How I Found My Dream College




I was introduced to the concept of college through watching A Different World. Since my family and I regularly watched the Cosby Show we also tuned in for Denise’s transition to college. Denise Huxtable left home and lived on campus at Hillman College, a Historically Black College. As a legacy student (both her parents and grandparents graduated from Hillman), Denise learned about Hillman’s expectations from her parents.

As a first-generation college student, I viewed A Different World as the model college experience. The show highlighted various aspects of campus life including residence life, majors outside of being a doctor, lawyer or teacher, and Black Greek Letter Organizations. I gleaned that college was fun, yet challenging. At this juncture in my life, I knew that higher education was in my future. As I grew older, I found that my parents were adamant about me attending a high school that offered a college preparatory curriculum. We also applied to participate in co-curricular programs that would enhance my chances of attending a good school.

During my junior year of high school, I began receiving applications from colleges throughout the nation. Since schools were sending me information, I was confident that I was a shoe-in for their college, right? Therefore, I decided that the school that sent me the most information was my Dream College. I set my sights on moving to Missouri to live my own version of A Different World. 

Although I had found my dream college, I still went on college tours, participated in college fairs, and applied to 10 colleges. Throughout my senior year, I learned that I gained acceptance along with either partial or full financial support to 9 of the 10 institutions. I was surprised when I received notification that I DID NOT GET INTO MY DREAM COLLEGE! Not a conditional admit or an interview, they just said, “NO”.

After this major disappointment, I began to carefully consider the other 9 schools. I had not visited many of these schools, so I depended on their brochures for information. After sharing the news with my mother about my dream deferred, we went on a few campus visits. While meeting with a financial aid officer at a college in the southeast, my mother explained that any loans I incurred would be my responsibility to repay. This is the first time during this application process that I had closely considered the cost of attendance and how I could realistically pay for school. As a result of our tours and conversations, I decided to enroll in a small liberal arts institution in my hometown.

My dream school had been right under my nose, and I didn’t know it! This school offered a superb scholarship package including free room and board, and a desktop computer. My classes were challenging and required me to think critically. Moreover, I was a member of a collaborative learning community. Through living on campus I secured a campus job and had time attend faculty office hours. I participated in on-campus activities and developed lifelong relationships with peers.

I am thankful that I did not get accepted into my so-called dream college, and that my real dream college was literally right around the corner from me. Although I did not know what I wanted then, I learned that completing school debt-free was important to me. My institution had a wealth of resources that I could access to be successful in my courses. Also, all of my courses had no more than 25 students. Small class size was important because I like to ask a lot of questions. I had a rewarding experience at my alma mater and remain in contact with professors and other college personnel who were instrumental in my development.

I had a wayward college application process. Albeit weird, I selected a dream college based on which school sent me the most mail. I applied to colleges with no real direction and failed to consider what would fit my personality, skills, interests or learning style. Now that I work with high school students, I encourage them to think beyond school popularity.

For students who are going through the college admissions process, I urge them to think about what they value, and apply to schools based on their needs and interests. Students should spend time on campuses shadowing classes, eating with students, and attending events. I find that when students simulate college life, they begin to learn what they want from their college experience. Conducting this research will help students select a school where they believe they will thrive.

Good luck finding your dream college!

~Dr. Owens

Guaranteed Admission to Medical School


What will your major be in college? This is a common question that many students are asked during the college application process. Some students are unsure about their career path and go to college to gain different experiences that will lead them to a major. On the other hand, there are those students who have had internships in their prospective career and are certain about their professional goals.

For high school students who want to train toward becoming a medical doctor, there are combined BA/MD programs that guarantee students admission to medical school after undergraduate studies. Some of the perks of these programs include not having to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and skipping the lengthy medical school application process. Below are a few medical schools that offer combined BA/MD program.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of New Mexico

University of Pittsburgh

The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Georgetown College

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine

University of Louisville

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

University of Colorado Denver

Feel free to contact me if you have questions!

~Dr. O

Beware of Financial Aid Scams


A few years ago a close family member contacted me for assistance with completing his Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We discussed the differences between loans and gift aid (e.g. grants). In the coming weeks, we exchanged text messages and he asked me, “Are you sure FAFSA is free? I have completed my form and in order to be eligible for financial aid it reads that I have to submit my credit card information.”

I immediately called him and asked what website he was on. I informed him that the FAFSA has always been free and if there is a fee it’s a scam. Over the years, I have also come across websites seeking individual’s social security number and payment information to apply for scholarships. The FAFSA is free, hence the first word, “FREE” Application for Federal Student Aid, and organizations that award legitimate scholarships will not ask you to pay to apply.

