College Exploration to Prepare for What’s Next

Courtney Minden, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid at Babson College, also serves as a college admissions consultant at NEIA and has joined the school’s Advisory Board. Courtney shares her insights!

PIN Points

  • Colleges and universities are looking for students who are adept at identifying a problem, can define and implement a solution, and iterate as part of a team.

  • At NEIA, Students will explore topics in an interdisciplinary way with tangible results which will be a crucial differentiator in the admissions process.

  • Exploring college and universities is a great conversation to have with an academic advisor early on in the high school experience.

  • Students will leave NEIA prepared for what’s next, with the skills needed to be successful across a variety of post-secondary programs and for life.

Courtney shares her wealth of experience to aid students and families in navigating higher education and college admissions in particular. She believes that the admissions process should be as transparent as possible. We were delighted to sit down with Courtney to gather her insights and guidance with a series of top-of-mind questions among students and families.

Question: Courtney, we’re delighted to have your expertise and guidance as we begin this journey. Could you share a little about yourself and what drew you to the role?

Answer: I’m delighted to be working with NEIA in an advisory role. I’m an avid runner and podcast listener. If you can’t find me at Babson’s Admission Office or out for a run, I’m most likely trying to corral my very opinionated dog.

I’m passionate about ensuring that students find a path beyond high school that sets them up for success, and that’s primarily what brought me to NEIA. I had an opportunity to join a virtual event to discuss entrepreneurship in education with Raymond Chang, co-founder, and trustee at NEIA, in late 2020. As the conversation unfolded and Raymond shared his perspective on entrepreneurship and the synergy between Babson and NEIA, I was hooked.

Question: Given your expertise and deep understanding of the current outlook at college and universities, could you tell us in your own words what colleges are looking for in students?

Answer: If 2020 has taught us anything, it is certain that the days of the packed college lecture hall are numbered. Our team is looking for students who come from a rich educational experience that emphasizes team-based instruction, internships, and project-based learning.

We especially need innovative and intentional schools — encouraging students to build their skills at a younger age to set them up for success in college and beyond. The ability to identify a problem, define and implement a solution, and iterate as part of a team is a life skill. Students who come in prepared to think and adapt will be in high demand in any college setting.

As admissions professionals, we believe that students from schools with this type of experience come prepared for college.

At NEIA, students will have an opportunity to take concepts from the classroom to the innovation studio and test them. They will work as a team with experienced faculty and industry experts to gain feedback and improve their work. With skills gained at NEIA, students will be prepared to enter their first year of college confident in the knowledge that they have what it takes to succeed.

Question: Will the NEIA experience, with a focus on innovation and human-centered design, enable students to pursue the field of their choice?

Answer: Absolutely! NEIA students will engage in humanities, mathematics, science, languages, the arts, athletics, and much more. Their education will be well-rounded and full of cross-disciplinary learning opportunities that invite curiosity and ensure they find what they love. I appreciate that at NEIA, much like Babson, students will have opportunities to bring their ideas to impact through real-world experiences with local businesses, organizations, and service-learning. NEIA’s Innovation Studio is a unique opportunity for students to explore topics in an interdisciplinary way with tangible results that will be a crucial differentiator in the admissions process. Most students won’t have this type of exposure until they reach college.

The additional focus that NEIA has placed on human-centered design will only enhance their educational experience. Learning to listen to stakeholders with empathy and compassion will ensure students become more caring and compassionate adults.

NEIA students will not only be prepared for existing fields of study but also areas that have not even been discovered yet. The NEIA curriculum will teach students to be able to innovate and adapt to our changing world.

Similarly, high school is a great time to explore and discover which colleges you might gravitate towards, which is how academic advisors will help students along their journey.

Question: How will NEIA be recognized among colleges?

Answer: NEIA will be an attractive school as an intentional community of innovative students. In my role, I’ll be in a position to make connections with colleges and universities on NEIA’s behalf to create a network in the years to come. This work has already begun as I work with Tom to meet with key stakeholders and provide information to students and families.

