Colleges launch site to provide young students more access to higher education

Pomona College.
Pomona College.
Courtesy Pomona College (Flickr)

In January, high school students as young as freshmen will have the opportunity to engage with several colleges — including Pomona, Stanford and Caltech — using a site aimed at making applying to college easier. The schools hope to give younger students and those with fewer resources more direct attention so that they can begin exploring higher educational options before entering their senior year.

"I believe it's a very exciting opportunity to be a part of something different, at least in the sense of trying to provide more access to students," Jarrid Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid at Caltech, told KPCC.

The site serves as both an application portal and a site filled with tools and resources. It is supposed to allow students to put together a digital portfolio to plan for college, streamline the financial aid process and get feedback from school counselors.

Caltech hopes to use the online site to also target students who may not have many higher educational resources to go to.

"As an institution, we're definitely trying to do more outreach to students who maybe come from under-resourced schools and backgrounds," Whitney said. "This platform, with such a great coalition of schools, would hopefully bring us together to reach these objectives."

For some, applying to college is a senior thing. This site hopes to change that. Although there are students who seek higher education resources before they enter 12th grade, many tools out there are mostly for seniors, Whitney said. Colleges like Caltech hope to reach students as early as the 9th grade.

Pomona, recently named top university on Forbes' list, has also joined the efforts. 

"There are other application tools — I think what we are excited about is the idea that students will get to start it a lot earlier," Pomona College Associate Dean of Admissions Ashley Pallie told KPCC. 

Whitney said that targeting ninth graders is a good pivot point, because that's when students start developing their educational curriculum. "Especially for a place like Caltech, you have to have the appropriate curriculum," he said. "You just can't decide to apply to Caltech if you're not prepared your senior year."

While the platform will encourage younger students to start thinking about college, Whitney said it isn't meant to add additional stress to students. "It's more just the start, the thought process and [to] be reflective as you go into your senior year," he said. 

How each college decides to use the platform is up to them, Whitney said. 

"Some schools may use that information to target students earlier, some schools may just use it as an avenue for students to learn more about our institution, but ultimately each individual school can still decide how to format their application," Whitney said.

Current high school juniors will be the first group able to access the application site. Transfer students will also be able to use it during its first year. The app is free to use, but students may still have to pay application fees, depending on the school.

"It's not just about Caltech trying to figure a way to get to students, but working as a consortium will help us broadly work with the population of students we are trying to reach," Whitney said. "Hopefully [it will] give more of a platform for students to voice what they are looking for too."