Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

College Summit

From left: Dana Malman ’03, Rishi Jaitly ’04, Melissa Galvez ’05, Alex Stege ’05, and Katharine Mullen ’03 at College Summit’s office in Washington, D.C. (courtesy College Summit)

January 25, 2006:

Getting low-income students to apply to college — and succeed

College Summit: Five young alumni have ended up at the same nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that tries to increase the college enrollment rate for low-income students.

Rishi Jaitly ’04, a history major and a member of Princeton’s Board of Trustees, found out about College Summit through Project 55, a nonprofit founded by the Class of 1955 that places alumni and students in public-service organizations. Having served on the New Jersey State Commission on Higher Education in his senior year, Jaitly knew he wanted to be involved in education. When he interviewed at College Summit, he realized he had found his niche. The organization aims to create a process for students from low-income communities to move successfully from high school to college. Many of those students today are left behind because their parents didn’t attend college, and they don’t know how to navigate the college-admission process.

Colleges are interested in admitting a diverse student body, but they only become aware of low-income students who score well on standardized tests, says Jaitly, coordinator of public policy and government affairs. “After bidding wars among colleges end for this pool of high-testing students, the students with numbers in the middle remain invisible,” he says.

That’s where College Summit comes in. The organization focuses on low-income students who are better than their test scores and grades indicate — students who could succeed in college if they enrolled, says Dana Malman ’03, a Woodrow Wilson School major. Like Jaitly and Project 55 fellow Melissa Galvez ’05, Malman learned about College Summit through Project 55. Also working at College Summit are Katharine Mullen ’03 and Alex Stege ’05.

Founded in 1993, College Summit partners with 98 high schools and 30 colleges in six states, including Colorado and California. Teachers in those schools identify 20 percent of upcoming seniors to attend four-day summer workshops on college campuses, where they learn about the college-admission process and craft personal essays. Those students return to high school in the fall as peer leaders to spread a message to classmates that getting into college is possible. All seniors in the schools take a for-credit course, designed by College Summit, in which teachers make sure students have completed applications on time and submitted recommendations and financial aid information. College Summit then offers colleges it partners with previews of its student applications.

Of the students who have attended College Summit summer workshops, 79 percent have gone to college, says Malman, who raises funds and works with pilot school systems. She would like to see the College Summit model spread to more school districts. “We leverage student talent that is overlooked,” says Malman. “Going to college can end poverty in a family line forever.”

By K.F.G.