Unidos Now students visit New College

By Liz Lebron

New College admissions staff hosted Unidos Now students and their families at College Hall.
New College admissions staff hosted Unidos Now students and their families at College Hall.

New College hosted applicants to Unidos Now’s Future Leaders Academy, a selective college preparedness program, March 2. Admissions staff greeted the bilingual students and their parents at College Hall, where President Donal O’Shea and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Feldman welcomed the group to campus.

Parents met with New College professors Sonia Labrador-Rodríguez, Sarah Hernandez, Ilaria Giglioli, and Hugo Viera-Vargas. The faculty members spoke with parents about the benefits of small class sizes during the Spanish-language session.

“Students are not a number or a last name,” said Labrador-Rodríguez, who is a professor of Spanish language and literature at New College. “At the end of their first year, the students will know their professors, and their professors will know them.”

New College faculty also serve as academic advisors, and Labrador-Rodríguez spoke to the benefits of getting to know her students outside of the classroom.

“At other universities,” she continued, “you will find there are counselors who do not teach. I have the great fortune of seeing some students from their first week here until the day they graduate. That makes a tremendous difference because I know the courses they’re taking, I know the difficulties they’re having, and I can direct them to the college resources that can help them.”

Emily Gruber, an admissions coordinator at New College, led students in an admissions simulation exercise to familiarize them with the selection process. Students split up into groups and reviewed three fictitious college applications. Each group could only admit one of the applicants, and had to decide which of the others to place on a waiting list and which to reject.

“It was difficult to look at every aspect of the applications,” said one student, “because there are so many little things to take into consideration.” Another student commented on the importance of the essay because it “shows your character.”

Gruber encouraged students to apply to their dream school, even if their application is weak in one area. Admissions staff, she emphasized, use a variety of metrics when deciding whether to admit a student or not, and strength in one area may compensate for weakness in another.

“We do a holistic application review at New College,” shared Gruber. “That means we look at your test scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and essay. We actually look at your essay three or four times.”

Students asked Gruber questions about academics at New College after the exercise, and several inquired about the performance evaluations. Gruber explained that New College goes beyond grades through an evaluation system that yields detailed performance feedback designed to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, and help them improve in the next course. She also discussed the college’s contract system, which encourages discovery by not penalizing students for enrolling in courses outside of their area of concentration.

Hector Tejada, director of education initiatives at Unidos Now, reassured students of New College’s academic rigor.

New College President Donal O’Shea speaks with a student from Unidos Now.
New College President Donal O’Shea speaks with a student from Unidos Now.

“For those of you who want to go on to graduate school,” he said, “New College is known for preparing you for graduate school. … It is among the most selective schools in the state.”

Students reunited with their parents for a campus tour led by second-year, biochemistry and Chinese student, Rosemary, before returning to College Hall for lunch. Admissions staff quizzed students on New College trivia and encouraged them to add the college to their list.

Associate Director of Education Initiatives Juan Arcila closed the program by thanking all who worked to coordinate the event and letting students know Unidos Now will make its final selections for the future leaders program in the coming weeks.

— Liz Lebron is associate director of communications and marketing at New College of Florida.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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