Build relationships

You get a huge boost if there’s an adult you can count on for help in making it to college. Way too many of the students we surveyed—28 percent—said they completed their college application on their own. It’s hard to get the attention of overloaded counselors and teachers, they said. And even supportive families may not be able to offer concrete help, especially if no one in the family has been to college.

The value of these relationships cannot be overstated.

My health science teacher, she’s down to earth. She connects with you—outside of school, inside of school, she's there. She's a great influence on what you would like to be when you grow up, cool and relaxed but still professional.”- Ashley


I’m a participant in [our local university’s] ‘Dream Project’ that comes here on Thursdays. It’s a really great resource in that they assign you a student who’s in college, so they know what it’s all about. They come here and guide students through every step. I am lucky to be able to participate in something like that. “ - Duron


My coaches have made the difference. My parents want me to go to college bad, but they can’t really help. But if you're a high school athlete like me, you're used to being pushed. Your coaches push you hard on the field, and they push you to college, especially when they have ties at a lot of places. They push you, and it’s a good thing.” - Caleb

I usually don’t like asking for help, but when someone comes up to you, even just a counselor, and says, ‘Hey, check this out, I don’t know if you’ll like it, but you should look at it anyway,’ that goes pretty far. Having someone working with you without you asking for it, that means a whole lot.” - Dejahnaye

Sadly, there aren’t enough adults who think of reaching out to help young people make it to college. So it’s up to you to make the connections and build the relationships. When you ask, most adults will probably say “yes.”

Finding a mentor

Tell everyone you know you plan to go to college. Ask people you trust and admire if they can help—it could be a religious leader, a coach, an employer, a family friend, a godparent.

Make a short list of the teachers you respect (from middle school, too). Send them a note—or an e-mail—explaining where things stand with your college plans and asking them if can advise you when you need help.

Look for “college access” programs in your community, designed to give students the one-on-one support that’s hard to find in school. Ask if they have a list of such programs, or look online at

Students on who makes a good mentor

“Someone who shows us different paths and different opportunities, based on our interests.”

“Someone who puts themselves in our shoes and sees what we go through. It’s great if they listen, but better yet if they understand us.”

“Someone who really knows you and where you want to go in life. Someone you can trust and talk to and who really wants to help you out, who knows your heart.”

     NEXT (Spread your wings)
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