Chicago Scholars helps juniors with the college process


Lane students attend Chicago Scholars’s Onsite event on Oct. 24, where Scholars interview with colleges and can get an acceptance letter on the spot. The Chicago Scholars application is currently open for juniors until Feb. 12. (Photo courtesy of Kayland Jones)

By Brenda Ocampo, Reporter

Karla Ortega was in the backseat of the car on her way to school when her parents started asking her about college for the third, maybe fourth time. The conversation consisted of questions such as, “What are your plans for the future,” and “What career path are you interested in?”     

“My honest answer is always ‘I don’t know,’” said Ortega, Div. 976. “I am hoping that Chicago Scholars helps me figure out the answers to these questions.”

Chicago Scholars is a selective program that is designed to help students who need aid when it comes to college. It is a resource that helps students who may or may not be informed about how to go about college applications.

Chicago Scholars is a seven year program that begins during a student’s junior year.

According to the Chicago Scholars website, some of the qualifications include being a first generation student or someone coming from an “unresourced community,” living and attending high school in the Chicago area and being enrolled as a junior at the time of the application process.

“What admissions people are looking for is a student who stands out in their community, someone who is already making a difference,” Sarah McCallum, Chicago Scholars counselor, said. “Sure, academic records do help but they also look at what you do outside of school.”

After the application is complete, the Chicago Scholars representatives review the student’s applications. Those who make it past this step move on to the second stage, an interview with a Chicago Scholars representative, according to the Chicago Scholars website.

Once students are chosen to be a part of the program, they are designated a counselor and a cohort are provided to students. A cohort is a group of students who are Scholars and who may be from different schools. The group provides students with support from one another.

The program also provides Scholars with counselors who help find the right fit of colleges for students, helping edit one’s personal statement and other details such as scholarships.

Our school counselors have a lot of kids they are responsible for, so it is understandable that they can’t always get to you and your needs,” Chris Nieto, Div. 871, said.

One aspect of this program that stands out is their Onsite event. This year, the event was held in Navy Pier on Oct. 24 where Scholars were signed out of school in order to attend.

At Onsite, Scholars have the opportunity to interview with at least five colleges or universities of their choice out of the 179 schools that attend. During this event, students get a chance to showcase who they are as a person and perhaps to impress the admissions representative.

This event allows students to get an acceptance letter on the spot. In 2017, there were 1,753 admits and about $49,076,440 in merit aid awards, and that was only 37 percent out of 179 colleges that reported their numbers, according to the Chicago Scholars website.  

During Onsite, one of the colleges Nieto was accepted to was Elmhurst College, with $22,000 per year in scholarship money.

“You feel a giant sense of euphoria and you feel everything you have worked hard for has paid off,” Nieto said.

However, the work does not stop there. Although a huge sense of stress is relieved, the next step is to apply for scholarships with the guidance of Scholars counselors.

The counselors are also there to help with whatever one needs assistance with, whether that may be to look for scholarships or to help perfect an essay.

The application is now open and will be closed on Feb. 12 for juniors who are planning on applying.

“[Chicago Scholars] is a nice mixture of support and reality to point you to the right direction,” Nieto said.