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CollegeMode helps bring college in reach

DENISHA McKNIGHT | 5/8/2017, 9:26 a.m.
For many African Americans, a college education means a better paying career with opportunities for advancement – one of very ...
Tandy Caraway, founder of CollegeMode Academy CollegeMode Academy

The Dallas Examiner

For many African Americans, a college education means a better paying career with opportunities for advancement – one of very few avenues for evening the economic playing field, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

However, the cost of college may lead to added stress to future students and their parents. The average cost for a college education at a four-year university in Texas is between $17,000 and $28,000 including room and board, books and supplies, and tuition fees, with the amount increasing by about $10,000 for non-local students.

With the spring semester coming to an end, it is important that local high school students prepare financially for their upcoming college careers by applying for scholarships and grants.

“You have to tell yourself that ‘I can win scholarships,’” said Tawanda Caraway, CollegeMode Academy founder, during the Fabulous Tea Party for Women of Business event, April 16. “That’s the key. You can’t be worried about someone being smarter or having a higher GPA than you.”

Caraway, an educational advocate who has helped 1,000 students get into college for 17 years, advised that college seekers live by her three simple rules: follow up, be organized and be persistent.

“When you are looking for scholarships you want to look for scholarships that are easy for you to do,” she said. “Don’t worry about whoever else is doing the scholarship. It’s all about what is easy for you to do and what fits you.”

The academy founder states that students should work heavily on building their resume and becoming laser-focused on their life goals before applying for any scholarships.

“You have to develop a scholar mindset,” she said. “You have to wake up and make some decisions about who you want to be and what you want to be able to do.”

This soul-searching process starts at home. While there are students who are very confident in their futures and their abilities to achieve them, there are many other students whose visions aren’t as clear due to multiple psychological, environmental and economic factors.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 14 percent of African Americans graduated high school nationwide, and only 7 percent of African Americans enrolled in college.

“If they’re already in high school and they’re already thinking ‘I can’t make it. We don’t have food at home,’ which is a reality, they still have to find something inside of them that they really like about themselves and find value in it and work on it,” Caraway said. “They have to find their asset and leverage it. For instance, when I do my essays, I always say I am a hard worker. If that’s the one thing everybody sees about me and I see about myself, I am going to finish college if you give me this money because I work hard.”

In addition, the former teacher stated that local students shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions regarding their financial and overall security in college.

“I can’t stress that enough,” she professed. “I’ve asked enough questions in this past year that I’ve had students get an extra $25,000 with their resume and GPA remaining the same.”

Aside from future college participants, Caraway emphasized that parents and mentors play a huge role in how their children would maneuver on their college journey.

“You have to love your child enough not to baby them,” she suggested as the biggest tip for all parents. “You have to pick them up and lift them up, but when they are falling short, you have to call them on their stuff. You need to decide with the child and not for the child where they are trying to go and hold them to it.”

Children who are not in high school should begin working towards their college dreams as well through saving and participating in any local contests in the area that suits them and provides monetary awards, according to Caraway. Students who are in high school and looking for scholarships can visit websites such as CollegeForAllTexans.com or click on the scholarship tab on their school district’s website for more opportunities.

“If you’ve done what you are supposed to do, you will reap the benefits. God is going to give you your needs, and furthering your education is a need,” she expressed.