The Undermatching Problem

A Phenomenon Plaguing the Nation


Undermatching is a phenomenon in American higher education in which well-qualified high school students, often from less affluent households, are not matched with competitive colleges. Undermatching is generally not believed to be caused by discriminatory policies by college admissions offices but rather by a lack of applications from well-qualified high school students.


Information Gap

High-achieving, low-income students may be unaware of all financial aid opportunities available to them, and may be deterred by application fees and tuition costs.


Mismatched Potential

Only 8% of high-achieving, low-income students are “achievement typical” in their application patterns. The vast majority of high-achieving, low-income students don't apply to a selective college or university.

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Higher Cost

High-achieving, low-income students who attend undermatched colleges and universities, on average, pay more than if they had attended a more competitive institution.


Michigan Based and Focused

Extending a Helping Mitten


Catalyst for Achievement is an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We were founded in the state of Michigan and operate there despite the majority of the Board of Directors being located outside the mitten state. The founders grew up in the Metro-Detroit area and have a sense of commitment to it. Although we are attempting to tackle a national issue, our focus is the State of Michigan. Our current efforts concentrate on the City of Warren, Michigan. Forbes recently ranked Warren, Michigan the 7th most miserable city in the country.


Our Catalyst Strategy

Facilitate the Pursuit of Higher Education


The mission of Catalyst for Achievement is to facilitate the pursuit of higher education and to inspire junior and senior level high school students to achieve. We believe that higher education is an important investment for students and we seek to remove the barriers that limit their potential. Of even greater importance, we believe that students need to pursue higher education with a purpose. The Catalyst Scholarship starts the conversation - our mentorship creates the impact. The Catalyst Scholarship looks for a balance between merit-based and need-based criteria for selection of scholarship awardees. Students who are awarded our Catalyst Scholarship are automatically enrolled in the Hand-in-Hand Initiative.

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Catalyst Scholarship

A scholarship that covers one application fee to a "reach" college or university based on a student's unique profile.


Hand-in-Hand Initiative

Mentors that provide guidance and support to scholarship awardees throughout the college application process.



Once a Catalyst, always a Catalyst. Awardees go on to college with the tools they need to succeed.


Building an Even Landscape

Bridging the Gap and Matching Potential


Catalyst for Achievement challenges the undermatching problem faced by America’s underprivileged youth. We pay for an application fee to one college or university - Catalyst Scholarship - encouraging students to apply to selective institutions. Our mentoring program - Hand-in-Hand Initiative - bridges the information gap and strategically aligns socio-economically challenged candidates with a higher chance of admission into a competitive college or university.


"Catalyst for Achievement has helped me in unthinkable ways. Their advice and mentoring allowed me to improve my SAT score, acquire a job shadowing opportunity, and gave me a new perspective on the college application process. I really admire and appreciate their dedication and willingness to help people. I love these guys!"

Tahrim, Catalyst Cohort of 2016

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80% Acceptance Rate

The percentage of mentees that were admitted to competitive universities.

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$17,000 Per Year

The average amount of financial aid and scholarships awarded to each mentee.

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100 Point Increase

The average score increase achieved by mentees who retook the SAT (2016 version).


Become a Catalyst

Challenge the Undermatching Problem

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Catalyst for Achievement is an independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To execute our mission, we strive to use our funds as effectively as possible. No one within our organization is paid any compensation. Expenses are paid for by the Board of Directors, which allows for 100% of every dollar donated to go exclusively towards the Catalyst Scholarship and Hand-in-Hand Initiative.


Partner With Us

Help Scale the Impact


Partners scale the impact of Catalyst for Achievement creates and allows for a stronger reach and more enriched experience for future mentees. Partners include prospective high schools looking for an asset to help their high-achieving students, to companies who want to give back to the community by offering shadowing opportunities. 


Join Our Team

Become a Career Advisor or Mentor


Career advisors and mentors form the core of Catalyst for Achievement. Our mentors meet the qualifications and vetting requirements set by Catalyst for Achievement and the State of Michigan - before you apply, please ensure you are able to meet these requirements. Remember, you don't have to be in the mitten to extend a mitten. Mentoring doesn't need to be face-to-face, it can and is strongly encouraged to be done remotely.