College Readiness Resources

College applications are difficult, both as a process and in the transition they represent, academically and socially. Not all high schools have sufficient resources to devote to helping students prepare for college, or with their applications. This leaves many students adrift, either inadequately prepared or struggling with a byzantine and often confusing application process.

Laurel Scholars strives to fill this gap, and we aren’t alone. There are many wonderful organizations and nonprofits that seek to help high school students stay on track academically, prepare for college, and successfully navigate the transition. Many of these are meant to help students in the organization’s local area, which makes sense. Before the digital age, and even now, it was often easiest to help students in your proximity. 

For this reason, we are organizing these resources by location and city. We will be expanding this with more cities as time goes on. We will include a guide at the end to finding similar resources in your city. 

Austin Resources

UT Austin has a number of offerings in this field. These include: 

  • McCombs summer programs: These are free six day experiences. They look for students from underrepresented or first generation backgrounds. All the programs look to introduce you to both business and college life.
  • UT Youth Engagement Centers: These are college readiness programs, aimed at top students in public schools; Austin program. They provide tutoring, workshops, bootcamps, and other services to help prepare you for college.
  • My Introduction to Engineering (MITE): This is a free 5 day camp for high school juniors to gain an introduction to engineering, targeted at lower income students (though anyone can apply).
  • Black Youth Day: This is a one day free engineering event for black students from local public schools in grades 8-11, meant to encourage them to become engineers, and to introduce them to engineering more generally.
  • CS academy for all: This is a weeklong free on-campus camp meant to introduce high school students to coding/CS, open to rising 10th to 12th graders.


Here are some other organizations working towards the same ends in and around Austin: 

  • Breakthrough Central Texas: They work specifically with first generation college students. They begin working with students in middle school, and continue into high school and through the college application process.
  • Foundation College Hub: This organization partners prospective college students with individual mentors; they have a big focus on helping students apply for financial aid.
  • Texas Oncourse: A variety of online tools for students in middle and high school. These are self-directed resources, rather than counseling.
  • Texas Leadership Scholars: A full ride scholarship at participating public universities (mostly the A&M network), which is need and academic prowess based. Note that this scholarship will help primarily once you are in college, rather than during the application process.. 

Los Angeles Resources

Many of these resources are offered by UCLA or USC, so these are grouped separately. Here are the offerings by UCLA: 

  • UCLA summer program scholarships: These are scholarships for all of UCLA’s various summer programs, which are only open to California residents. Both full and partial scholarships are available, and they have both need and merit based funding. There are a limited number of scholarships offered each year.
  • Longbeach Polytechnic Partnership: UCLA has a partnership with this high school specifically, allowing underserved students at this school to gain exposure to biomedical research. This opportunity is only available if you attend the partner school.
  • Project stride: This is a free 10 week summer research experience for underrepresented students, offered in partnership with UCLA. It is focused on biomedical/premed research and applications.
  • UCLA CCCP: This is the Center for Community College Partnerships. The office is meant to help underserved/represented community college students in LA transfer to UCLA, and provide needed resources to help them do so. If you are attending a community college, or thinking about doing so, this can be a pathway to transfer to a UC school. These partnerships are offered for all UC schools, look for one near you.
  • UCLA MESA: This program focuses on engineering, and is done in partnership with local middle and high schools. It provides some college counseling, lectures, and academic competitions for students.
  • Curtis Center: Provides resources to Los Angeles area public school students who want to explore advanced math topics. Resources are available throughout the school year.
  • Riordan scholars: This free program entails eight sessions, once a month. It offers mentorship by MBA students, college prep and introductions to the world of business/finance.
  • Writing Summer institute: This is an introduction to college style writing, including for college applications. It is a 3 week program offered in the summer, with scholarships available.

Here are the program offerings by USC:

  • USC NAI: This program provides free services to underrepresented students, including mentorship, test prep, and additional coursework to prepare them for college. This is long term assistance, offered throughout the school year, for students in grades 6-12.
  • USC MESA: This is the same as the UCLA program above, but is offered through USC.
  • Young Researcher Program: This is a free 6 week summer research program, students are paired with a grad student mentor who directs them in a research project. You must attend an LA public school to apply, and only rising seniors (that is, current juniors) are eligible to apply.
  • USC Bovard Scholars: This is a free mentorship program specifically to help students apply to top colleges and navigate the financial aid process. A significant number of the participants attend USC. This is a year long program, open to rising seniors.

Here are some other free programs in the Los Angeles area which help students apply to or prepare for college: 

  • Occidental College Upward Bound: This program offers free college prep workshops and mentorship to students at specific public high schools in LA.
  • Loyola Marymount Upward Bound: Same, but offered by Loyola Marymount. Note that this is a Catholic school.
  • College match LA: They offer individual mentorship to students to help them with their college and financial aid applications.
  • Fulfillment fund: They work one-on-one with underrepresented students to apply to colleges and for financial aid.
  • MOSTE: Motivating Our Students Through Experience. They are focused specifically on working with underserved female students in LA. They provide college prep, test prep, and mentorship services.

Finding Resources Near You

One of the best places to start looking for college readiness programs is any local colleges and universities. Many of these schools, especially the ones with famous names or national prestige, have programs specifically to help residents of cities they inhabit apply to the school. It’s always good to keep locals on your side, and these schools are well aware of this.

What these programs are is highly variable, from one off events meant to interest local students in science and engineering, to scholarship programs, to mentoring, to college readiness summer programs. Different schools have different options, based on their own resources and priorities. 

Your school counselor will be aware of resources available specifically through your high school. Some high schools have their own partnerships with universities or other organizations, and offer unique opportunities to their students through these programs. 

Finally, most large cities have dedicated college access organizations, meant to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue higher education. You can find these through your high school counselor, or through searching online; though those searches are often drowned out in paid services. 

Our service, Laurel Scholars, is available virtually, and may be applied to by anyone, regardless of where you are in the country or around the world. Check out our application to see if we’re the right fit for you.

Scholarship Case Study Article

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!