UW Dream Project

May 31, 2013

Empowering Through Informing

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By Lauren Martin, former high school lead at HS3

An article published in the New York Times on March 29, 2013, entitled, “A Simple Way to Send Poor Kids to Top Colleges” detailed a not-so-surprising fact: the reason that many underprivileged kids don’t go to college is not because they are incapable or unwilling, but because they lack the necessary information.

A team of researchers randomly distributed thousands of packets of information about the college application to low income students, and counted how many more students armed with packets applied to college as opposed to those who did not.* The article states, “Among a control group of low-income students with SAT scores good enough to attend top colleges–but who did not receive the information packets–only 30 percent gained admission to a college matching their academic qualifications. Among a similar group of students who did receive a packet, 54 percent gained admission.”

These results are not surprising to us Dream Project mentors, since we are the human equivalent to these information packets. We know these students are completely capable, they just lack the access. And there is no denying that we at Dream Project are enabling huge changes for our students. But we are only one group at one college, and this study aims a bit higher.

The article quotes David Coleman, president of College Board, as saying that the results were “powerful enough to require changes at his organization.” He said, “‘We can’t stand by as students, particularly low-income students, go off track and don’t pursue the opportunity they have earned.'” This is where the study is extremely useful, because if it is loud enough to attract the attention of Coleman, then it is loud enough to inspire real change in the education system in this country that favors more advantaged students.

Dream Project is just one facet in a bigger movement of education equality, and in recognizing that fact, we strengthen ourselves. This study is another facet, and hopefully, someday soon, change will come.

* This part of the article was difficult for me to read, since I don’t like the idea of experimenting on low income high school students. It broke my heart that every student couldn’t receive an information packet–but I suppose that’s the point of the study! The kids who did receive the packets shouldn’t just be the “lucky,” random ones; each student deserves this information.