College Board Encourages High-Achieving Low-Income High School Seniors to Apply to Top Colleges

October 3, 2013

Research has shown that most low-income students who earn high test scores and grades do not apply to selective colleges. In an effort to change this, the College Board has started a nationwide outreach initiative to encourage low-income college-bound high school seniors to apply to top colleges and universities.

According to ABC News, research has shown that only a third of high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds enroll in a top selective school. The New York Times reported that the College Board will send information packets on the nation's top colleges to every high school senior whose family is in the bottom quarter of income distribution if they scored in the top 15 percent on the SAT or Preliminary SAT (PSAT). In addition to information on schools, the packet will also include application fee waivers to six colleges of the student's choice. According to a press release, the goal of this initiative is to help low-income college-bound students recognize their potential as well as provide them with all the information they need in order to find a college that best suits their academic performance.

ABC News noted that each packet will cost $8, but the College Board is covering that. The group already sent out 7,000 packets in May and an additional 20,000 or so will be sent out this month. These students will also receive follow-up emails with college planning tips, including reminders for financial aid deadlines.

According to The New York Times, the College Board's outreach program was modeled after information packets that were sent in a recent experiment which found that high-achieving, low-income students who received an information packet were more likely to be admitted to one of the nation's 238 top colleges, compared to their peers who did not receive a packet (54 percent versus 30 percent). ABC News explained that when the researchers provided low-income students with reputable, targeted information regarding schools and financial aid, the students felt more confident in their understanding of the system and application process and, therefore, were more likely to apply.

Some colleges and states are also taking steps to encourage low-income students to apply to top schools. Delaware announced it was working with the College Board to send high-achieving, low-income students information packets that include application fee waivers as well as letters from all the Ivy League institutions, as well as Stanford and MIT, encouraging them to apply to top colleges.

Similarly, Kreigh Knerr, Director at Knerr Learning Center, an educational research and consulting company that specializes in standardized test performance and high school literacy, told CityTownInfo that starting December 2014, every junior who attends a public school in the state of Wisconsin will take the ACT for free as well as have access to the information it provides.

"This will allow every student to take the test, even those who hadn't really considered taking it or enrolling in college," said Knerr.

Dr. Pamela Ellis, scholar and founder of Compass Education Strategies, an education research firm that provides relocation and admissions services to families nationally, told CityTownInfo that some schools also fly-in low-income college-bound students to give them a chance to really experience the school. Most programs cover the cost of transportation to and from campus and high schoolers stay with a college student during their visit. These programs usually require an application, transcripts, test scores and an essay.

"Fly-in programs provide students with information beyond what's found in a college brochure," explained Ellis. "Participants get to meet students, faculty and staff during their visit. Walking around the campus is life-changing in that students experience the potential."

Ellis added that fly-in programs are a great "opportunity for students to learn about a college that they had not been exposed to previously". These programs can be particularly helpful for low-income students as some may not be familiar with schools outside of their area.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"A Nudge to Poorer Students to Aim High on Colleges," nytimes.com, September 25, 2013, David Leonhardt

"A Plan To Get Poor Students Into Selective Colleges," abcnews.go.com, September 26, 2013, Emily Deruy

"Governor Markell and College Board Partner to Increase College Access for Delawareans," news.delaware.gov, September 18, 2013

"Stagnant 2013 SAT Results are Call to Action for the College Board," prnewswire.com, September 26, 2013

Interview with Pamela Ellis, MBA, PhD, September 30, 2013

Interview with Kreigh Knerr, October 1, 2013

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