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Characteristics of Early Awareness Initiatives


More than half of all pre-college early awareness and intervention initiatives are run by a college or university. The remainder are community- and school-based. Some are funded with federal dollars, others with state dollars and many through non-profit organizations. The most common goals of these programs are:

  • improve academic skills
  • increase high school retention
  • build self-esteem
  • provide role models
  • increase parental involvement
  • build college and career awareness
  • promote college attendance
  • increase financial aid awareness

Services Provided

Services are typically delivered on a college campus or at an elementary or secondary school, and may include:

  • academic mentoring and tutoring
  • study skill training
  • critical thinking skill training
  • cultural activities
  • test-taking preparation
  • academic and career counseling
  • college awareness and visits
  • clarification of the financial aid process

Five Types of Programs

  1. awareness programs that inform children from underrepresented groups about preparing for college

  2. intervention programs that work with children and parents on academic and life skills and provide information about college and career opportunities

  3. multi-service resource centers that provide college planning information, advice and (in some instances) scholarships to enhance postsecondary access for low-income students

  4. guaranteed tuition programs that promise funds for college tuition and books to at-risk children if certain academic standards are met upon graduation from high school

  5. last dollar scholarship and financial aid advising programs, which may also include early awareness efforts

Target Populations

The student populations most often targeted by early awareness/early intervention programs are low-income, minority and/or students who would be the first-generation in their family to attend college. Most programs focus on middle and high school students although some begin in grade school.

Financial Support

Representing more than half of all total funding, the federal government is the largest source of financial support for early intervention programs although such funding is primarily for the federal TRIO and GEAR-UP programs. Financial support from state governments, non-profit organizations and colleges and universities make up the remainder. Most programs receive financial support from more than one source.


College Access Matters: The Opportunity for College Access Programs in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, Inc.

Short-term Early College Awareness: Key Strategies for Successful Early Intervention and Early College Awareness Programs. Alexandria, VA: National Association for College Admissions Counseling.

Swail, W.S. & Perna, L. W. (2002). Pre-College Outreach Programs, A National Perspective. Increasing Access to College: Extending Possibilities for All Students, Chp 1. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Swail, W.S. (2000). Preparing America's Disadvantaged for College: Programs That Increase College Opportunity. Understanding the College Choice of Disadvantaged Students, v27 n3 p85-101 Fall 2000. San Francisco: New Directions for Institutional Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.