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As High Schoolers Wait For College Notices, D.C. Fights To Get Students To Apply

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Low-income students — both in D.C. and elsewhere — are less likely to apply for and enroll in college.
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Low-income students — both in D.C. and elsewhere — are less likely to apply for and enroll in college.

Thousands of high school seniors across our region are waiting to hear if they've gotten into the colleges of their choice. And in the District, D.C. public schools are making a big push to get students — especially those from low-income backgrounds — ready for higher education.

President Barack Obama recently talked about the advantages students from higher income backgrounds have when it comes to applying to college, using his own daughters' experiences as an example.

"Malia and Sasha, by the time they're in seventh grade at Sidwell School here, are already getting all kinds of advice on preparing for college," he said.

By contrast, Obama said that only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school. Kevin Hudson, who heads the DCPS Office of College and Career Readiness, says that sometimes students haven't even heard of certain universities.

"What may be seen as a world famous university may not be known by students. If you haven't had a college going experience, it's hard to grasp what they have to offer. It's an acquired language," he says.

DCPS is encouraging teachers to talk to students about college as early as elementary school. Cornell University recently trained DCPS guidance counselors on what admissions officers look for in applications, and DCPS has invited universities, including Princeton, MIT and Brown, to host receptions in city high schools.

"It's a scary, scary process. Our students say they want to go to college, but it's the how that trips them up," says Hudson.

According to Hudson, the school system is also trying to encourage more students to take AP courses to prepare for the rigors of college.

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