Introducing the AXS Companion to Common App, Designed to Support Under-Resourced Students

The AXS Companion is now available for college-bound students to use!

College enrollment continues to decline while barriers for under-resourced students grow—but the AXS Companion to Common App, a new initiative by IECA, in partnership with Oregon State University, aims to reverse this trend by supporting these students as they begin their college journey.

Applying to college is already a complex and often stressful process, and first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students of color have faced even greater hurdles to college during the pandemic: reduced or no access to college and school counselors; limited opportunities to access information and resources due to school closures; and a lack of familiarity with the US college and financial aid application processes within their families.

According to Common App, approximately one-third of their million-plus annual applicants are first-generation students. These students are more likely to create Common App accounts without submitting applications because they “often lack familial and school-based guidance on how to navigate the complex admission waters,” according to a recent article on BestColleges.com. It continues: “Just last year, about 700,000 seniors who opened Common App accounts never completed an application.”

Seeing this disparity in access to higher education, a group of IECA members set out to make a change. The result is the AXS Companion, a free online resource that aims to improve access and clarity for under-resourced students who lack college counseling support. Through detailed videos, the AXS Companion walks students through each step of Common App from beginning to end. Alternatively, students can watch an individual section’s videos to understand how to best respond to that section based on their circumstances.

View this video to see samples of the AXS Companion and to learn more about the project:

Sign up here to receive more information about The AXS Companion.
How the Project Came About

Several years ago, Maite Halley, an IECA member who has been a leader in the association in several capacities, envisioned this project as live workshops to support under-resourced communities. During COVID-19, Marilyn O’Toole, IECA member and liaison to Common App, asked Common App leadership if IECA members could pivot and develop step-by-step videos for the initiative instead.

With Common App’s approval, O’Toole then engaged Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost at Oregon State University to discuss solutions to store and organize the video resources. This evolved into the collaborative framework of Oregon State University Ecampus building the platform, with IECA providing the content.

Left to right, clockwise: IECA members Jeffy Levy, Marilyn O'Toole, Pat Smith, Ibrahim Firat, Sylvia Jackman, Louise Franklin, and Jennie Kent.

Over the last eight months, many IECA members have worked tirelessly on this project, including: Ibrahim Firat, Louise Franklin, Carolyn Gelderman, Anne Holmdahl, Sylvia Jackman, Amy Jasper, Jennie Kent, Jeff Levy, Janae McCullough-Boyd, Marilyn O’Toole, Chantal Paiewonksy, Veena Rao, Pat Smith, and Juan Camilo Tamayo. These dedicated members produced the project content, which included writing and editing curriculum and scripts, as well as recording audio and video for 50+ modules for each section of Common App. Additionally, they called on experts in various fields to support their efforts, and created modules that provide financial aid guidance, essay suggestions, and admissions officers’ advice. The project creators chose the name The AXS Companion because of the double entendre: improving student access through the collaborative axis of higher education and IECA. The AXS Companion was introduced at the IECA 2022 Spring Conference in Philadelphia and is launching on September 1, 2022.

IECA is grateful to the members of the Oregon State University Ecampus who trained our colleagues to audio and visually record each section and then edited hours of their recordings, adding animation to make the directions and guidance clear. In addition, thank you to the engineers, graphic designers, animators, and project managers who have worked tirelessly to create this invaluable resource. 

Pictured above (left to right, clockwise): IECA members Jeffy Levy, Marilyn O’Toole, Pat Smith, Ibrahim Firat, Sylvia Jackman, Louise Franklin, and Jennie Kent.

Looking Beyond Today’s Industries and Jobs

By Pamela Kwartler, MA, IECA (NJ)

“There is a mismatch in talent pool and market demand, both currently and in the future. Though academic research often leads business, what’s taught in business courses is generally at least five to ten years behind the business sector.” Those words from economist and business leader Tess Mateo, managing director and founder of CXCatalysts, drive home an important point for IECs: what students learn in today’s business classes will not be enough. We must understand the world our students will graduate into to help them make choices that will propel them forward. Students and families who go on autopilot and reach for a career with a seemingly high ROI today may be surprised by the outcomes. The fact is that none of the fields we know will exist as they are today in the future.

