Diversity, First Generation Students

Taking a College Tour as a First-Generation Student

No Comments 14 April 2017

As a first-generation college student, a campus visit is a vital part of the college process. This will be your first opportunity to get a taste of what life is like on that campus. Make sure you ask the right questions so you are truly informed. Here are some topics to hit on during your college admissions tour.

Prepare Ahead of Time

As a first-generation student, you might fall in a minority of incoming college students. That means that the campus visit might not be tailored to someone like you. Make a list of questions ahead of time so that you can find out about information that is important to you. Your tour guide is a current student on the campus and they will be a great resource for any questions you may have,

On-Campus Resources

Being the first in your family to attend college can be overwhelming, so it would be a good idea to find support services geared toward students like you. Statistics show that first-generation students often need more support because most do not have parental support. Ask your tour guide to put you in touch with an admissions counselor so you can ask about programs, guides or other resources for first-generation students.

Financial Aid

The price of college can be shocking to first-generation students. You need to make sure you can afford the college you want to attend. Try to tailor your campus visit so it is focused more on financial aid and not just admissions. Find time to meet with a financial aid counselor who can explain every fee that goes into the cost of attendance and any financial aid options that might be available to you.

Seek Out the True Freshman Year Experience

As a first-generation student, you won’t have the wisdom of you parents to share what the first year of college is really like. Admissions tours typically cover new and state-of-the-art buildings on campus, which freshmen typically do not spend time in. Ask your tour guide to show you building where you will actually have classes. If it’s possible, ask in advance to sit in on a freshman class to get the true experience.

Admissions, Choosing A School, Low Income Students

Economic Mobility in College

No Comments 06 April 2017

A study from the Equality of Opportunity Project revealed that elite colleges are more focused on being affordable to low-income families than expanding college accessibility.

“At elite colleges, the share of students from the bottom 40 percent has remained mostly flat for a decade. Access to top colleges has not changed much, at least when measured in quintiles,” according to the New York Times.

Low-income students admitted to elite institutions do not appear over placed because their earnings end up being similar to those from wealthier families. This finding debunks the concern that attending a selective college might be disadvantageous to low-income students.

Recent trends in college access show a decline in mobility rates at colleges that had high mobility rates and little change in mobility rates at elite colleges, despite their efforts to increase financial aid. This should call for a revaluation of policies at the national, state and college level.

The study recommends “considering changes in admissions criteria, expansions of transfers from the community college system, or outreach efforts targeted at promising students in primary school before they begin applying to college.”

Higher education often is viewed as the pathway to upward income mobility, which leads students to success. Restricted college accessibility could limit or completely stop colleges from promoting economic mobility among students.

Diversity, First Generation Students, Low Income Students

Spotlight on Chicago Scholars

No Comments 28 March 2017

Chicago Scholars is an organization that supports academically ambitious students who are first-generation college students and/or come from low-income households. This organization provides support to its participants during the three transitional periods that typically are the most difficult for first-generation students: the transition from high school to college, the years spent navigating college and the transition from college to career.

Students come from 88 high schools across the Chicago area and 84 percent of program participants from the class of 2021 are first-generation college students. About 91 percent of participants are students of color, with 96 percent of participants attending Chicago Public School high schools.

The first phase of the Chicago Scholars program, College Access: Launch, takes place the summer before a participant’s senior year of high school. This portion of the program allows students to receive help with the college application process, find a best match-fit college and begin to build leadership skills. Scholars are matched with an experienced college counselor who will mentor them for eight one-on-one sessions and guide them through college access workshops.

In October, students have the opportunity to participate in the Onsite Admissions Forum. Chicago Scholars’ more than 175 partner colleges come to Chicago to meet with Scholars and other qualified students from Chicago community-based organizations. Program attendees have the chance to interview with up to six of their best fit colleges, with many students receiving admissions decisions and merit aid scholarships that day.

Scholars begin the College Persistence: Lift portion of the program during their transition to college. Students are exposed to experiential learning, supportive relationships and leadership development so they will be empowered to be confident and self-efficient individuals in college. Participants can participate in a retreat and connect with a peer mentor to help them get through their first year of college.

The final portion of this program, College to Careers: Lead, provides Scholars with career planning and leadership development training that allows them to successfully move into the workforce. Students can participate in workshops and one-on-one training that allow them to explore career paths, write strong résumés and build interview and networking skills.

College Greenlight is a vital part of Chicago Scholars’ counseling and scholarship search process. Program participants learn about College Greenlight through workshops and they are encouraged to create profiles to assist them in meeting their scholarship application goals.

Chicago Scholars aims to create a supportive community and provide access to college resources that students might not have otherwise. If you are a college admissions representative and want to connect with this organization, email Rachel Accavitti at raccavitti@chicagoscholars.org.

Admissions, Choosing A School, Diversity, Low Income Students

Best Colleges for Low-Income Students

No Comments 24 March 2017

Finding an affordable but high-quality college can be challenging for low-income and first-generation students. This article presents lists of public and private 4-year colleges, all of which have a low net price and a high graduation rate for low-income students.

Not only are these colleges affordable for low-income students, but the students are likely to graduate with an affordable amount of debt.


Students should consider a variety of colleges before they begin the application process. Historically, students from low-income backgrounds have applied to too few colleges, often enrolling at institutions that are not a good academic, social and financial fit. This leads to suboptimal outcomes like low retention and graduation rates and high debt. Students should cast a wide net. Look at private and public institutions, in-state and out-of-state schools, and small and large colleges. Students should be encouraged to learn about colleges and universities you have never heard of before.

