A Bridge to College

National Journal considers the need for bridge programs to manage the transition to college.   Strive for College matches mentors with bubble kids and helps them make positive high school choices and the best possible post secondary choice. I’m a director and believe kids need more support than most get. Here’s advice from Executive Director Michael Carter.
The college application process, like navigating the job search process for the first time, is not rocket science. However, both are often confusing, counterintuitive and very time-consuming. Most importantly, both are subjective – there is no such thing as the best college, despite what the US News and World Report would like you to believe.
When a high schooler asks the question “What is the best job?”, the response is always another question: “Well, what do you want to do?”. Traditional education is not designed to support dialog; individualized instruction has been impossible due to the prohibitive cost.
Technology makes individualized education possible and it can be less expensive than traditional education. Outcomes are better because quality is higher and students enjoy the content more and the curriculum moves as fast or slow as the student needs. Technology itself though, isn’t the best approach – rather the blending of technology into a classroom with an educator to help maintain focus and answer questions the computer can’t yields the highest possible outcomes.
Job and college search aren’t the same as Algebra or American History, though. How does a computer program understand the student’s response to a subjective question? What about the students who aren’t motivated enough about college in the first place to use a program that helps them identify the best college for them? The answer, again, is a blended solution: technology combined with the dialog offered by personal mentors.
This is exactly the approach that Strive for College is taking to close the college access gap for low-income and minority students. Strive is building a movement of undergraduates to mentor low-income students one-on-one through the process of selecting and applying to college. As college students have recently completed the process successfully and are within a few years of age of the students with which they are working, they are uniquely qualified to provide both the critical information and motivation that many low-income students lack. Strive combines the mentoring with a technology system that helps students identify the colleges that are a best-fit for them given their personal preferences and academic profile.
The magnitude of the college access gap requires targeted intervention for students in nearly every community in America. Strive for College’s ‘high-tech/high-touch’ approach has proven incredibly effective and scalable over the past few years in several locations. As we scale nationally, Strive will enable hundreds of thousands of talented low-income students to reach college, achieve their dreams, and help the American economy get back on track.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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