College Access & Opportunity Guide, 2011 Edition

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College Access & Opportunity Guide, 2011 Edition
Center for Student Opportunity
Sourcebooks Inc.
417 pages.

For low-income, first-generation, college-bound students who often have difficulty succeeding in college, this lively publication combines college profiles with pithy advice from experts and students. It works in sync with interactive websites from the nonprofit Center for Student Opportunity (CSO) and its partners that developed the guide. Reminiscent of a glossy teen magazine, three sections introduce what once seemed to be the impossible dream of a college education.

Set off by orange borders, 40 opening pages from KnowHow2Go (www.KnowHow2GO.org), a national public service multimedia campaign, outline “The 4 Steps to College,” from finding supportive adults to navigating the maze of financial aid. Bold design and snappy explanations make these steps digestible. Checklists of tasks for each high school year are especially valuable.

As Insider Advice from College Students and Other Experts begins, students are invited to create a profile at www.CSOCollegeCenter.org to become Opportunity Scholars who receive free college admissions guidance and can apply for scholarships. Throughout a rainbow of nearly 50 short articles by students and admissions professionals grouped by topic, inspiring blog entries from scholarship winners appear in red sidebars. Harvard University winner Khadijah Williams, who was homeless during her college search, says “the key is to seek help.”

Topics start with building a network of mentors and exploring preparatory programs such as Upward Bound. How does one find the right fit? Take a quiz to discover your optimal college size. Consult articles by college students who once lived in foster care, or read about historically black colleges and universities, as well as institutions that recruit Latinos, Native Americans, women and even single parents.

William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid – once a blue-collar Harvard student himself – explains how college admissions have become more financially inclusive. From how to write memorable college application essays to not using e-mail addresses such as “hotstuff,” insider tips are both simple and profound: “Of all the qualities that admissions counselors find appealing, authenticity tops the list,” says Scott Anderson from The Common Application Inc.

The final glossy section is a 15-page guide for mentors in English and Spanish versions. Clear directions cover the whole process from breaking the ice for serious talks with college hopefuls to a list of questions to ask when visiting a campus.

The rest of the guide contains single-page, black-and-white profiles of 284 colleges and universities noted for supporting “traditionally underserved” students. Organized by state (minus Delaware, Idaho, Nebraska and North Dakota), each profile contains a campus photo, overview and descriptions of three supports: “Access” programs for pre-college students, “Opportunity” programs assisting newly admitted students and “Success” programs that help students persevere through graduation. “Fast Facts” gives statistical snapshots of each institution, adding hard-to-get information such as racial and ethnic makeup and minority student organizations.

The wide variety of institutions includes the Air Force Academy and Ivy League schools such as Amherst College, which welcomes 35 percent students of color. Sizes range from large state universities to tiny Marlboro College in Vermont, with 329 students. Among the unusual are Berea College in Kentucky, founded in 1855 as the first interracial, coed college in the South; each of its 1,500 students receives a four-year tuition scholarship. Students at Grinnell College in Iowa work with at-risk teens in a community youth center. It’s “the best-kept secret in liberal arts,” says psych major Zac from Los Angeles. “Bringing students from around the world to an Iowan town of 9,000 and getting us to love it says enough.”

This one-stop shop offers essential information to high school students from nontraditional backgrounds and the adults who support their college quest. A free 36-page Guide to the Guide contains forms and activities to help its audience utilize the guide and is downloadable at www.CSOpportunity.org. (800) 432-7444, www.sourcebooks.com.