The college application and decision process can be difficult and confusing, especially without guidance, which is why CollegePoint emphasizes the importance of a student and advisor relationship. One such duo, Vanessa Toro and Natural Baptiste, are an instance of a perfect match.
Vanessa and Natural were paired when Vanessa was a high school junior in Land O’ Lakes, Florida and Natural was a freshman at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Vanessa first heard of Matriculate, one of CollegePoint’s four advising partners, via an email and decided to apply.
“As a high school fellow, you have to fill out an application to see if you are eligible for advising services. It wasn’t a very long application, it just asks general questions about test scores, hobbies, college interests, college concerns,” said Vanessa.
Natural saw Matriculate advertised on a flyer on campus and signed up as an advisor because of the positive experiences he’d had with mentors early on in his application process.
“I’d had people in my college process help me out by reading college essays, telling me how to ask for a recommendation letter, how to prepare for an interview. It takes a village to raise a child and the village raised me well. So, I thought, can I give back in any way? Can I help somebody else get into Notre Dame or help a high-achieving, low-income student get into a really strong school? Matriculate really checked all those boxes,” explained Natural.
Matriculate is just one of the programs that fall under the umbrella of CollegePoint. Other partners include College Possible, College Advising Corps, and ScholarMatch, all of which provide resources that are made accessible to CollegePoint students; however, Matriculate’s college-student-driven model is what drew Natural to the program.
“The thing about Matriculate that’s different from the other CollegePoint advising partners is that we are college students as well. We just went through the process two, three years ago so it’s still fresh in our mind. We can still share our personal stories about how we applied and it’s more applicable,” said Natural.
CollegePoint works to pair every student with an advisor who provides personalized support. After being matched, Vanessa and Natural immediately fell into a helpful and honest dialogue that eventually translated into their friendship and the decision process.
“I was very fortunate to be paired with Natural. When advising started, he made me feel really comfortable. His advice and guidance truly helped me in this whole college application process, especially because I had nobody to go to for help since my parents knew very little. I would consider the relationship a peer as well as a big brother / little sister relationship. We had really productive and fun sessions. He always made me laugh.” said Vanessa.
Natural also gushed about their relationship. “The big thing that was great was that [Vanessa] was open to everything. From the get go, she was ready to tackle the college process… we tend to match with [students] during the spring of their junior year so we have a year and a half to really develop a relationship with the student, so by the end, by the time they’re making a decision, they’re basically like family,” said Natural.
When it came down to decision day, Natural was virtually right alongside Vanessa as she told her parents her intentions to attend Emory University. Having been such a large part in helping her decide, Natural was just as emotional as the family as they celebrated.
“Natural took everything I was telling him and made me consider one of the most important factors for me back then, which was financial aid. He really helped me sort out the financial award/aid packets I was being sent from many schools… that helped me the most when deciding between schools,” said Vanessa.
Three years after their initial pairing, Vanessa and Natural still remain in contact because of the unique friendship they shared for so long. Now a rising sophomore at Emory University, Vanessa is also an advisor with Matriculate. Whenever an advisee or friend expresses interest in the University of Notre Dame, she is sure to connect them with Natural, who is now a senior.
“As advisors, our job isn’t always to inform. We share our stories as well because a lot of students find it helpful to know that we have gone through similar situations. We share our high school experiences, as well as what the first year of college is like,” said Vanessa regarding her newfound role.
It’s now Vanessa’s turn to provide advice, resources, and aid to her group of four advisees. Taking what Natural once did for her, Vanessa helps students discuss what a balanced college list should look like, from college preferences, the scholarship search, resume building, and more.
“[Matriculate] advising has influenced the chances I have of actually reaching that goal. I never in a million years thought I would be going to a private out of state university with a full ride. I NEVER even dreamed of leaving my city as an option,” said Vanessa.
Thanks to the rewarding process, Natural is also considering moving forward as an advisor or recruiter and taking on more responsibilities in the world of higher education.
“I love the fact that Matriculate, and CollegePoint as a whole, works with high-achieving, lower-income students because that’s what’s missing at colleges. We have people who are capable of excelling at college but don’t have the resources to know how to navigate that process effectively,” said Natural.