by Annie Dubois
As high schools face restrictions on in-person learning, college admissions offices must rise to the challenge of recruiting students in unconventional ways. For MSU’s Office of Admissions, a grant from the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) provided a unique opportunity to reach Native American high school students with pertinent educational information.

The Office of Admissions’ College Readiness Kits supply Native American students with a college resource guide, State of Michigan Resources, a Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, FAQs & Application Form, and other complimentary items. During a time where college admissions officers cannot visit high schools in-person, these kits ensure that the conversation about pursuing higher education isn’t lost.

“During the pandemic, which shut down access to high school students as we knew it, this grant has allowed us to provide important information, as well as help these students pave their road to a future that includes a college education,” said Tania Kurzawa, Manager of Recruitment for the Office of Admissions. Kurzawa created the welcome kits with Lauren Kennedy, an admissions counselor in the Office of Admissions.

Throughout the month of January, 250 College Readiness Kits were distributed across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for prospective Native American high school students in grades 10, 11, and 12. Kits were allocated to Baraga High School, Bark River-Harris High School, L’Anse High School, Nah Tah Wahsh Academy, Ojibwe Academy, Sault Area High School, and Watersmeet High School. 

The Office of Admissions has already received positive feedback from a school counselor at Watersmeet High School, who noted that MSU’s effort to connect with Native American students stood out because it is something that has not been attempted by other universities. A college advisor from Sault Area High School also mentioned that after receiving the College Readiness Kit and learning more about the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, one student began to reconsider the feasibility of pursuing higher education.

“It means so much to us to have been able to use this grant money to reach students directly, in a fun, creative way,” said Kurzawa. “Not only does it allow them to feel connected to a college, it provides them with hope, the possibility of accessible funding, as well as actual names of college professionals that are available to assist them as they navigate the college search process.”

MCAN provides funding to organizations that further their mission to increase college readiness, participation, and completion in Michigan, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college-going students, and students of color.

The Office of Admissions’ College Readiness Kits not only support this mission, but actively help to achieve MCAN’s goal of increasing the percentage of Michigan residents with degrees or postsecondary degrees to 60% by 2030. Going forward, the Office of Admissions will continue to pursue funding opportunities to assist Native American high school students in learning more about college access and college preparedness.

“There are so many more students we would like to reach, and we feel these College Readiness Kits are a great way to do so,” said Kennedy. “The pandemic has affected everyone in so many ways but the loss of in-person communication seems to be one of the hardest aspects to overcome. The gesture of a physical gift feels incredibly timely and moving forward would also be a wonderful gesture that honors our land-grant roots.”