Newark graduate discusses role of aid and guidance in her success at Ohio State
First-generation student used her experience to help others
Published on February 09, 2018
A flat tire on the way to the Newark campus of The Ohio State University did not fit into Coryn Coleman’s plan for the day.
Coleman, a 2017 graduate with a degree in psychology with research distinction, commuted to the Newark campus from her family home in Gahanna. She said the 30-minute commute was often uneventful. But one of those trips ended with her car badly in need of a new tire, and she wasn’t sure where to turn.
Jamie White, who worked with Coleman in the Office of Retention at Ohio State Newark, was there to help.
“She helped me get new tires,” Coleman said. “She was just a really great person.”
White is the retention coordinator at the Newark campus. She’s essentially an academic success coach, guiding students like Coleman to find balance in their lives so they can focus on their classes. In Coleman’s case, that meant helping her find tires so she could get to class.
“She was so worried about getting to school, what work she was going to miss, what classes she was going to have to make up,” White said.
White helped Coleman get her car in for repairs and back on the road toward her degree. She also helped Coleman navigate the complexities of higher education. Like Coleman, White was also the first in her family to attend college.
“I didn’t really know how college worked,” Coleman said. “I did not have a lot of training on how to apply to colleges – having to pay for the application fees and acceptance fees.”
Navigating the college experience can be a challenge for most students. For first-generation students, that challenge can extend well after classes start.
Coleman, like many first-generation students, felt the stress of affording college without financial assistance from family members.
But in addition to the support she received from White and others on the Newark campus, Coleman received need-based support from Ohio State that enabled her to complete her degree.
“I got the President’s Affordability Grant, which really helped out, and I also got a Pell Grant,” Coleman said. “My grants actually helped pay for a lot of my school, which allowed me to not have to take out as many loans. So really taking that load off of me thinking ‘Oh man, I'm going to have a lot of loans to pay back when I'm done here.’”
The President’s Affordability Grant is part of the university’s commitment to expanding need-based aid. Last month, President Michael V. Drake announced the addition of $40 million in need-based aid for the next academic year. That includes $25 million to the President’s Affordability Grant program.
Under Drake’s leadership, Ohio State has committed $100 million in need-based aid for students and families since 2015.
As part of the university’s initiative to increase access and affordability, Ohio State is also a founding member of the American Talent Initiative, a first-of-its-kind partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ithaka S+R and the Aspen Institute to enroll an additional 50,000 talented low- and moderate-income students at top-performing colleges and universities over the next decade.
White works with students who fit that description every day.
“I’m glad that we’re collaborating and bringing our resources together to support our students,” she said. “There are a lot of students who are underrepresented students or minority students who need some extra support and guidance. Through initiatives like the American Talent Initiative and the President’s Affordability Grant, that helps us get a step closer to helping our students become even more successful.”
Coleman said she is pleased that Ohio State is actively involved in organizations like the American Talent Initiative to help other students like herself achieve higher education.
“The biggest challenge was the money issue that I faced – being able to pay for everything and not have the help of my family,” Coleman said. “A lot of students in the Buckeye Generation Learning Community experience that as well.”
She sought help from the Buckeye Generation Learning Community, a program that helps first-generation students adapt academically and socially to the college experience.
Like the help Coleman received with her flat tire, she turned to her own experienced to help others.
“My sophomore year, I decided to become a coach for the learning communities. I was a coach for both the Buckeye Generation Learning Community and the Engineering Learning Community,” she said. “I was able to be that coach for other students and really get them through those tough times that first-generation college students experience.”
White said it can come down to what she called cultural capital: the shared background and knowledge that can help students better understand what succeeding in college requires.
“They oftentimes don’t know where to go to on campus to ask questions,” White said. “Whether it’s a staff member like myself or a faculty member, they need that someone they can connect to.”
Persevering through those struggles was important to Coleman because she recognized the value of her Ohio State education. Her flat tire is well behind her and she is preparing for her next step in her education.
“I’m going to grad school. I'm working on applying for it,” she said. “But I’m hoping to go to Ohio State for my master’s in social work. And then once that’s completed we'll see what’s next.”
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