I anticipate that as students enter the school in September, we will be well-positioned to increase NEIA’s visibility and recognition across the higher education community. I expect that my peers will be just as enthusiastic as I was to learn how NEIA will reimagine school and develop students who can think on their feet, adapt, challenge the status quo, and come prepared for what’s next.

Question: Will NEIA students be able to explore a range of college options?

Answer: Of course, students should and will absolutely be able to consider a range of college options. Early on in the high school experience is the best time to begin talking with an academic advisor about your interests and discover which types of colleges you may want to pursue.

Students will gain experience in literature, languages, art, design, and a strong foundation in mathematics, science, and technology. Through hands-on project work, students will experience what it means to use their knowledge through their studies and apply it. The experience will be life-changing as they explore new fields, apply their learning, and find the areas that are most interesting and exciting to them.

NEIA students will be well-positioned to explore a range of colleges and universities as they move into the next phase of their journey.

Question: What is a pre-professional program, and can you apply with a NEIA degree?

Answer: Pre-professional majors are tracks in undergraduate programs that prepare you for a professional degree after your bachelor’s. Pre-professional majors are not limited to four-year colleges and universities. In community colleges, a pre-professional major leads to an associate’s degree and is equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program. Working with their NEIA advisor, students will be able to plan appropriately to pursue a pre-professional major.

The NEIA curriculum is designed to be nimble enough to prepare students with the skills needed to be successful in STEM professions such as engineering, medicine, and, yes…business.


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After our first full week into summer, we want to look back on a year-long project that yielded impressive results for three of our amazing rising 12th graders.

This past fall, NEIA 11th graders pitched products that could add value to people’s lives by curing diseases or ailments. This is part of the BioTrek Program: a joint initiative by ARMI (Advanced Regenerative Medical Institute) and BioFabUSA. Students pitched their amazing ideas to Tim McCauley, their peers, and a panel of judges made up of NEIA staff members. 

Throughout these presentations, our students walked through all phases of the Biotrek journey. First, identifying a problem. Second, engineering a solution using bio-manufacturing techniques. In the third phase, they developed a business and financial model for their product. The final phase was this event: pitching to their peers and judges. They are trying to solve real medical issues, such as endometriosis, chronic lung disease, color blindness, and osteogenesis (just to name a few). 

The winners moved on to the Final Presentations judged by representatives from ARMI and Biofab, which decided
who would represent NEIA against other schools in the Biotrek Championship. The winning group chosen to go to the championship was Endopexy, created by Milena, Lila, and Max H.

Milena, Lila, and Max’s hard worked paid off as they were the winning team of the championships. We are so proud of these three innovators for working hard the whole year and being recognized in such a highly competitive program.

This project-based learning program continues to be a very valuable experience for our innovators. You can clearly see the intersection of subjects like science, math, entrepreneurship, and communications. It is the perfect example of how integrated academics lead to exciting projects and connections.

#NEIA #BioTrek #Innovation #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #integration

This weekend, three of our 11th grade students: Vicki, Owen, and Langston, won first place at the Entrepreneurship for All - EforAll All Ideas Pitch Competition for their idea around the NEXTGEN Summit, a conference that Langston initiated this spring at NEIA.

Owen explains the idea to execution as follows, "My mother is an alum of the Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Business Accelerator Program. One night while scrolling Instagram, she found a post by EforAll about an All Ideas Pitch Competition happening. She sent me the post at 11:20 p.m. and we were signed up for the event by 12:15 a.m. A few weeks later we were selected to table at the event with the potential of being able to participate in the final pitch competition. We landed a spot in the pitch competition, and it was a huge success as we not only won the first place prize of $1000, but also won the Fan Favorite prize for an additional $500. We were by far the youngest attendees at the event and were pitching with people who were already well removed from college."

We are so proud of our innovators and commend them for their efforts to not only seek new opportunities each and every day but to thrive within them.

#NEIA #PitchCompetition #EForAll #NEXTGENSummit #NEXTGEN #FutureOfEducation #Innovation #Entrepreneurship

That’s a wrap! We will see you soon, innovators. We miss you already.

#LastDayOfSchool #Summer #NEIA #innovators #summerbreak


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