As the consultant for college and career development at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, Signal Mountain resident Dr. Margaret M. Smith spends her days helping prepare students for success. But right now she is celebrating a personal success, that of receiving the 2011 Counselors that Change Lives Award presented by Colleges that Change Lives Inc.
"I was shocked to win the award," said Smith. "Ned Frazer [associate director of admission] from Centre College nominated me. I was extremely flattered. He nominated me based on my professional qualifications. It was a wonderful compliment."
Smith is in the process of planning tours of 32 colleges for 110 junior students at CSAS. She will help students familiarize themselves with the variety of schools available, their libraries, facilities and dorm rooms. Students will tour colleges in Georgia, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.
"It's wonderful to help students think 'wow, where can I go to school,'" said Smith. "[CSAS has] been preparing students for college since 1991. That's why CSAS has the highest college rate in Hamilton County schools. We have 95 to 98 percent college-bound seniors. We processed more than 400 applications to colleges last year for CSAS students. More than 100 schools were considered by our students."
She said CSAS is a school of choice open to all students that focuses on college readiness and encourages students to set goals.
"I encourage students to think outside the box on goals and dreams," said Smith.
She said students gravitate toward colleges with bumper stickers driving down the road. However, she said there is a book titled "Colleges that Change Lives" that lists 40 schools that students should think about as well. She said the schools contained have unique qualities such as higher retention rates, smaller learning communities and joint research projects for students and professors.
Smith said CSAS graduate Anna Cable graduated from one of the 'colleges that change lives:' Centre College. Through her college experience she received a Fulbright research grant to Japan to support her study of American military spouses.
Smith said she spends her days Monday-Friday at CSAS creating resumes, writing letters of recommendation, talking to college recruiters, students and parents. She also coordinates administering pre-ACT and pre-SAT tests.
"We really want to see students be able to go to affordable institutions with the largest amount of scholarships available," she said. "We do financial aid and spring in to your senior year workshops."
Smith said one student approached her recently concerned because he could not afford college. She sat down with him to look over various financial aid resources. She told him, "You are not doing this alone. We are partners in this process."
• Colleges that Change Lives Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. To learn more about Colleges that Change Lives awards, visit here.