College Access Programs
access programs aim to expand educational opportunities for students from low-income and minority
communities in order to prepare them to apply to college and enter higher education. These programs often target
youth who would be the first in their immediate families to attend college, also known as first-generation college
students. These programs may include different types of interventions to promote college access, including
providing mentoring, tutoring, and professional development opportunities.
access programs also provide financial counseling services and help prepare students for college
entrance exams. In some rural communities, these programs operate as partnerships with the high school, and the
programs supplement the work of the existing college advisors. Several national college access programs have
been evaluated for their effectiveness. Results from these studies suggest that college access programs have the
potential to improve test scores, grades, and college retention rates for students.
Examples of College Access Programs Addressing SDOH
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for
Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is one of the largest national programs targeting improvements in
college and career readiness of low-income students. GEAR UP helps low-income elementary, middle, and high
schools build partnerships with universities and colleges. The program also works with state, local, and
community-based organizations to provide support for students. GEAR UP aims to increase students' readiness
for higher education, as well as improve high school graduation rates. One rural GEAR UP program in San
Luis, Arizona is supporting students in 15 rural Arizona communities. The program has improved high
school graduation rates in the schools, provided opportunities for students to visit college campuses,
identified potential barriers to college enrollment, and helped students overcome these challenges.
The College Knowledge Project in Mississippi and College Countdown MS are both programs that support students
through the college admission process, including applying for financial aid. College Countdown MS aims to
increase the number of students across the state who apply and are accepted into higher education programs.
The program also provides one-on-one financial counseling to help students navigate payment options.
The Clemson Emerging Scholars
Program in South Carolina provides students with academic and leadership training. The program also
helps students navigate the college application process and works with Clemson University to provide
opportunities for students to experience life on a college campus. Students are encouraged to apply to any
school of their choice, but South Carolina schools are highly encouraged.
College Advising Corps is a national program working to
encourage low-income, first-generation college students to apply to higher education. The program uses both
an in-person model and virtual model that connects college graduates with other students around the country.
As with other educational approaches to address SDOH, college access programs can provide a variety of services
to students and their families. These services require additional funding, training, staff, and buy-in from
community members, parents, and school officials. Engaging community members, key school officials, and other
community decision-makers is essential for ensuring the success and sustainability of these programs.
Resources to Learn More
Hidalgo Early College District Toolkit
Online toolkit that includes resources for preparing students for higher education opportunities.
Includes information and examples from an innovative rural school in Texas where every student takes
part in college coursework before graduation.
Organization(s): Early College Design Services, Jobs for the Future