This post originally appeared on the Tennessee College Access and Success Network blog.
A low-income/first-generation high school graduate with a 3.6 grade point average appears at a selective private college to sign up for classes. When the administration looks up her records in the computer, they discover that she is not on their list of admitted students. When they inquire about her missing name, they discover that she never applied to the school. She had incorrectly assumed that she simply needed to show up and sign up for classes.
A low-income/first-generation honors student admitted to a selective private college with a “full-ride,” scholarship does not realize that she must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the financial aid deadline in order to receive the scholarship and ends up losing the scholarship.
A low-income/first-generation student who has been admitted to a college honors program at a school far from home shows up at the college only to discover that she was supposed to provide a $250 room-deposit to secure a room in the residence hall and now has to turn around and go home because there are no rooms available.
A sophomore first-generation college student on the Dean’s list does not realize that she must fill out the FAFSA each year. She fills out the FAFSA too late to receive grant money she was eligible for and ends up not being able to pay for her second year of school.
These are true stories of students who have crossed my path after the fact of the events. I’d like to be able to tell you that these are isolated incidents, but they are not. Everyone I know working in the field of college access and success can tell you similar horror stories of great students doing everything in their power to get good grades and end up missing some element of the college admissions and financial aid process.
And yes, yes; ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to ensure these things are being managed. It’s a legitimate observation. Another way to look at it is that most students who have support at home have someone helping them with some/all aspects of this process. It’s an illusion to think that any student is doing it in isolation: Someone helped fill out the FAFSA; someone was reminding the student to complete the admissions applications; someone was writing a check for the $250 room deposit; someone was reminding the student to fill out the FAFSA annually; someone was…
The point I’m trying to make is that good grades and test SCOREs, considered in isolation, will not guarantee college access or success. “College Ready,” so narrowly defined, will not lead to increased enrollment, retention, and completion. Instead of describing students with good grades and test SCOREs as “College Ready,” it would be more accurate to say that the student is “Academically Prepared,” for college. “College Ready,” is a much broader topic.