USC Bovard Program

By: Nicholle Wyatt, Counseling Department

For most of us, summer is a time to hit the beach, spend time with family, and build up your tan. For Mrs. Wyatt, there was no need to invest in sunscreen, as she spent most of her summer vacation in the classroom.

This is Mrs. Wyatt’s second summer working for USC’s Bovard Scholars, a 3-week residential program that helps match high-achieving, low income students gain admission to the nation’s top colleges: “My job is to not only help these students find those ‘best fit’ institutions, but also walk them step-by-step through the daunting college process.”

Summer 2017 was the pilot year of the Bovard Program. Mrs. Wyatt worked with a cohort of 10 students, helping them successfully navigate every step of the college application process. Of her 10 students, 4 are attending USC this fall, and the others are going to Stanford, Princeton, U Pennsylvania, UC Riverside, Baylor, and U of Georgia – for free. Furthermore, two of her students won the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship and 2 others were named Questbridge Scholars (full tuition/room & board scholarships): “I ran into one of my students at the USC Cafeteria this summer, and he gave me a big hug, saying I changed his life. It was a powerful moment, realizing I played a small role in helping him land his dream school.”

The USC Bovard Program drew national attention and word spread fast: “The New York Times, CNN, and several LA-based television stations featured us in their programming. I remember having a camera and boom microphone follow me around the classroom one day, which was a little unnerving.” That media attention resulted in a dramatic rise in applications this summer: “We had a record number of applicants – over 900. After one year, our applicant pool grew four times in size. It was crazy.” This past spring,

Mrs. Wyatt helped the Bovard Directors narrow down the impressive applicant pool to 100 students, combing through their applications, essays, resumes, and letters of recommendation: “Their stories of accomplishment and hardship were astounding and heart-breaking at the same time. I was so eager to meet them in person, and help them craft a college application that thoughtfully tells their story.” This summer, Mrs. Wyatt worked with another impressive cohort group: “I have students from Hawaii, Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey, and California. I think I have all the US time zones represented, except Mountain Time.” After their 3-week experience at USC, the students continue working with Mrs. Wyatt throughout their senior year: “We got to know one another very well, as we were around each other 10-12 hours a day. And when the residential program component wrapped up in August, I made sure they knew they were still using me as a resource and confidant throughout senior year. Our relationship doesn’t stop once they leave campus.” Mrs. Wyatt conducts weekly check-ins with her students, holding Skype and conference calls on the weekends: “It’s a long process, and I am part cheerleader, part nagging counselor to them. But I can’t wait to see what colleges this group gets into and where they end up enrolling.”

In October, Mrs. Wyatt will be representing the Bovard Scholars Program at NACAC’s Equity and Access College Fair in Salt Lake City, looking to get the word out to high school counselors and community-based organizations about the program: “Bovard is the only CBO headquartered on a college campus and employs a 4-pillar approach in its mission: college applications, career, test prep and leadership development. That’s what makes our program unique and special. And that’s what keeps me going back. I am happy to sacrifice four weeks of my summer to make a positive impact on students’ lives.”