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Early Awareness


There are significant differences in college matriculation rates among lower, middle and upper income students. While 48% of upper income students will have earned a college degree at a four-year college by age 24, only 7% of lower income students will accomplish the same goal. Even when one segments the students by achievement level, high income students are still much more likely to pursue a college education than low income students.


Early awareness programs identify the barriers that prevent low-income students from earning college degrees, and take steps to help eliminate the barriers or minimize their impact. Barriers can include financial, academic, extracurricular, social and motivational stumbling blocks. Many early awareness programs offer scholarships as an incentive for students to succeed in school and prepare for college.

The FinAid site itself is a good example of an early awareness program, with extensive guides to saving for college, college aid planning calculators and advice on applying for financial aid.

Notable Early Awareness Programs

College Power Bulletin
The College Power Bulletin is a free four-page handout created by Fastweb to encourage all students to consider pursuing a college education. It motivates students by discussing why they should go to college and how to pay for college. A Spanish language version of the College Power Bulletin handout, Boletin Acerca el Poder de la Universidad, is also available. (Thanks to Berenice Villela for the translation.)

The "I Have a Dream" Foundation (IHAD)
In the "I Have a Dream" (IHAD) program, sponsors 'adopt' a group of 50-80 low-income students and agree to pay for their college education if they prepare for college. The sponsor is involved with the students throughout their education, providing mentoring, tutoring and enrichment activities to help the students prepare and to keep the dream alive.

Promise Scholarship Programs are location-based scholarship programs where local philanthropists commit to providing college tuition scholarships for all public school graduates in a particular municipality or school district.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs)
GEAR UP provides funding to states and partnerships to help increase the number of low-income students who matriculate in college. GEAR UP programs start with a cohort of students in elementary and middle school in high poverty areas, and provide them with services and resources through high school graduation.

Federal TRIO Programs include the Upward Bound and Talent Search programs. The Upward Bound program provides at-risk high school students (including low-income students and first-generation college students) with college preparation support. The Talent Search program provides academic, career and financial counseling to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
The AVID program places academically average students in academically challenging courses and provides them with the academic support they need to succeed. The goal of this effort is to help prepare students in grades 5-12 for college.

Project Grad
Project Grad couples curricular improvements with student and family support programs, college guidance and college scholarships to help increase the number of lower-income students matriculating in college. They focus on the elementary and middle "feeder" schools that supply students to high schools, as they have found that interventions must begin before the 9th grade.

America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth
America's Promise is an alliance of hundreds of national organizations and local initiatives that focus on one or more of the "Five Promises". These include mentoring initiatives, a safe environment for after-school activities, healthy start, academic enrichment, and community service.

Mapping Your Future
Mapping Your Future is an early awareness web site sponsored by a group of guarantee agencies that participate in the Federal student loan program.

Parents Action
Parents Action is a national non-profit organization that focuses on early childhood development and school readiness.

Early Awareness Toolkits and Resources

The following sites provide resources and toolkits for designing early awareness programs.

  • NAICU's Building Blocks to 2020 features hundreds of programs that attempt to improve college access, retention and completion.

  • National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) tries to create partnerships between schools, their communities and other organizations in order to help improve access to postsecondary education among at-risk populations.

  • The Education Trust tries to help improve the education of all students, by improving both K-12 and postsecondary education in ways that make them more effective. The Education Trust is sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE).

  • National Mentoring Partnership is a national advocate for mentoring programs, serves as a resource for mentoring programs, and encourages individuals to volunteer to become mentors.

  • Youth.Gov provides information about federal resources for after-school programs for children.

  • National College Access Network supports programs that try to inspire students to pursue a postsecondary education.

  • Foundation for Excellent Schools partners with public schools in high-need communities to raise student aspirations and performance.

  • Pathways to College Network and Clearinghouse focuses on resources for improving college planning, preparation, access and success for at-risk populations, including low-income students, first-generation students and students with disabilities. The site includes several research papers and policy briefs.

  • Lumina Foundation for Education provides information and research about methods of improving access to and success in postsecondary education.

State Early Awareness Programs


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