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Few economically disadvantaged students apply to leading colleges


Monday, March 18, 2013

Many high school students set their sights high when preparing for college, with the goal of applying to one or more of the country's more select schools. However, according to a recent report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), high achieving students from low-income families are significantly less likely to apply to the country's best colleges than their academic peers from wealthier families. In fact, for every high-achieving, low-income student who applies to a prestigious college, there are 15 students from high-income families with similar levels of academic achievement who submit applications.

Missed opportunities
Data from the report revealed that high achieving students from lower-income families often do not even bother to apply to selective colleges, even when their academic record and other criteria like extracurricular activities would make them likely candidates. In truth, low-income students with a record of solid academic achievement could benefit from attending more selective universities, due to scholarships, generous financial aid packages, smaller classes, and a variety of support services. In addition, many prestigious colleges are keen to enroll talented students from varying economic backgrounds to ensure a diverse student body without compromising on the academic standards expected of successful applicants.

Comfort zones
Another factor contributing to high-achieving, low-income students' decision to apply to colleges below their academic potential could be their lack of familiarity with more selective universities. According to The New York Times, in addition to being unaware of financial aid opportunities, many students in this demographic might underestimate their chances of successfully gaining admission to prestigious colleges. Some may not have even heard of renowned schools to which they could apply.

"A lot of low-income and middle-income students have the inclination to stay local, at known colleges, which is understandable when you think about it," George Moran, a guidance counselor at Central Magnet High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, told the news source. "They didn't have any other examples, any models - who's ever heard of Bowdoin College?"

If this study reveals anything, it is that attending prestigious and renowned colleges can be a realistic goal for students who demonstrate strong academic performance. If they have the ambition, there is nothing stopping students from lower-income families from attending the best schools in the country and investing in their future through higher education.

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