Every low-income student should consider their in-state public colleges, as those institutions will often be the most affordable option. In-state public colleges are also a good option because low-income students tend to choose colleges that are close to home. Students may be able to save on college costs by living at home with their families instead of on a college campus.

The net price for public colleges is based on the in-state tuition rates. The net price for out-of-state students may be much higher.

Low-income students should also consider private colleges with low net prices and high graduation rates. In some cases, generous private colleges can have a lower net price than some in-state public institutions.

For both public and private colleges, students should aim to have total student loan debt at graduation that is less than their annual starting salary. If total student loan debt is less than annual income, the student should be able to repay his or her student loans in ten years or less.


The lists of public and private colleges were identified using a combination of two factors:

  • Affordable. Affordability was based on the one-year net price for students with a family income of $0 to $30,000, using data from the 2013-14 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The net price is the discounted sticker price, the costs that remain after subtracting average grants, scholarships and other gift aid from the total cost of attendance. Only colleges with a net price under $12,500 were included.
  • Good Outcomes. Outcomes were based on the 6-year graduation rates for Federal Pell Grant recipients, using data from the Education Trust. The Federal Pell Grant is the largest need-based grant program, awarded mostly to low-income students. Only colleges with 6-year graduation rates of 50% or more were included. This ensures that low-income students at these colleges are more likely to graduate than not.

Some colleges were omitted because the Pell Grant recipient graduation rate data were not available. Examples include Brigham Young University – Provo, Columbia University in the City of New York, Cooper Union and Harvard University.

Several colleges with a reputation for serving low-income students did not satisfy the selection criteria because their net price for low-income students was too high.

We present the lists of recommended public and private colleges in two separate articles.

Admissions, Choosing A School, Diversity, Low Income Students

Best Private Colleges for Low-Income Students

No Comments 24 March 2017

The 73 private colleges that satisfy the selection criteria enroll a total of 253,926 undergraduate students, including 48,876 Federal Pell Grant recipients (19%). The average net price is $8,716, ranging from $353 to $12,389. The average 6-year graduation rate for Federal Pell Grant recipients is 83%, ranging from 50% to 100%.

The colleges are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Private Colleges Percentage
Pell Grant
Net Price for
Low-Income Students
(AGI $0 to $30,000)
Graduation Rates for
Pell Grant Recipients(2013)
Amherst College 20% $3,700 94%
Barnard College 18% $9,231 86%
Bates College 11% $7,426 88%
Berea College 83% $3,575 58%
Blue Mountain College 53% $8,246 55%
Bob Jones University 41% $11,323 58%
Bowdoin College 14% $5,925 90%
Brigham Young University – Idaho 39% $5,374 54%
Brown University 14% $3,186 93%
California Institute of Technology 11% $6,696 91%
Carleton College 12% $11,760 92%
Christian Brothers University 42% $6,466 56%
Claremont McKenna College 12% $9,225 85%
Colby College 11% $1,710 89%
Colgate University 12% $12,034 100%
College of the Atlantic 30% $12,014 75%
College of the Holy Cross 16% $11,808 88%
College of the Ozarks 62% $10,296 60%
Connecticut College 13% $9,282 86%
Cornell University 16% $11,665 92%
Dartmouth College 14% $7,529 92%
Davidson College 13% $8,289 94%
Duke University 14% $8,777 94%
Franklin and Marshall College 14% $10,661 87%
Georgetown University 13% $9,638 92%
Grinnell College 21% $8,112 84%
Harvey Mudd College 13% $8,770 80%
Haverford College 15% $8,881 92%
Hobart & William Smith Colleges 18% $11,994 78%
Illinois College 33% $12,266 68%
Johns Hopkins University 13% $10,049 95%
Kenyon College 10% $2,813 85%
Lafayette College 11% $11,995 90%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 18% $5,128 88%
McDaniel College 31% $11,740 67%
Middlebury College 11% $4,904 89%
Milligan College 36% $7,904 52%
Northwestern University 14% $11,700 93%
Oberlin College 11% $11,788 89%
Pitzer College 16% $12,389 90%
Pomona College 17% $5,807 93%
Presbyterian College 23% $9,972 50%
Princeton University 12% $3,630 97%
Reed College 17% $9,423 76%
Rice University 17% $6,468 91%
Russell Sage College 46% $12,361 80%
Saint Johns University 19% $12,254 70%
Saint Josephs College 32% $11,072 71%
Salem College 56% $12,272 58%
Sewanee:  The University of the South 18% $9,107 70%
Skidmore College 15% $11,354 91%
Smith College 23% $11,619 90%
St. Olaf College 15% $11,792 88%
Stanford University 16% $2,841 91%
Swarthmore College 14% $8,537 89%
Trinity College 12% $11,030 91%
Trinity University 15% $8,977 78%
Tufts University 11% $10,574 92%
Union College- NY 16% $8,682 89%
University of Chicago 14% $8,964 92%
University of Notre Dame 12% $9,048 92%
University of Pennsylvania 14% $9,799 93%
University of Richmond 20% $10,742 82%
Vanderbilt University 14% $6,905 87%
Vassar College 22% $10,558 89%
Washington and Lee University 10% $353 90%
Washington University in St Louis 6% $11,100 92%
Wellesley College 19% $9,735 91%
Wesleyan University 18% $6,009 94%
Whittier College 36% $11,378 66%
Williams College 19% $3,127 92%
Yale University 13% $3,918 96%

Take a look at this list of best public colleges for low-income students.

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