School counselors know firsthand how difficult it can be to help first-generation, low-income and minority students get accepted into college and succeed once they are there. Fortunately, there are plenty of organizations that are eager to assist you in promoting a college-bound culture within your school. Here, we highlight three national organizations that are working hard to meet the needs of underserved students. By tapping into these resources, your students can find useful information, guidance, support and scholarship opportunities.
Center for Student Opportunity
The Center for Student Opportunity is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to empowering under-represented students. “We want to help students realize that the opportunity for college is there,” says Cara Martin, the associate executive director at the Center for Student Opportunity. “Our programs and resources aid and inspire students to make better informed decisions on institutions that will support these students in their pursuit of a college degree.”
The Center for Student Opportunity runs Opportunity Scholars, a free program available to 6th to 12th graders that enables students to learn about colleges and universities through an online search tool, receive monthly newsletters with tips, timelines and to-do lists, and apply for a $2,000 per year Opportunity Scholarship.
In addition, the Center for Student Opportunity publishes the College Access & Opportunity Guide. This college guidebook profiles over 240 colleges and universities and provides information that is customized for underserved students.
College Summit partners with high schools in low-income communities to help raise college enrollment rates. “Through a 9th to 12th grade postsecondary planning curriculum, we help students connect the dots between their future goals and the academic choices they make each day,” says J.B. Schramm, founder and CEO of College Summit.
In their programs, College Summit places special importance on the power of peer influence. “When a majority of a student’s friends plan to go to college, that student is as much as four times as likely to do the same,” says Schramm. “Through the power of positive peer-to-peer influence, College Summit helps teachers and counselors equip young people to transform the culture of their high schools to be about college-going and success.”
To do this, College Summit helps schools identify the most influential students and trains them at a four-day summer workshop to be “Peer Leaders.” These students bring high expectations back to their school and help change what their peers think is possible. This summer, College Summit trained 2,100 Peer Leaders at 45 summer workshops.
College Horizons focuses on the needs of one particular group — that of Native American high school students, including American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students from across the nation.
College Horizons helps Native American students by offering a pre-college program for sophomores and juniors. During a five-day “crash course,” students work with college counselors and college admissions officers to research their top 10 schools, write college essays, complete the Common Application and the preliminary FAFSA, practice interviewing/test-taking and learn about financial aid/scholarships.
Getting students involved
In order to better support under-represented students, consider introducing them to key organizations and resources like the ones mentioned above. You can do this by encouraging students to sign up to be an Opportunity Scholar, providing copies of College Access & Opportunity Guide in your counseling center and letting Native American students know about the pre-college programs available through College Horizons.
Sarah Nagel is lucky to live in beautiful Boulder, Colo. She works as an editor by day and a freelance writer by night.