Evanston Scholars Executive Director Steve Newman with Andrea and her three acceptance letters to Augustana College, Lake Forest College and Knox College, along with over 00,000 in scholarships. Submitted photo

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Boarding a bus at 6 a.m. on Oct. 28, 24 Evanston Scholars began a day that would end with cheers, hugs and tears of joy.  Students, mentors, board members and staff banded together to cheer on the Scholars as doors to their future opened at the Onsite Admissions Forum in Chicago.  The Evanston Scholars family was there to support the academically ambitious low-income students, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college.

The large Onsite Admissions Forum is organized by Chicago Scholars, which has helped some 2,500 first-generation and low-income students achieve a 95 percent college graduation rate through a combination of mentoring, college-readiness programming and follow-up support in college.

At Onsite, admissions officers from some 80 colleges were present to interview and recruit the Evanston Scholars as well as students in the Chicago Scholars program.  Students can submit up to five college applications in preparation for the event.  Admissions officers review applications ahead of time and come prepared with letters of acceptance and scholarship awards or messages of deferral and requests for additional information, such as second-semester senior grades.

During their interviews, nearly all of the Evanston Scholars received acceptance letters from schools that included Illinois Wesleyan University, Augustana College, Knox College, University of Iowa and Kent State University. Evanston Scholars were awarded over $1 million in scholarships from these and other schools.

Gaining acceptance and aid to colleges as early as October is unusual among their peers, most of whom are just finishing up initial applications.  On average, each Evanston Scholar applies to nine schools – an “apply early and often” strategy designed to help them find the school that best meets their academic, social and financial needs.

Background on Evanston Scholars

Evanston Scholars is a non-profit organization that improves college access and success for a diverse group of ambitious, underserved Evanston students. The six-year program provides more than 250 hours of workshops, mentoring, college visits, ACT preparation and individualized college counseling to students lacking financial, academic, family and/or community resources.

The goal of the program is to see more students start and finish college.  Without help, students face dismal odds: The college dropout rate of low-income and minority students is up to 60 percent. Those who will be the first in their families to finish college are twice as likely to leave college without earning a degree as students whose parents have college degrees.  Through mentors, peer relationships and learning opportunities, Evanston Scholars seeks to bolster students’ support systems and help them find the school that meets their academic, social, and financial needs, thus improving their chance of obtaining a college degree.