On-campus Program Helps Students Navigate College Search Process

a girl smiles while other students around write in notebooks Image by Ed Brennen
On the final day of the College Exploration Seminar, students gather at Lydon Library on North Campus to work on self-assessment exercises with seminar leader Anne Apigian.

By Ed Brennen

Despite some persistent encouragement from his family, Anthony Marifiote wasn’t ready to start thinking about college.

“My mom’s been on my case about college since last year, but I’ve been putting it off. I wasn’t trying to put that stress on myself,” says Marifiote, a rising senior at Lexington High School who, like students everywhere, was already dealing with the educational and social disruptions of the pandemic.

After attending a new College Exploration Seminar this summer at UMass Lowell, however, Marifiote says he has a better understanding of the whole higher education thing — which is already making him feel less stressed.

“I really didn’t know that much about college in general, so this definitely helps. It was a lot more useful than I thought it would be,” says Marifiote, one of 16 rising juniors and seniors from area high schools who attended the four-day seminar, part of UML Launch! Summer Programs.

Led by Anne Apigian, coordinator of college-based advising for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the seminar was designed to help students think about their own strengths and interests — while also giving them a clearer picture of the college application process.

A woman in an orange shirt stands with hands on hips while talking to young women at a library table Image by Ed Brennen
Seminar leader Anne Apigian chats with high school students at Lydon Library.

“We want to demystify the college experience,” says Apigian, who kicked off the week with a primer in higher education lingo such as “matriculation” and “registrar.”

“It’s a unique language that we take for granted,” she says. “But students are like, ‘What?’”

Staff members from Undergraduate Admissions, Residence Life and Financial Aid spoke with the group and answered questions, as did four current UML students who work as Orientation Leaders.

The seminar, which ran for about three hours each afternoon, also gave students an inside look at a college campus, with visits to Coburn Hall, O’Leary and Lydon libraries, the Campus Recreation Center and dorm rooms at University Suites.

A student in glasses is hunched over a desk while he writes Image by Ed Brennen
Anthony Marifiote of Lexington High School writes in his workbook during the College Exploration Seminar at Lydon Library.

Hannah Kocsmiersky, a rising senior from Tewksbury High School, says seeing the UML campus gives her something to compare with other colleges she plans to visit in the coming weeks.

“You can do a lot of imagining and speculating, but you really don’t know until you check out a place what it might actually be like to live there,” says Kocsmiersky, who is considering studying digital media at UML.

Bryan Cerabone, a rising senior at Arlington High School, is interested in studying engineering at UML and thought the seminar would be a good way to explore the university.

“I like how this is a bigger campus,” says Cerabone, who “learned a lot” from the seminar. “It helped me look at colleges differently, seeing which ones are better suited for me in terms of programs, clubs and sports.”

A student in a baseball hat reads from his workbook while three other male students and a woman look on Image by Ed Brennen
A seminar participant reads from his workbook at Lydon Library.

If a student who completed the $225 seminar attends UMass Lowell, they earn one credit that allows them to waive their first-year seminar requirement.

Apigian is happy that participants came away with a favorable impression of UML. But the primary goal of the seminar, she says, is to help them make the best decision they can about college.

“Students are thinking about the whole process earlier than they used to, and we have to help them do that,” says Apigian, who would like to see the seminar expand to a residential program, with students staying in dorms. “We have to empower them by telling them early on what it’s all about, what they can do to stand out, and how to be successful when they get there.”