Strive for College

Jul 25, 2016

Strive for College

The Common Application is partnering with Strive for College, a non-profit organization that provides free virtual mentoring for any high school student who wants to pursue a college degree. To learn more about this partnership and what it will mean for students, we sat down with Scott Anderson, Senior Director for Education and Partnerships, and a former high school counselor.  

To start the conversation, will you talk a bit about why The Common Application believed this partnership was important?  

There are more than 5,000 students in college today who would not be there if it weren't for the support and guidance of Strive mentors. We believe in the innovative work of Strive and its I'm First initiative.

Given the reach The Common Application has among college-bound students, we see an extraordinary opportunity to connect our applicants--one-third of whom are the first in their families to go to college--with mentors who will help make college a possibility.

How will you connect students with mentors? 

Students applying to college through the Common App, who indicate a need for a fee waiver, will receive a message asking them if they would like to have a Strive mentor. If they do, then they’ll be able to go to Strive’s website and be matched with a mentor.

Who are the mentors? 

Volunteer mentors are all in college or have graduated from college with a degree. Strive has recruited them from hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. Mentors complete comprehensive training before being connected with a student.

How are mentors different from school counselors?

School counselors are professional, licensed educators who play indispensable roles in the lives of students. Their expertise cannot be replaced.  

In 2013, schools averaged one counselor for every 470 students, far above the 1:250 ratio recommended by American School Counselor Association (ASCA). That's where mentors come in.

Properly trained mentors support the work of school counselors by offering crucial information and encouragement to students navigating the path to college. ASCA recognizes that mentors are especially valuable for students who are the first in their families to attend college. Innovative mentoring programs such as Strive have proven success in removing the barriers to college often faced by low-income students.

What feedback have you received from counselors so far?

While discussing the partnership, we asked for input from the counselors on our Outreach Advisory Committee. I think their reaction could best be described as protective. Remember, these educators are charged on a daily basis with safeguarding the welfare of students.

But their concern for students doesn't stop at the doors of their schools. Far from it; they feel a responsibility to all students, and they asked us some important questions about training and follow-through that were extremely helpful. At the same time, they also understood the potential power of the partnership to engage students who desperately need to know that college is a possibility for them. 

Any final thoughts?  

This year, nearly one million students submitted at least one college application through the Common App; 33% were first-generation. Through this partnership with Strive, more students who may be uncertain or intimidated by the thought of going to college will now have someone else to assist and motivate them. Their mentor may be that life-changing voice.