On Tuesday, February 8, 2022, at 4 a.m., nearly one hundred YES Prep juniors gathered at Bush Intercontinental Airport to travel on two of YES Prep’s Junior Spring Trips. Among these students were Austin Ayers and Monserrat Lazaro Matus, traveling on a tour from Rochester, New York to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit various colleges in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Austin and Monserrat are members of YES Prep Southside Secondary’s second-ever junior class. Due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Southside’s founding class was not able to travel in 2021. For this reason, Austin and Monserrat are among the first students from Southside to participate in Junior Spring Trip.
Austin shared, “I have previously traveled with YES Prep to Louisiana for a college tour back in eighth grade. Going on Junior Spring Trip is the farthest from home I have ever been.” Thanks to this trip, Austin, Monserrat and other participating YES Prep juniors had the opportunity to check out first-hand colleges that are out-of-state.
Exploring regional and out-of-state colleges
During the first two weeks of February, 644 YES Prep juniors traveled on ten regional and four national Junior Spring Trips. Juniors visited between five and eight colleges with similar admissions criteria over four days.
Junior Spring Trip is one of YES Prep’s essential programs that allow students to connect directly with colleges and universities they might not have otherwise visited. Experience shows that students who step foot on a college campus feel more confident about applying to that particular college. Furthermore, this trip also allows students to learn about the different types of colleges available, from large state universities to small private liberal arts colleges.
Experience shows that students who step foot on a college campus feel more confident about applying to that particular college.
Additionally, thanks to the experience students receive through the regional and out-of-state Junior Spring Trips, they can visualize themselves at these away colleges and feel confident applying to a college away from home. Junior Spring Trip opens up out-of-state possibilities for their higher education.
The importance of visiting a university
For Austin, visiting college campuses during the Junior Spring Trip has shaped how he looks at college. Last summer, he had the opportunity to go to Lamar University for a summer SAT prep program. Given this experience, he had plans to go to Lamar University. “Now, having gone to Junior Spring Trip,” he commented, “I might change my plans.”
As for Monserrat, now there is a clearer understanding of what to look for and NOT look for in a college. “I am not interested in taking a lot of coursework or general education courses. I want to focus on my college major and courses I choose.” On the trip, Monserrat was also able to tour small liberal arts colleges and see several types of degree plans.
Degree plans are just one type of “fit factor” that students on Junior Spring Trip get to explore. Other fit factors include geographic location, setting (urban vs. rural), student population and others. Affordability is another fit factor Monserrat was able to explore on the trip. “At first, I was considering staying in Texas because I thought it would be more affordable. Now, after looking at how different universities handle financial aid, I am more willing to consider colleges out of state.”
Now, after looking at how different universities handle financial aid, I am more willing to consider colleges out of state.” -Monserrat Lazaro Matus
Exploring out-of-state college experience
Going out of state and getting to experience new environments was Monserrat’s favorite part of Junior Spring Trip. Monserrat and Austin visited eight colleges, including four YES Prep IMPACT partners: University of Rochester, Oberlin College, Washington & Jefferson College and Lycoming College.
On the trip, juniors had the opportunity to interact with YES Prep alumni who currently attend some of these IMPACT colleges, like Vanessa Jimenez. Vanessa is an alumna of YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary and served as one of the tour guides when YES Prep students visited Lycoming College in Pennsylvania. At Lycoming, she serves as the president of the Latinx American Student Association, vice president of the Student Radio Club and is a member of the E-Sports Club on the League of Legends team.
Learning about the colleges from the admissions officers and students like Vanessa, Monserrat realized that looking for college is like looking for a new home. “Before Junior Spring Trip, I was mainly looking at colleges that offered my major. I saw college as you go there; you study; you get your degree; done. After the trip, I realized the importance of the college environment because I am going to spend the next four years of my life there.”
Austin shared a similar sentiment, “By visiting colleges, I realized I want to be excited about the college I choose and eager about going back as a freshman. I want a different environment and am open about going to college outside of Texas.”
By visiting colleges, I realized I want to be excited about the college I choose and eager about going back as a freshman. I want a different environment and am open about going to college outside of Texas.” -Austin Ayers
Advice for upcoming juniors
As mentioned, Austin and Monserrat are among the first 40 students from Southside to travel on Junior Spring Trip as members of Southside’s second graduating class. Thanks to this experience, Austin plans to apply to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and study art and animation, mechanical engineering or computer science. Monserrat’s favorite colleges to tour were also RIT and the University of Rochester.
When asked what they would share about their experience with upcoming juniors, especially their fellow Giants, Austin shared, “You should look forward to it! It is a whole different experience than what you think it will be. It was a lot grander than I was expecting.”
Monserrat added, “Look forward to it. You are going to have a fun experience. Be prepared to be surprised by the environment. There is going to be a lot of information so pay attention, you do not want to miss any of it. My expectations for the trip were high, and they were exceeded.”
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About the author
William Keaton currently serves as the Manager of Special Projects on the College Initiatives Team. William graduated from Schreiner University with a BA in Political Science and Mathematics and earned his master’s in Higher Education Administration in 2013 from Ball State University.