IDEA-U is dedicated to taking the uncertainty out of attending college. One of the ways the organization achieves this occurs right at the beginning of the college experience: the application process.
“The IDEA-U application process is as easy as 1-2-3,” said Monica Revuelta, college completion advisor at IDEA-U Brownsville.
The simple process is designed to streamline potential students’ efforts in going back to college. Step one is the online application. Step two includes the enrollment process, which entails an in-person interview and financial aid application. Step three is orientation.
“The biggest difference is that our students don’t really have to jump through hoops to get into college,” said Krystal Garza, college completion advisor at IDEA-U Weslaco. “You actually apply online — one place — and we are completely supportive along the way. We guide you through the entire admissions process.”
That process includes an online application that typically takes no more than 20 minutes to complete. The application calls for a minimum 250-word essay on a potential student’s education and career goals.
“This is just for us to get an opportunity to hear from the student why they want to come back to school, what their college experiences were like, and how we can assist them through the program,” Revuelta said.
The only other requirement is a high school diploma or its GED equivalent. Applicants don’t have to submit tests like the ACT or SAT — and they don’t have to include their high school grade point average.
“At IDEA-U we don’t look at your GPA — you’re more than just a GPA to us,” Garza said. “If you’re ready to re-engage and recommit yourself to college, we’re ready and willing to take on the journey with you.”
“We want to be able to pick them up wherever they left off and build them up from there,” she said. “We serve a unique demographic of students. Some of them are comprised of first-generation college students and some of them are adult learners. Knowing that, we provide the resources that they may need to feel supported through the admission process.”
That includes dedicated workspaces in Weslaco and Brownsville with comfortable seating, computers, printers, and other resources. Both advisors and student success specialists — IDEA-U interns — are on hand to offer in-person help.
“I know when I was trying to go back to school, it got really busy. I didn’t know all the things that I had to do,” Garza said. “At IDEA-U, we provide a guided support system to help them along the process.”
That support system extends through the admission process and beyond.
IDEA-U tuition costs $5,500 per year, and most students complete an associate degree in eight to 14 months, the IDEA-U website states. All students applying at IDEA-U receive assistance with filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Of those, 87 percent receive the full federal Pell Grant — $6,195 — to cover college costs. IDEA-U’s partnership with Southern New Hampshire University allows for monthly tuition payment plans.
“Not a lot of universities do that,” Garza said.
IDEA-U also offers academic onboarding — five weeks for students to adjust to the online learning model bolstered by weekly meetings with an advisor and 12 hours per week onsite in either Weslaco or Brownsville’s IDEA-U workspaces.
“The biggest feedback that we get from our potential students is they are, one, very grateful,” Garza said. “They’re super excited and they’re also telling us, ‘I didn’t know I could do this.’ A lot of students say they’ve never had this much support.”
Learn more about IDEA-U — and apply — at idea-u.org.