Smart List: 50 Organizations Boosting College Access & Success

College access is a pressing issue facing education equity today. In today’s Smart List, we’re recognizing 50 organizations spreading college awareness, boosting college preparation, and encouraging college completion—with a special focus on low-income and first-generation students.

College Awareness & Success

College Access

Scholarships & Supports

  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service and knowledge creation and dissemination
  • 10,000 Degrees: Awareness, access and giving back
  • Rotary: We would bet there’s a club near you supporting access and scholarships
  • Fastweb: Access to search 1.5 million scholarships, along with financial aid and college info
  • Cappex: College scholarship search, along with college searches and reviews
  • Free and comprehensive list of searchable scholarships
  • Scholarship Points: Students earn points through rewards system to become eligible for dollars

Regional Access Orgs

  • College Spark Washington: Funds programs that help low-income students become college-ready and complete their degrees
  • Choose Your Future: A project of Chicago Public Schools
  • The Bottom Line: College access and success in NYC, Boston and Chicago
  • College Possible: 2-year coaching on college access in 6 cities
  • OneGoal: 3-year college prep program in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Houston
  • Students Rising Above: Provides full support services to low-income first generation students in the Bay Area
  • Take Stock in Children: Provides college prep coaching across Florida
  • Florida C.A.N.!: Provides statewide support for college and career preparation, access, and completion for all students
  • Future Foundation: Provides college preparation and access support students in metro Atlanta
  • Breakthrough Greater Boston: Provides college prep tutoring for students and coaching for teachers in metro Boston
  • Teen Sharp: Provides leadership development and college prep coaching in New Jersey and Delaware

For more great local programs, see FirstGEN Fellows.

Who did we miss? Who would you add? Share in the comments section below, and don’t forget to check out our other recent Smart Lists at our Smart List Series Page.

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This Smart List is sponsored by Getting Smart Services, Getting Smart’s consulting division that helps schools, districts, networks and impact-oriented partners create, implement and amplify thought leadership campaigns, education initiatives, powerful learning experiences and forward-leaning strategies. Learn more about what they can do to support your education initiatives here.

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Marcy Stengel

Check out Capital Region Sponsor-A-Scholar, a 20 year old college success program working in Albany, Schenectady and Troy, NY.

Eric Z. Williams

TRIO College Awareness (Talent Search), Readiness (Upward Bound & McNair), Access (Educational Opportunity Centers & Talent Search) & Success (Student Support Services) Programs. Contact U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education at [email protected] for more information about these federally-funded educational opportunity programs across the U.S. We have a TRIO Talent Search Program in the Chicago Public Schools and many others in local postsecondary partner institutions supporting our schools and students.



We had another reader suggest TRIO as well, noting that Student Support Services alone helps that specific demographic of students graduate from college at a 10% rate higher than their peers.

Brian Dever

Let's Get Ready is doing really good work throughout the Northeast - providing college access and success support. Thanks for highlighting all of these organizations!

Denise Trionfero

You should also check out the HEOP program (Higher Education Opportunity Program) that has been in existence for 47 years through the state of New York!

Frank B

Two more great organizations: Say Yes to College and On Point for College. Also, in addition to the federal programs, state grant agencies provide over $10 billion in grants and scholarships to students pursuing higher education - and help fill out the FAFSA!

Kate Watts

There are so many great organizations working in this space - thank you for beginning to compile a list! If you're in Tennessee, check out the Tennessee College Access and Success Network - a non-profit member organization that is committed to increasing the number of Tennesseans with college degrees. Also, anyone can use the website The TalentED Project - it is a free resource that connects college access programs with admissions recruiters at selective colleges in order to increase the pipeline of first generation and/or low income students at these schools.


N2College® Nationwide PreK12 Admissions ,Scholarship Prep, & Pre-Career Consulting Is The Home Of The $cholar$hip Jump$tart™ PreK12 Program & Has Been Assisting Future College-Bound Students & Families Since 2005 In All (50) States & (28) Countries Create, Develop, Revise, & Implement A Personal $cholar$hip RoadMap™ That Results In The Student Receiving The MAXIMUM Amount Of All Main Categories Of Merit-Based Scholarships PRIOR To High School Graduation. Working With Families|K12 Schools|501(c)3s|Federal TRiO|State/County DHR Programs. Over $22,000,000 Awarded To Our Student-Clients To Date! Doing Our Part Daily 2#MakeCollegeCostLess™!


