The Issue: Costs of SAT Prep and College Mentoring
Although they might have the same innate ability, a student raised in a low-income household who attends a public school where the majority of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch can be predicted to score dramatically lower on the SAT compared with his or her more highly advantaged peer, who can be predicted to score 1500 or higher, according to "How Increasing College Access Is Increasing Inequality, and What to Do About It," a paper by Georgetown University researchers. This performance disparity can be attributed to many factors, including the disadvantaged student's lack of access to AP courses, SAT tutoring, and other college-admissions preparation.
The Campaign: Providing Students with SAT and College Prep
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by CollegeSpring to provide SAT preparation and college-readiness services to high-school students from low-income backgrounds in the Bay Area. Each $10 donation provides one hour of tutoring for a group of students. For every $100 raised, CollegeSpring can provide a 10 weeks worth of SAT-prep tutoring and college-readiness services to five students. A week typically comprises one hour-long session.
CollegeSpring's curriculum is integrated into the students' school day, with classroom time dedicated to SAT prep each week. In their second semester, students meet with a mentor, who is a current undergraduate college student, once a week after school. With one professional teacher for every 20 students and one mentor for every three to five students, the students receive personalized attention as they prepare for the SAT. The mentors also work with students to prepare lists of colleges to apply to, compelling personal essays, and the Federal Application for Student Aid. Students who participate in the curriculum take four diagnostic SATs, and they see their score increase by an average of 180 points.
The SAT can be a life-changing experience. Garrett Neiman, cofounder of CollegeSpring, knows this firsthand: in 2006, he boosted his own SAT score up nearly 400 points to achieve a perfect 2400, securing his acceptance to Stanford. Initially, he tried to help students by running a tutoring business but quickly realized that the students who could afford his services weren’t the ones most in need. Students from low-income backgrounds, on average, score lower on the SAT than all other students. Coupled with a lack of assistance preparing for the college-admissions process, this creates a significant barrier for such students to gain access to a college education.
So he decided to help. He and cofounder Jessica Perez created a business plan for what would become CollegeSpring. Through partnerships with schools and community organizations, CollegeSpring works with students from low-income backgrounds, combining instruction from professional teachers with near-peer mentoring (undergraduates working with high schoolers) and diagnostic SAT testing. Since 2008, CollegeSpring has helped more than 4,400 students in Los Angeles and the Bay Area improve their SAT scores, turning an obstacle into an opportunity.