Last week, I spoke with Steve Bumbaugh, senior vice president of College & Career Access at the College Board, and learned about the practical resources the organization offers to help students make informed choices about college.
That’s right. The same people responsible for the SAT standardized test are creating pathways to help students succeed.
“We have a laser focus on students who are less likely to go to a college that’s a good fit for them,” Bumbaugh told me. How does he identify such students? There are predictable patterns, he says.
“Students who live in rural communities, who are African American, low-income, or Latino might not have access to information to help them make fully informed choices about college or the right courses to take,” Bumbaugh says.
A Four-Pronged Approach
The College & Career Access team at the College Board is addressing this problem in four ways:
- Informing students about the appropriate courses to take that will prepare them for college
- Providing free SAT prep through Kahn Academy
- Familiarizing students with ways that they can finance their college education
- Providing the information necessary to put together a list of colleges to apply to
Bumbaugh’s team sends out some of this information in a personalized Realize Your College Potential mailing that’s attractively designed, clear, and easy to read. To receive it, students must have done well on the PSAT or SAT and be considered low income.
I especially like the personalized list of recommended colleges included in the mailing, plus the detailed information on financial aid and scholarship searches.
A Concerted Effort
The College Board seems serious about creating pathways for underserved students. Bumbaugh told me that a kind of diagnostic test is available for students in middle grades, the PSAT 8 and PSAT 9, which, like the SAT, not only assess where a student is academically but explains what the student needs to do to get on track.
How many low-income schools administer these tests is unclear, however.
The College Board is also partnering with the College Advising Corps, an AmeriCorps program that places recent college graduates in high-need schools to work alongside school staff as college advisers.
Is the effort working? Yes, says Bumbaugh.
“We get anecdotal feedback that the mailing is making a difference. When I think about the resources we offer: recommending the courses students should enroll in, providing free SAT prep and a list of recommended colleges to which they should apply—I wish these resources had been available when I was in high school.”