YES Prep Public Schools
YES Prep Public Schools
Two juniors with YES alumni at Minnesota university

Brianna Hernandez, left, and Kelly Rivera, right, pictured with Southwest alum Melissa Brandi, center.

With the temperature at a comfortable 70°, forty-nine YES Prep students gathered at Hobby Airport at 3:30 a.m. earlier this month for this year’s annual YES Prep Junior Spring Trip. Eight hours and two flights later, they got off the plane at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport where they stepped out into 9° weather. 

For many of the students, this was the first time they had experienced snow. Molly Teague, a college counselor at YES Prep Southwest who served as one of five chaperones on the trip, exclaimed, “the look of joy on their faces as they stomped through the snow and slid on the ice was something I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

Exploring Minnesota colleges and universities

All forty-nine juniors are currently eligible for the YES Prep IMPACT Program and therefore toured IMPACT partner colleges including Macalester College, the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, Carleton College and St. Olaf University. They also visited the University of Minnesota, to compare the experience of attending private liberal arts colleges in rural, suburban and urban settings, with attending a large public urban research university.

Kelly Rivera, YES Prep Southwest Class of 2021, initially signed up for the Minnesota trip because she loves cold weather but also because there were two colleges, in particular, she wanted to visit and learn more about. “I really enjoyed visiting the College of Saint Benedict & St. John’s University and St. Olaf. These schools have what I am interested in which is nursing. I also learned on this trip that I like small colleges because they offer more one-on-one relationships with professors.”

A glimpse of the out-of-state college experience

Brianna Hernandez, also with YES Prep Southwest Class of 2021, went on the trip to explore what it would be like to go to college out of state. “I wanted to go on the Junior Spring Trip because I knew I wouldn’t get the opportunity to tour these colleges on my own. I also wanted to see what it might be like to go out of state. I feel many students might not be open to the idea of leaving home because they do not know what to expect. This experience made me realize what I truly want in a college.”

Before the trip, Briana did research on some of the schools they were visiting in order to be better prepared. Afterward, she shared that by visiting the schools she was able to see for herself how the campus really was and ask the tour guides questions about their experience. By visiting these colleges, Brianna realized she may not be applying to some of the colleges she toured since the majority were liberal arts colleges and do not offer the majors she is interested in. However, one of the things she says she learned from the trip is, “there is a whole other world outside of Houston and Texas that I should try to explore.”

YES Prep counselors connecting with admissions offices

Not only is visiting a college important for students, but it is also important for the college’s admissions offices and YES Prep college counseling staff. For Molly, visiting college campuses is important to her as a College Counselor. “As college counselors, it is our responsibility to get out there and see the schools that we are promoting. We need to always be constantly learning, growing, and connecting with these schools.”

Through the Junior Spring Trip, Molly was able to connect with admission and financial aid staff at several IMPACT schools that she knows will benefit students in the future. “It will be easier for me to be an advocate for students with schools like Macalester and Carleton, two of the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the nation, because I have made personal connections with the people who handle their applications and financial aid packages.” She feels she is also an overall better counselor because she has a deeper and more personal understanding and appreciation of the schools they visited on the trip.

Trip final thoughts

Through the Junior Spring Trip, YES Prep wants students to know that college, no matter where it is located, is within grasp. By visiting, learning and participating in these college and university trips, students can begin to see themselves in a collegiate setting and consider it a tangible option for them.

When asked what she would want fellow students to know about the trip, Kelly said, “I would want them to know that Minnesota is a beautiful place and, even though it’s cold, many of the colleges here offer a lot of great opportunities.” Molly shared the same sentiment, “after three days on the trip, most students realized that with the right winter coat, nine degrees isn’t that bad when you get an incredible education in return.”