Since 1981 the non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education ( in Washington, D.C. has helped expand college opportunities throughout the U.S. for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities. It works primarily through its 900 member colleges, universities, and community agencies that host the federal TRIO outreach programs that help almost a million students each year to enter and graduate from college. COE also houses the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Education, which conducts and publishes research and policy analysis for policymakers, educators and the public to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income, first generation and disabled college students.

Jason K

Princeton University Preparatory Program; Harvard Crimson Academy; Elon Academy; Collegiate Scholars @ the University of Chicago; Washington U St. Louis College Prep Program; Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools... and many more - free, university-based, comprehensive college preparation initiatives! And - throughout the country - there are affiliates of the National College Access Network; regional "CAN's" and College Prep Roundtables

Nankya Senungi

College Possible is a College Access and Success program that supports students to and through college graduation. We operate in six cities across the country, and support students on college campuses across the entire country.

Caroline Clu

You should include SEO Scholars! It's a free eight-year academic program that gets underserved public high school students to and through college with a 90% college graduation rate. SEO Scholars serves more than 1,500 students in NYC and SF, from 9th grade through college graduation. And SEO was just rated as a top charity with a 100% perfect score by Charity Navigator!

Alexis Allison

As a college counselor, I find myself more and more in need of the resources you've provided — thank you for them.

I also direct a web-based program called The Matchlighters Scholarship (, which awards high-achieving, low-income students with 6 hours of free college counseling. We serve transfers, international students, gap-year kids, grad and undergrad, etc. of all shapes and sizes, from any location with internet access, and we're a branch of an essay revision organization called College Essay Guy.

I would love love love to add Matchlighters to your list!

Thank you for all you do.

Jeff B

Great resource, Megan. We appreciate you putting together the comprehensive list of college access resources for current and prospective college students. The mix of government-sponsored programs and private entities should prove useful to college-seekers far and wide. Since cost is often a substantive barrier for many high school graduates and young adults, the addition of the scholarship sites is well placed. Keep up the great work & helping to provide valuable resources for students of all ages and abilities. Continued success!

Tara Reed

The TEAK Fellowship in NYC. The TEAK Fellowship believes that motivation and potential, not economic circumstances, should determine a student’s future. TEAK unlocks access to outstanding education and transformative experiences for exceptional NYC students, who use these opportunities to change their lives and the world around them.

TEAK is a free program that helps talented students from low-income families achieve their potential. Through intensive after school and summer classes, TEAK prepares middle school students to get into the nation’s most selective high schools and colleges. TEAK’s strong support system ensures that students thrive in their independent (day and boarding) high schools and graduate from college, ready to pursue their professional goals and positively impact the world.


Erik Day

Thanks for sharing, Tara! Looks like TEAK is doing great work.

Micah Stoudemire

College Now Greater Cleveland aka Cleveland Foundation

Yasna Vismale

A few great programs include the LEDA (Leadership Enterprise of a Diverse America) which selects 100 students from low income backgrounds to spend 7 weeks at Princeton. Another one is Johns Hopkin's CTY Scholars which is located in a few regions and offer students 25K in funding to prepare them for college throughout highschool.

Nina Kellner

College Boarding Pass (CBP) awards travel scholarships to level the playing field for academically qualified, low-income juniors and seniors to visit their dream schools at no cost to learn if they are a good fit. We welcome regional and national college access non-profits to partner with us so we can expand our reach to help students from all over the US go to attend college, graduate, and becoming successful members of their communities. Join us to break the chain of poverty!


California Transfer Support Network (CTSN) in California does some excellent work on targeting minority and disadvantaged community college students who demonstrated an interest in transferring to a university. Many students intent to transfer from community college to university, but most fail to do so. The nonprofit provides various services to students across California that are free of charge. I had a nephew who used them after a referral from a school counselor, and they went above and beyond to help him out. He transferred to a UC school only one year after high school.

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