While more than half of veterans are first-generation college students, undermatching – a phenomenon in higher education where qualified applicants are not accepted by competitive colleges – is common.
A discussion with Andrea Goldstein, CEO of Service to School
, about helping veterans gain admission to top-tier schools.
Lisnek: More than 60% of veterans are first-generation college students. Now, with college access being a hurdle for a lot of these aspiring scholars, there´s a phenomenon known as "undermatching," and it looks like it could keep competitive schools out of reach. Hi. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Paul Lisnek. Joining me to discuss efforts to get veterans ready to better transition for their next chapter of leadership is Andrea Goldstein. She´s the chief executive officer for Service to School. Andrea, so good to see you.
Goldstein: Thanks for having me, Paul.
Lisnek: You know, where I want to start is to ask you up front. To me, I think military people have incredible skills and assets that sometimes they´re not even aware they have.
Goldstein: Absolutely. We often take for granted the incredible training we have because it´s our day-to-day. Someone who´s a linguist is going to train for 18 months to learn multiple foreign languages. We all have highly technical skills. And so when we leave, when we apply to school or enter the workforce, we often face challenges in how we articulate that.
Lisnek: So, you heard me use the phrase "undermatching" to come in to that. Viewers may not quite, you know, have a concept of exactly what that is, so what does it mean to say "undermatch"?
Goldstein: It means that a veteran or service member can get into a better school than they initially thought possible. So what we often see is that veterans think that highly selective schools are out of reach, and so veterans are under-represented at the top schools in the country. About 1% of the nation serves, and less than 1% of many of these student bodies are veterans, so we love to see that become much more in line with representation.
Lisnek: So tell me a bit about what you do to get these folks ready for what will, ultimately, I think, be acceptance at really fine schools.
Goldstein: So, we provide free application support and admissions counseling. It´s peer-to-peer based, so a service member or veteran who´s looking to take the next step on their educational journey is going to be paired with an ambassador -- that´s what we call our mentors -- who guides them through the entire application process, and what´s important about that is they´re not just going through a professionally designed program on test preparation, essay writing, interview prep. They´re getting that from a veteran who has been in their shoes and knows exactly what that person is going through.
Lisnek: Not everybody is set out, I mean, to go to the four-year institution. Some people want community college or whatever, and you´re there to assist people in whatever transition they´re gonna make.
Goldstein: Exactly. We love seeing veterans go to community college. It´s -- it´s relatively inexpensive. We often see that it´s a great first step because military transition is challenging, and we often see that if a service member goes to community college first, they end up getting into a better school than they could´ve even imagined previously.
Lisnek: I know you guys use a great acronym called "T.R.A.I.N.", which is sort of illustrative of what you were saying. It´s a notion of sort of paying it forward. So it´s vets helping vets.
Goldstein: Exactly. So, T.R.A.I.N. is our process. It´s our methodology -- test prep, résumé review, application writing, essay writing, interview prep, and networking. But that networking piece is the "pay it forward." You´re getting access to the veteran community, to a network, and our network is very important to us in the military. We´re a brotherhood, we´re a sisterhood, and so when we gain admission, we pay it forward by helping others who are following us.
Lisnek: I don´t want to ignore your own service to the country, and I thank you for that service, because you´re not a lifelong civilian who stepped into this. You yourself have a Navy career.
Goldstein: I do. So, I served on active duty for seven years, and then I used Service to School when I was applying to graduate school and was paired with a mentor who had a very similar experience to me. She helped me tell my story, and then I became an ambassador and eventually the C.E.O.
Lisnek: That´s pretty good. And I also want to ask you, the success -- because you take a look, I mean, you´ve got a 90% acceptance rate for undergraduate applicants -- incredible work -- and 100% of vets at Princeton. That´s amazing.
Goldstein: Yes, 100% of the vets at Princeton, 90% at Yale, so we have incredible success. We just ask veterans to aim high and believe in themselves.
Lisnek: And you´re there to help them do that.
Goldstein: And we are.
Lisnek: There´s probably a way you want folks who are watching us to help you and to assist you. How can they do that?
Goldstein: So, we are a nonprofit, so we would love if your viewers could go to our website, service2school.org and donate what they can to support our mission.
Lisnek: Do the vets pay anything for the services you´re providing?
Goldstein: Not a cent.
Lisnek: So obviously you need the support of the community to step in and help. This has to be very rewarding for you to watch vets rise in success.
Goldstein: It is. It´s incredible. We have incredible success stories. One of our earliest alumni who graduated from Yale is now a Gates Cambridge scholar earning his PhD in psychology. So we have dozens of stories like that, and it´s very rewarding.
Lisnek: Yeah, I wish I was one of those stories. Great work. Thank you so much.
Goldstein: Thank you.
Lisnek: Andrea Goldstein, the chief executive officer of Service to School. I appreciate it. Thank you for joining us, as well. If you want more great conversations with leaders in your community, across our country, just visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Paul Lisnek.