6 answers

What are ways to increase your changes of being accepted to four year colleges, despite being from a low income area?

Asked Methuen, Massachusetts

Another question I have is how can I stand out to colleges while being from a low income area that, to me, seems to limit my opportunities? I have had personal experiences losing great opportunities due to where I am from.
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6 answers

Eli’s Answer

  • 1. Your best chance is to do well in school, have a high GPA, and do well on the SAT or ACT. This is the primary determinant of your ability to get into college
  • 2. Secondary to that, reaching out directly to colleges is incredibly helpful. Colleges offer on-site or remote interviews with alumni which can give you a great opportunity to talk to someone directly about your background. This is also puts a face to a name and will come up in their decision whether to accept you or not. Colleges want to accept students who are excited about attending and this will show that.
  • 3. On-site visits. Many schools will offer fly-in programs to lower-income students where they will fly you to the school and give you a tour with a night or two stay in dorms. I highly recommend this as well since like #2 it will show your interest in the school.
  • 4. Do well, work hard, but more than anything do what you love. If you love orchestra, do that. If you love sports, do that. If you like to talk about politics, join a debate club. If you do what you love and show that to schools in extracurriculars they will recognize that too!
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Thank you very much for your advice!!

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio


Who you are and what attributes that you have are much more important than where you come from. The most important thing that you can do is to get to know yourself well enough to develop a career focus based on how your personality traits relate to people in various career areas and then talk face to face and in person to people who are doing what you think that you might want to do to see what they do, how they got there, and see what advice and suggestions that they might have.


Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want  to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network  ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
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Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, I truly appreciate it! I'll definitely do my best to follow your advice!
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Great answer

Akshama’s Answer

Updated Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

I'm answering this with respect to my country, India. To increase your chances of being accepted to four year colleges, focus on your board exams and entrances like NEET and JEE. Universities like DU offer sports quota for people who excel in extracurriculars, so make sure to check that as well.

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Thank you!

Jamie’s Answer

Updated California, California

Write an excellent college admission essay accompanying your college application. Talk about your experience growing up and your dream of moving up through college education and get a career to better your life. A good place to start learning how to write these kind of good essays is

https://www.npr.org/series/4538138/this-i-believe


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Thank you for the advice!

Michael’s Answer

Updated Mine Hill Township, New Jersey

Do your best to EXEL in school. If you get good grades and participate in school activities you will have no trouble getting in to a good college.

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Thank you! I really appreciate the advice!

Rehana’s Answer

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Hi Aliya:

you can stand out via your essay that you write - think of your life experience and what it has taught you and how that can help you be an ambassador in college. Showcase your difference in strong positive ways ! Think of how low income or high income - the goal is the same - to be educated and make a difference in the world!

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Thank you!