Rockville High School

Interview for College, Be Accepted to College

Morgan State University admissions officer Lee Ann Lewis, left, interviews high school senior Saba Gongbay.
Morgan State University admissions officer Lee Ann Lewis, left, interviews high school senior Saba Gongbay. (By Nancy Carlson)
By Julie Rasicot
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rockville High School senior Saba Gongbay was ready for her college admission interview with Morgan State University -- she had copies of her high school transcript, SAT scores and even a letter of recommendation.

When it was her turn, she sat down opposite college admissions officer Lee Ann Lewis. After a few questions about Gongbay's interest in the university and a quick glance at her records, Lewis gave the 18-year-old the good news.

"Welcome to Morgan," Lewis said after handing Gongbay a letter of acceptance.

As she walked out of the guidance center at Springbrook High School, Gongbay had a lightness in her step. "I'm happy, relieved," she said. "At least I'm going to college."

Gongbay was one of dozens of Montgomery County students who attended the Baltimore university's on-the-spot admission and scholarship award program last Thursday at the Silver Spring school. Open to all students, the event was one of six on-the-spot admission sessions with historically black colleges sponsored by the school's counseling services.

Schools that have participated in previous sessions include Morehouse College in Atlanta, Coppin State University in Baltimore and the University of Maryland on the Eastern Shore.

Bowie State University was to have conducted a session yesterday at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, and a session with Dillard University in New Orleans will be 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. March 31 at Wheaton High School.

The counseling services office offered its first on-the-spot admissions session with Morehouse three years ago, according to high school guidance specialist Nancy Carlson. That event went so well that more schools were added, she said.

"For students, you can walk in and come out with an admission and money," she said.

Timothy Rainey, Morgan State's assistant vice president for academic affairs, said the sessions provide opportunities to let students know that college is accessible and that Morgan State is a viable option. University officials also have the opportunity to speak with parents.

"A lot of kids at Morgan are first generation," Rainey said. "They don't have the opportunity to go home and say, 'Mom and Dad, what credits should I take?' They don't have that option."

Students looking for admission need a grade-point average of at least 2.0 and a combined score of 850 on the SAT test. To be considered for a scholarship, students need a GPA of 3.0 and a combined SAT score of 1000.

At the sessions, Morgan State waives its $35 application fee, which helps students who might not apply to some schools because they cannot afford such fees, Rainey said.

Springbrook senior Uchenna Ahaghotu was happy not to have to pay the application fee, considering he'd already paid to apply to universities including Columbia, Bucknell and Howard.

Ahaghotu, 18, who was accepted to Morehouse during its on-the-spot session, had come to Morgan State's session because he was fairly confident of being accepted. "I looked at the odds of me getting in and knew I had a very good chance to get in," he said.

Even so, he decided to give himself an extra edge by wearing a dark blue suit and a tie with orange and blue stripes, Morgan State's colors. "I did actually pick this tie on purpose," he said.

For Ahaghotu, who was quickly accepted, on-the-spot acceptance is "great" because he has "a lot of anxiety" as he waits for the April notification from other schools.

Not all students who attended the session were accepted. Some were offered spots in the university's summer program, designed to improve students' academic skills so they can succeed in college. Others, like Seneca Valley High School senior Deniece Anaman, still need to take the SAT before they can be considered.

Since Anaman did not have the required information, Fred Banks, associate director of admissions, talked to the 17-year-old about Morgan State and its 7,000 students. "It's not a big school, not a small school. We're right in the middle," he said. Banks invited Anaman to visit Morgan and sit in on some classes. "Give me a call," he said.

During a break between interviews, Banks said that students who attend the sessions range from those who come on their own with little information to those who are accompanied by their parents and are well informed.

"Even the ones who don't get an automatic decision, we just want to encourage them," Banks said.

He acknowledged that it's difficult to take the measure of a student in just a few minutes. But Banks noted that what he's really looking for, in addition to grades and test scores, is a student's attendance record.

"The most important thing we found is attendance. If a student has a habit of going to class, our professors are savvy enough to get them through," he said. "I don't think you're going to learn much from a five-minute interview that you aren't going to see from an attendance record."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company