work.