Instilling Confidence  

Rachel Hughes, a second-year adviser in the Missouri College Advising Corps, navigates a plethora of questions from first-generation students unsure about their collegiate future.

Rachel Hughes is second-year college adviser in the Missouri College Advising Corps, a program that recruits recent college graduates to serve throughout Missouri, empowering students to pursue and excel in higher education. 

Hughes serves primarily first-generation high school students in St. Louis and helps address college readiness, providing tailored support through one-on-one sessions. 

Read on for a Q&A with Hughes.  

What are some common questions you receive from students who are not sure college is in their future?  How do you navigate these questions?  

I receive many common questions: What are the best colleges to go to? Will I have to take out student loans?  How do I avoid student loans? How do I know if college is right for me? Where do I even start?  

I mainly work with first-generation students, who need help starting the process. I meet with students one-on-one and start by simply introducing myself, explaining my role and learning about them. I ask general questions about where they see themselves after high school and if they have a pathway mapped out, or we will simply just talk. Many students want to stay local so we will visit websites like St. Louis Community College’s and discover majors and different types of classes. If they want to attend a larger school like the University of Missouri, we discuss what steps they need to take to gain admission. Overall, I provide students with items to take home to share with their family members.   

How does your service within MCAC make a difference? 

My service within MCAC makes a huge difference in the community I serve because of the impact we make on first-generation students. Those students are unaware and may not have a college readiness support system at home. Without my support, a lot of students wouldn’t start their first application, let alone be able to file their FAFSA. My job is to make sure that students know that college is an option for them. Even if they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. We will take it one step at a time and do it together.   

Why are MCAC college advisers important? 

MCAC college advisers are important because without our role in the building, some students may not start the college application process. Many students like to follow in their parents’ footsteps. I have quite a few seniors who want to go into construction or electrician work because that is what their parents have done. They may not want to take the risk of doing anything else. However, no matter what their path is, they need someone to guide them along the way. Leaving high school can be difficult and scary. So, MCAC college advisers serve as mentors who can make them feel comfortable with making those huge life decisions. My role is to help them achieve their goal and make the transition as easy as possible. 

Why should a graduating college student consider working for the Missouri College Advising Corps? 

A student graduating from college should consider working for MCAC for quite a few different reasons. If you’re graduating and you’re a little unsure of your path, MCAC is in a great position to get your foot in the door in education. Even if you’re not interested in education, MCAC provides so many skills that are transferable to other career fields.  Overall, this is a perfect role to serve in your community, while also bettering yourself and giving you a step up once you finish your service in MCAC. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of working Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in St. Louis? 

By far working with the students every day is just extremely rewarding to me. Not every day will be sunshine and rainbows – you’ll have tough days. But when a student comes into your office to tell you that they just got accepted into their dream school or they just secured an internship right after high school, you’re just overjoyed. You’ve helped them throughout the entire year, sometimes two years, and to see them succeed is amazing. I get to watch the students grow. Being there for every small win is rewarding for me.