Please read scholarship applications closely to avoid scams. Also, the only place online to submit your FAFSA is through: .

Remember to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Happy New Year!

~Dr. O




Affordable Admission App for HBCUs


Many students begin paying for college before they step on campus. College application fees can be as expensive as $85.00. However, there are many ways to decrease some of these fees.  The Common Black College Application allows students to apply to more than 45 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) at the same time for only $35. Yes, one fee for several applications.

Check out the Common Black College Application  and apply today!

~Dr. O

So, You’re Ready for Graduate School?


You are about to graduate or have graduated with your baccalaureate degree and made the decision to pursue a graduate or professional degree.

You have decided to continue your education because you love learning, want to increase your earning potential throughout your career, or you may feel that you are required to go to graduate school to have a decent job in your field. Whatever the case may be, you want to earn an advanced degree. Therefore, you must participate in another application process.

So, where do you start?

As a current or previous college student, you should have gained more experiences and knowledge to make an informed decision when selecting a school. You have an understanding of how you learn, your strengths and weaknesses, and may have some work or volunteer experience under your belt. When applying for your undergraduate degree, you may have selected your prospective schools based on your favorite sports team, a family member’s alma mater, and/or where you secured a great financial aid package. In contrast to an undergraduate application, graduate school applications require specific information. For example, some graduate applications require interviews, letters of recommendations from faculty, and resumes.

Below are some actions I recommend prospective graduate students complete while conducting their graduate school search.

Contact the Graduate School and Academic Department BEFORE Application submission 

Institutions and academic programs provide a wealth of information on their websites, however, there is uncertainty as to how often it is updated. Contact graduate schools to learn about the graduate admissions process. Also, it is helpful to speak with faculty about the nuances of their program and ask pointed questions. For example:

  •  How many students are admitted to the program each year?
  • How long does it take for most students to earn their degree? 
  • Is it allowable for students to work full-time in this program?

Explore Internal and External Funding Opportunities 

Program faculty are responsible for nominating recently admitted students for scholarship and fellowship opportunities. Contact the department chair to inquire about how they submit student’s names for nominations. Also, faculty members can refer students to funding opportunities that are available through national associations, graduate assistantships, and discipline specific scholarships.

Schedule a Campus Visit 

Visit prospective campuses to meet with faculty, administration, and students. During campus visits, you can get a close look at the campus and meet face-to-face with individuals who will be evaluating your graduate school application. Also, you can explore the city and surrounding areas. Consider the following questions:

  • Where will you live?
  • Is there public transportation or will you need a vehicle?
  • What is the condition of the library and research facilities on campus? 

I hope this information is helpful and assists you with your application process.

~Dr. O





Election Day : Tuesday, Nov. 8th


I have conversed with many students who are now eligible to vote in an election. Individuals have expressed a range of feelings about the election including that they will not vote, being undecided who they will support, to their eagerness to participate in voting. For example, two weeks ago, one of my students shared her experience completing her absentee ballot for the upcoming 2016 election. I asked her how it felt to vote, and she shared, “I am happy that I get to vote for the next president.” During our conversation, she focused on the presidential election, but did not mention what is going on in her state or community. I understand the significance of selecting the new commander and chief of the United States of America, but I also think it is important to pay close attention to individuals who are campaigning for local and state positions.

I have asked myself a few questions, including, how will the decision I make at the polls impact the future of K-12 and higher education. As an educator, I understand how political decisions impact educational policies and resources. For example, the Pell Grant,which is legislated by Congress, provides funding for students who meet certain criteria. The maximum award from the Pell Grant has fluctuated over the years due to budget changes.

There are many factors to consider in this upcoming election in addition to the presidential nominees. Votes will also have to consider local and state propositions and/or referenda.  Some state websites have sample ballots for view prior to heading to the polls. I encourage everyone to vote and make informed decisions.




~Dr. O


Avoiding (Un)Expected Expenses


Most institutions provide tuition rates on their website and information packets. However, many individuals who have received a bill for their first semester of college notice there is an itemized list of charges added to tuition. Some institutions have fees associated with different types of classes. For example, it is not uncommon for students enrolled in science courses to have lab fees. Students who are enrolled in courses held in classrooms with hi-tech equipment  may have a technology fee. Colleges also charge students to use campus recreational facilities. Therefore, it is important to inquire about required and optional charges in addition to tuition. Below are some sample questions you can ask in an effort to reduce college fees.

  • Do I have to purchase a meal plan?
  • Am I required to pay for a phone and/or cable in my dorm room?
  • Is there free campus transportation available to local stores and restaurants?
  • Are there fee associated with online courses?
  • What are the fees associated with the college health care center?

Feel free to think of more questions and include them in the comment section.

~Dr. Owens