Promoting College Math for Low-Income Students: Lessons for Practitioners

By Betsy Prueter

A recent brief from MDRC reviews lessons learned from an assessment of College Match, an innovative advising program in Chicago designed to provide relevant and timely information to a broad range of academically qualified students and parents to help them make the best decision about college. Recent research has shown that many low-income and minority students who graduate from high school well-prepared for college often “undermatch,” or enroll at nonselective four-year institutions and two-year institutions. Often low-income, academically talented students are unaware of the postsecondary options available to them and do not realize that certain more selective institutions could increase their likelihood of graduating with a college degree.

The brief highlights the strategies College Match uses as interventions to better match low-income, academically prepared high school graduates with institutions of higher education. College Match uses a combination of classroom activities and one-on-one meetings with advisers:

  • Sharing information and building awareness with students and families on the application process, financial aid, and the concept of a good “match.” For an academically talented low-income or minority student, a good “match” would be a more selective college with a higher college graduation rate.
  • Individualized student advising that includes matching students with a college that fits their interests, academic abilities, and personal and financial situations.
  • Application support for students navigating the college application process.
  • Assistance with decision-making and planning ahead that includes sorting through college acceptances and financial aid packages to find the best match and helping to prepare students to transition to college and campus life.