We recently came across an article posted on the online site for The Atlantic exploring the issue of what it is like to be the first in a family to go to college. At Farther Foundation, almost all of our students are the first in their family, or at least part of the first generation in their family, to attend college.
The article does a nice job of pointing out some of the hurdles that first generation college aspirants have in gaining admittance and remaining in college until graduation. First-hand experience from family and friends does not exist. Expert college counseling in their schools is scarce. Admissions and financial aid processes are tricky. College life can be a very foreign and stressful experience with little that is familiar to provide comfort or relief.
Since 2009, Farther Foundation has been providing opportunities for low-income high school students from the Chicago area to participate in enrichment travel programs across the country and around the world. In a population of students where the high school graduation rate is 63%, and only half of those graduates go immediately on to college and less than half of those again persist until college graduation, it is a far different story for our program participants. 100% of our participants graduate high school, 95% go on to college and 95% are staying in college. Several members from our 2009 scholarship class are now college seniors and we look forward with great pride and excitement to their graduation this spring.
We believe there are several factors that are making the difference for our students:
- Their Farther Foundation high school travel experience familiarized them with application and financial aid processes.
- They experienced what it was like to be away from home for an extended time.
- Their families learned what it was like for the student to be away from home.
- They experienced new and different people, places and cultures.
- They gained confidence and experience necessary to expand their pool of college choices making it more likely to select the right fit college.
- They became more aware of a world full of opportunities and their own potential to succeed anywhere is that world.
Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.