Expanding access and equity

By joining forces in 2019, Common App and Reach Higher catalyzed progress toward our joint goals of building a college-going and completion culture, bringing joy to the admissions process, and supporting all students, especially low-income and first-generation students, in achieving their higher education dreams.

During these unprecedented times, we must rapidly address the systemic issues that are creating barriers for all students, especially low-income students and students of color. It is well past time for higher education to work together to go beyond incremental, reactive change to create an equitable system that levels the playing field for all.

Here are some of the ways we are tearing down those barriers for students:

Capital One Foundation Grant to Continue Support for College-Bound Students

Grant: $900,000

Project Overview:

  • Common App, AdmitHub, and College Advising Corps will continue their high-tech, high touch student support campaign to 173,000 low-income and first-generation rising college freshmen students through January 1, 2021.
  • What began as an in kind project between these three organizations in April, will now have the philanthropic funding necessary to continue to support students through summer melt and through the fall semester.
  • Since April, AdmitHub's conversational AI platform and College Advising Corps counselors have provided critical support to students as they navigate a higher education landscape that has become increasingly uncertain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 173,000 Common App applicants have been receiving two to three messages each week that provide tips and advice to stay on track for reaching their college goals. Since April, over 13 million messages have been sent from the bot, with an active engagement rate of 60.9%. In addition, College Advising Corps counselors have responded to hundreds of messages per week via text and created online forums to share critical content for students navigating their next steps to attend college in the fall.

Dear Class of 2020 Fund

Project Overview:

  • YouTube, Google.org and Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative have partnered to create the Dear Class of 2020 Fund, dedicated to keeping first generation students and those with high financial need in school during unexpected financial emergencies.
  • Funds for this grant were provided thanks to the generosity of Course Hero, McDonald’s, Box Tops for Education, Google.org, and Strada Education Network.
  • Administered by Scholarship America, college students can apply to receive a one-time grant for emergency expenses that address financial, food or housing insecurity.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to support a data-driven approach to college access and equity research initiatives.

Grant: $1.6 Million

Project Overview:

  • This grant is allowing Common App to build an equity data warehouse to enable stakeholders, including school counselors, college admissions professionals, and external researchers to better understand and support the students that they serve.
  • This initiative is helping us to deliver easy-to-understand and meaningful insights to Common App’s stakeholders for the purpose of improving college access outcomes for underserved students.

Kresge Foundation Grant: Supporting Students in the Scholarship Application Process

Grant: $1 million

Project Overview:

  • There are more than $6 billion in private scholarships available to eligible students today, yet scholarships that are distributed are not allocated equitably across student populations.
  • We are exploring how Common App can make it easier for under-served student groups to access private scholarship dollars.
  • To address this disparity, Common App is exploring how to leverage its existing infrastructure to support students throughout the process of identifying and applying for scholarships.

Community Colleges:

Project Overview:

  • In partnership with the Berkeley HAAS School of Business and the Kresge Foundation, Common App has been exploring how to improve the pathway and completion pipeline between community college and four year universities.
  • Community colleges are a vital resource for social mobility and workforce development. And, for many students, they are an important stepping stone towards a 4-year degree.
  • Common App is working with subject matter experts to find ways to streamline the transfer application process and develop additional support resources to facilitate the process for community college transfers.

Beating the Odds Video Series featuring the Grammy Museum

  • This summer, Reach Higher will continue its tradition of convening and supporting first-generation and low income students in their journey to college with the Beating the Odds Summit.
  • Because of COVID19, in lieu of an in-person event, Reach Higher will host a series of video conversations with students and subject matter discussing first-gen transitions and navigating college experiences.
  • In addition, the GRAMMY Museum ® will be partnering this summer on a new Mentorship Monday program in partnership with GRAMMY U ® and Reach Higher.
  • Every Monday from July 20 through Aug. 31, top-tier music industry professionals will mentor college students and recent graduates via digital conferencing. Mentors include artists Little Big Town, Sam Fischer, Tikyra "TK" Jackson, Ledisi, Melanie Pfirrman, Sasha Sloan, and Francisca Valenzuela, and Recording Academy ® Chapter members. These sessions will provide an opportunity for students to connect with established music industry professionals and creatives, and will serve as a valuable tool for information, advice and exploration within a wide variety of music careers and topics as they pursue their own careers.

Revolutionizing the Application

We are undertaking an exploration into questions on the common application that could be perceived as barriers to application completion for students.

Specifically, we will be reviewing six areas:

  • Citizenship
  • Gender expression
  • Family
  • Religious affiliation
  • Military discharge
  • School discipline

Our goal is make the application more inclusive and ensure every student who uses Common App can see themselves in the application. Reviewing these questions is just a first step of a larger effort to reimagine the application on a much larger scale with you. We invite you to view our Virtual Summit presentation to learn more.