Virtual Volunteer Burcak Goes the Distance for College Access 🚗💨

At ScholarMatch, we make college dreams possible.

We had the chance to sit down with Burcak Deniz Cakir, a veteran Virtual Volunteer and founder of her own private college counseling organization, and learned how she goes the distance to mentor, uplift, and support her students.

Burcak has volunteered with ScholarMatch since 2018. She is also the founder and President of EdMission Possible, a private college counseling organization that support students through the college application process.

Hi Burcak! Can you tell us about your background and where your passion for education stems from?

While teaching at US colleges, I started to realize that there was more to a good college education than just studying — you actually needed to be able to pay for it. College was not a given right for high-achieving students; it was a luxury item that only a specific portion of the population could afford. The mere thought of not being able to attend a good college with my single mom’s limited income or having to borrow thousands of dollars in loans just to pay for college still gives me the chills. It took me a long time to accept the fact that there can be a price tag attached to higher education, but the day I came to terms with this reality, I decided to do something about it.

I was able to gain their trust by assigning weekly tasks and following up with them every week, never missing an appointment, and always being there when they reached out to me. I think they eventually understood that I was real, and I was there to stay as long as they wanted me to.

Through our program, you helped two high school students through the entire college application process. What has your relationship with them been like?

After the first couple of weeks, everything started to fall into place. My nervousness turned into excitement. I was actually looking forward to my weekly calls with my students! It was nice to see that they were also getting less nervous as time went by. I was able to gain their trust by assigning weekly tasks and following up with them every week, never missing an appointment, and always being there when they reached out to me. I think they eventually understood that I was real, and I was there to stay as long as they wanted me to.

Burcak FaceTiming with one of her mentees during a weekly meeting.

Now that both of these class of 2019 students have completed their college applications, we are talking less frequently. Both of them are very special young people, and I feel very privileged to have known them. One of my students says he will still call me when he is in college, and I really hope he does! I’m also very excited to match with my new class of 2020 students.

What are some highlights you experienced supporting your students?

Although we are still waiting to hear back from more colleges, each time one of my students gets accepted to a college or receives a scholarship, I get happy as if it happened to me or my own kids! When my daughters hear me scream, they now know that I just got good news from one of my students!

Last year, Burcak drove from her home in New Jersey to Brentwood, NY to see her student, Ahmad, graduate from high school!

We’ve had the pleasure of having you as a Virtual Coach for several years now — thank you! Do you have any advice for new Coaches as they begin supporting their students?

One final word of advice would be to be patient with your students. If you see that they have not been responsive to you, do not take it personally. They have many other things that they are facing in life, so do not automatically assume that it is you. Keep sending them a short and sweet text to check in with them, or send them an article that might be of interest to them… just to let them know that you are still there. Some students might benefit out of that one-way interaction. The fact that they do not want to engage in a two-way communication may not necessarily mean that they are not reading your texts or emails. Just like every good deed, do it without expecting anything in return. Trust me, you will still have touched many great lives.

With Burcak’s support, both of her Class of 2019 scholars earned admission to more than 7 colleges each, including acceptances at more than 4 selective, high-graduation rate schools! One of her students also earned the highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship! A huge thank you to Burcak and all our incredible Virtual College Coaches for their support.

Got a college degree and want to pay it forward? Learn how you can get involved in our work and help make college dreams possible at scholarmatch.org/get-involved!

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