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum introduced leaders of industry, governments, and civil society to the “fourth industrial revolution,” (see www.weforum.org/centre-for-the-fourth-industrial-revolution for more information), a term that CEOs, policymakers, and industry now use to describe how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 3D printing, and the Internet of things, are converging with humans’ biological and physical lives. New technologies will increasingly do more, to the extent that traditionally economically rewarding positions, such as financial analysts, accountants, finance and medical professionals, and even lawyers will become “redundant, and therefore replaceable.” Many Wall Street traders have had to reinvent themselves because their jobs have also been eliminated by technology. Business is evolving more quickly than ever before: large corporations are being broken up as business units are broken into yet smaller companies. Even 50% of the world’s medical services are delivered electronically.

How do IECs help students prepare for new markets and future economic success when the rules have changed? We often observe that it is students—who they are and what they bring to the world—that matter more than where they earn their degrees. An elite education alone will not necessarily provide the answer.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is a Brown-educated, former corporate lawyer, dot-com executive, and CEO of a GMAT test prep company: a symbol of the meritocracy. Today, he doesn’t believe it should be the job of our institutions “to train 80% of our graduates to do one of six things—financial services, management consulting, technology, law, medicine, or academia in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, or Los Angeles.” Yang blames the meritocracy for blissfully ignoring the country’s economic crisis and failing to fix problems caused by manufacturing job losses in middle America. The problems that need solving are even bigger than that. Fortunately, so are the opportunities.

Although there is great focus on STEM these days, all majors will matter, and students can study at a wide range of colleges. In 2015, world leaders agreed on the world’s biggest problems, which are collectively referred to the Global Goals or the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (More information is available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300.) For example, consider that tackling the individual problems caused by climate change will create new jobs worldwide. Along with solutions developed by engineers and scientists, environmental studies majors can explore how indigenous people have farmed sustainably for centuries. The skill of diplomacy will be essential to work cross-culturally and make progress within the worldwide community. As the water table rises and the carbon footprint expands, innovation in agriculture will continue to be a priority. These 21st-century businesses, unlike those that have benefited a small sliver of the first world since the 1980s, will improve the quality of life for all. Deep, nuanced thinkers will need to parse and define the ethics of evolving business models and, hopefully, enforce ethical regulations.

What Can IECs Do?

• Learn more about the fourth industrial revolution so that you help your students explore industries with increasing opportunities. Start by reading more at www.cnbc.com/2019/01/16/fourth-industrial-revolution-explained-davos-2019.html.

• Get smart about SDGs—consider using the global goals as a roadmap, then ask your students which topics they are interested in helping solve. These are big problems that will be around for a lifetime. Discover what passions and skills might be useful—there is a demand for many skill sets. (See page two of the following link to see all the goals and share them with your students: www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/brochure/SDGs_Booklet_Web_En.pdf.)

• Ask students what they can do during high school to develop their interests. Can they travel to explore global problems or spearhead local programs that focus on any of the SDGs?

• Research which colleges are positioning themselves to participate in solutions. For example, developing sustainable food systems is a major global problem (SDG #12), and many college agriculture programs are well-positioned to innovate, including Cornell, Ohio State, Purdue, UMass Amherst, PSU, University of Delaware, the University of Arizona, and the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, offer options for many academic levels. Some other examples include Goal #16 Peace and Justice (diplomacy, political science, international relations), Goal #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (urban planning, construction, real estate), or Goal #7 Affordable and Clean Energy (environmental or civil engineering).

We can guide our students toward fulfilling college experiences that incorporate research, productive study abroad programs, and internships that will lead to employment in fields that truly allow them to impact their world—and ours.

Pamela Kwartler, College Process Counseling, can be reached at [email protected]

Executive Functions for College Students: Don’t Leave Home Without Them

By Patti Schabinger, MEd, IECA (IL)

While attending my youngest son’s freshmen summer welcome session, I sat with other eagerly attentive parents and students as the dean asked what we considered the most important skill necessary for success in college. Some listeners may have thought academic preparation would trump the list; however, when the speaker announced time management, heads subsequently nodded in silent agreement.