NYUʼs College Access Leadership Institute (CALI) is a free, weeklong summer intensive for rising juniors and seniors. The program is designed to help high school students make sense of the college admissions process. A group of admissions counselors, who facilitate activities and educational sessions on a range of topics, advise the students. They discuss everything from how to write the essay and prepare for standardized tests to how to find scholarships and so much more. And through one-on-one counseling, interactive workshops, and college fairs, students leave the program feeling confident applying to the college of their dreams.

CALI will be conducted exclusively online in Summer 2021. High school students currently in 10th or 11th grade who live in the United States are eligible to apply.

Once students graduate from NYU CALI, they are encouraged to become college access ambassadors. As college access ambassadors, students give back to their high school community by sharing their college admissions knowledge with their peers.

I recently had a chance to chat with Kachi, a current NYU student and NYU CALI alumna. We discussed her time in the program and how it shaped her journey to NYU. She shared all about her experience and has some sage advice for those just starting the college application process.

When did you participate in NYU CALI?

I participated in NYU CALI in the summer of 2019 before my senior year of high school.

How did you hear about the program?

I heard about CALI through one of my best friends, whose aunt cofounded the program.

NYU CALI students in a classroom.
NYU CALI students at a college fair.
What made you decide to apply?

I applied because I wanted to see the NYU campus. At the time, I was not sure if I was going to apply to NYU even though it was one of my top choices, if not the top, by the end of CALI. I wasnʼt sure I would get in.

How would you describe your experience at NYU CALI?

It was very eye-opening because I was able to see the NYU campus in depth. I was there for five days. So I learned the ins and outs of the college application process and what admission officers look for in an applicant. I left feeling confident about applying to colleges that I thought were not attainable for me before.

What were your biggest takeaways from the experience?

One of my biggest takeaways from the experience was that it’s important to visit the schools you really want to go to! Being able to be on the NYU campus for a period of time—in the dorms, in the buildings—made it easier to picture myself in that space for four years. That made me even more excited.

What impact did the program have on you? How did it influence your growth as a person?

This program had a big impact on me because I was able to take the tools I learned from the lectures and apply them during my college application process. For example, one of the lessons we had covered scholarships and how to get the most out of them. I took all the things I learned during that session and applied to as many scholarships as I could. And I ended up getting around $13,000 in outside aid. This made my fall semester basically free. And it goes to show that there is a lot of information out there that students are simply not aware of. If it were not for NYU CALI, I would not have known about certain scholarships or kept track of them on a spreadsheet.

What advice do you have for high school students who might be thinking about applying?

Do a program like NYU CALI! It really is beneficial for students who have no idea how applying to college works.

Also, it’s OK not to have everything figured out. And it is OK to change your mind. You are young and have time to explore whatever you feel is your passion. But at the same time, if you know what you want to do, I would say to be prepared to put in the work to get there. This is why I emphasize scholarships playing a role in my being able to attend my top choice school.

Overall, the college application process can be really stressful. So just remember to be kind to yourself. And always keep in mind, whether you get in or not, a university does not determine your self-worth or how much you know. 


Final Thoughts

Special thanks to Kachi for sharing her insight about NYU CALI and the college application process. If youʼre interested in applying, you can find the CALI application here. For more information about NYU’s other programs for middle and high school students, join us at a virtual information session.

Camille Wilson is the Associate Director of Strategic Student Communications in the Division of Enrollment Management at NYU. She’s spent the last decade in Higher Education working to nurture and inspire student leaders by supporting their holistic growth and development. When she’s not mentoring college students, she’s helping her readers toast to life’s memorable moments on her blog.