‘Matriculate at Northwestern’ aims to advise lower-income students applying to college


Photo courtesy of Isaiah DeLeon

Newly recruited Matriculate at Northwestern advising fellows were trained in-person this quarter. The national non-profit Matriculate opened its in-person Northwestern fellowship Fall Quarter.

Beatrice Villaflor, Reporter

College applications can be difficult for high schoolers navigating recommendation letters, personal essays and the overall process. The new student organization ‘Matriculate at Northwestern’ aims to ease the process for low-income high schoolers by offering services such as essay editing and college application advice. 

National non-profit Matriculate launched an in-person fellowship program at NU this year and just finished its first cycle of recruitment Fall Quarter. Though students at NU were still advising for Matriculate before this academic year, the group was not a registered organization.

Weinberg sophomore Isaiah DeLeon, Matriculate at Northwestern’s head advising fellow, said high-achieving low-income students can be deterred from applying to elite institutions because they are unaware of resources available to them.

“We’re trying to become another resource and other community that people can come and seek out,” DeLeon said. 

He said he appreciated the support he received as a high school fellow, which motivated him to become an advisor. To this day, DeLeon still discusses higher education and career opportunities with his mentor, he said.

Today, DeLeon is preparing to send one of their own high school fellows to Stanford University, an achievement they said they were proud of. 

“One of the things that I appreciate now that I’m an advising fellow is being able to have some sort of impact and be able to just watch these high school students’ journeys unfold,” DeLeon said.

Weinberg senior Valeria Lira-Ruelas said connecting with and learning from her high school fellows has been rewarding because, irrespective of her fellows’ diverse backgrounds, she can still support them fully. 

Although Lira-Ruelas is a history major, her first high school fellow was interested in pursuing physics. Despite their academic differences, Lira-Ruelas said she and her mentee bonded over their experiences with the application process.

“We all have a lot of the same questions and a lot of the same anxieties (about college),” she said. 

Lira-Ruelas became a virtual advising fellow her sophomore year after seeing a Matriculate post on Instagram. She said doing everything online felt isolating because of the lack of a concrete community — making the new in-person organization more exciting.

As a first-generation college student, Lira-Ruelas said having access to Matriculate during her high school years would have improved the college application process.

“Once I was already at Northwestern, I realized just how much I did not know about the college application process,” Lira-Ruelas said. “It could’ve been so much less stressful and so much easier had I had any support.”

Weinberg freshman Michael Brouse serves as an advising fellow after receiving advising as a high school student. He said people overlook how much gatekeeping there is within higher education.

Brouse said his advising fellow simplified the complicated application process for him. The student would help him formulate a college list with information about financial aid options and navigate QuestBridge, a national program connecting low-income youth with leading universities.

“As I’m going forward to advise my first high school fellows, I really want to emphasize the importance of persistence,” Brouse said. “Not just in college applications, but really throughout our lives.”

Brouse added that college applications can be convoluted, and said he hopes to ease the transition for his future fellows.

While Matriculate has virtual fellowships to connect fellows across the country, DeLeon aims to foster a greater sense of community by establishing connection with advisors through in-person settings.

“I’m really passionate about this work because I understand its impact.” DeLeon said. “It’s very nice to have that community — especially at Northwestern — and that’s what we’re trying to do by opening a new fellowship here.”

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