Summer on campus routinely buzzes with young people who come to Princeton to become a stronger student, researcher, athlete or performer. Summer 2017 stood out for the variety of programs the University hosted to help low-income and nontraditional students access college in the first place, and succeed once they're admitted.
Some, like the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) initiative and the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute’s Summer Policy Academy, have longstanding ties to the University, bringing cohorts of talented students from low-income backgrounds to Princeton for intensive academic preparation and leadership training.
Princeton has launched relationships with several new organizations to design summer experiences that lower barriers to college acceptance and success among diverse communities of students. From June through August, the University hosted multiple groups of prospective college students as well as, for the first time, college counselors and alumni advisers from a nationwide network of high schools committed to preparing low-income scholars to pursue colleges and careers of their choice.
The following series of photos reflects participants' experiences across three summer programs. In mid-June, College Horizons, a program that aims to increase the number of Native Americans accessing higher education, brought more than 100 high school students to campus. They researched their top schools, completed college and financial aid applications, honed test-taking skills, took part in a college fair featuring more than 40 institutions, and learned what it takes to succeed in college as Native students.
"Being at Princeton University is really exciting, especially when I’m walking places and I know that there have been indigenous people before me who have walked there too," said Mikki Metteba, a high school student and member of the Navajo Nation from Arizona, in a video highlighting the College Horizons experience at Princeton. "And knowing that I’m able to reclaim those spaces … it’s empowering."
During the last week of June, 15 active duty service members and veterans from the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps took classes led by Princeton faculty, had daily study sessions and writing workshops, and navigated the college search and financial aid processes as part of the Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP). WSP, which provides free, immersive, one- to two-week "boot camps" at 15 rigorous colleges and universities across the country, works to ease the transition for veterans from military to academic life.
Attacking the access challenge from a different angle, more than 50 college counselors and alumni advisers from the Cristo Rey Network — an alliance of 32 Catholic college preparatory schools serving more than 10,700 low-income students in 21 states and the District of Columbia — gathered at Princeton for the Summit on College Success. Sonya Smith, Princeton's associate dean of admission and director of diversity outreach, led a session on the application process and file review at highly selective colleges. Additionally, participants took part in a master class to help students craft compelling, authentic college essays, and heard current low-income and first-generation students describe their journeys to and through Princeton.
The summit helped participants return to their home schools equipped to provide stronger counseling to their students.
"We had a fabulous student panel from first-gen students of color at Princeton. It was very powerful because the counselors had the chance to see the students we serve in their faces," said Kenneth Hutchinson, Cristo Rey's director of college initiatives. "It drove home that Cristo Rey students can not only access schools like Princeton but thrive and be taken care of once they get there."
From the perspective of Kevin Hudson, Princeton's assistant director for college opportunity in the Office of the Provost, the University's relationship with these new initiatives succeeded in helping to broaden participants' understanding that highly selective schools may be realistic, affordable options.
"The University's goal in working with these programs is to help demystify the process of applying to and being prepared for college for students who may not think a top school is in their reach," Hudson said. "Whether you come from a low-income or military background, we hope these experiences at Princeton show participants their background should not dictate whether they can go to college and where; rather, they have great assets and strengths that they bring to a college community."