Let’s Get Ready guides students toward success

By Andy Castillo


This semester marked the launch of the University of Massachusetts chapter of Let’s Get Ready – a college success program geared toward low-income and first generation college students.

According to Saulo Depaula, one of the two site directors on campus, the national graduation rate for low-income and first generation college students sits around 8 to 11 percent. Depaula said the graduation rate is at around 50 percent through Let’s Get Ready.

“(It’s) much better,” Depaula said, “but can most certainly keep growing.”

The program originally started with high school juniors, offering assistance with SAT prep and college applications. However, it has recently graduated into the college realm, helping students with the transition into college life.

“We also see the need for support on campus, which is what the initiative at UMass is all about,” said Debbie Nguyen, New England college success director. So far, the strategy has been proven to work – about 92 percent of students who participate in the program during high school go on to college after one year.

“When students are the first person in their family to attend college, they are venturing into a completely unknown experience,” Nguyen said. “There is no one who they can turn to for assistance with applications and financial aid paperwork.”

The college application process and initial adjustment can be difficult and frustrating to tackle alone. Let’s Get Ready provides much-needed mentorship and assistance for high school students and young college students, through the experience of upper level and older student volunteers.

There are four volunteers at UMass – including site directors Depaula and Renan De Oliveira. There are about 20 students enrolled in the program.

“There is a good likelihood that the number will increase with time,” Depaula said.

The college program is split into a monthly large group meeting and smaller group meetings. At the bigger meeting, students and staff explore topics such as course enrollment, housing selection and career services. The smaller meetings are led by success coaches – college juniors or seniors, who serve as mentors.

“This is a good opportunity for students to learn more about what opportunities they have on campus, while getting to form a community with each other,” Depaula said.

Students can also volunteer in the college or high school program as freshmen or sophomores.

The first official event was last Wednesday, when students came for a study break of hot chocolate, Nguyen said.

“We encourage first-year and sophomore students of all backgrounds to join, if it’s a program that interests them,” Depaula said. “We began in January 2015 and hope to see the program grow in semesters to come.”

Interested students can visit letsgetready.org for more information.

Andy Castillo can be reached at [email protected]