Center for Student Opportunity

I’m a big fan of the Center for Student Opportunity,  a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote college access and opportunity among first-generation and historically underserved student populations. They’ve produced a very fine guidebook of colleges that focuses on information particularly appropriate to these students, including what support is offered, scholarships and so on. It also has essays and tips from experts in the front. I saw the first edition last year at NACAC and bought ten copies on the spot to give to the charter school counselors I’ve been working with over the past two years.


CSO has also created a strong website called College Center that lets students search for college access programs, ask experts questions about the college process and search for colleges offering advising, mentoring, transition programs, and so on. I expect them to continue adding to the list as they go on. 


Colleges can find out how to partner with CSO to reach underserved students by clicking here. With a contribution to CSO (based on Carnegie Classification), institutions can not only reach individual students but also community organizations. Everybody wins.


CSO’s most recent addition is a blog section where ten students from minority, low-income, and first-generation backgrounds are sharing their stories or high school and college. The initial entries have the energy of a new project, projecting optimism and immediacy. Although there are only a few from each student so far, I hope they continue to record their thoughts and experiences for the benefit of their peers about to go through the process themselves. 


Their situations reflect the concerns that many first-generation students have, such as having to be an example for their younger siblings and communities. They are also poignant in their forthrightness–one student blogger talks about how she discovered she was pregnant while she was applying to colleges. This forthrightness can help students who think that personal circumstances make it impossible to think about continuing their educations. (They blog as part of their having become Opportunity Scholars–see below.)


If you are a counselor or community volunteer who works with first-generation, low-income, and otherwise underserved students, the Center for Student Opportunity can be a great help. Not only does the website have excellent resources, there is also a page where you can download free guides for helping high school students, parents/families, and others. Students also have the opportunity to be nominated as Opportunity Scholars; if selected, they receive college counseling support from a network of volunteer counselors as well as a chance for a $1,000.00 renewable scholarship in college. 


If you are a college and want to expand your outreach to underrepresented students, be sure to look at CSO’s Colleges Partnership Program


There’s plenty more to explore on the site, and I expect it just to get better and better as more and more individuals and institutions connect to it. It is a welcome and necessary resource for the students we serve.





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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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