The Challenge

The Undermatching Problem


According to The Brooking Institute, only 8% of low-income, high-achieving students in the united states apply to schools that match their profile. Even controlling for GPA and test scores, this demographic of students is 3 times less likely to apply to a competitive university. The research into this phenomenon points to college application fees as an immediate barrier, among other things. 

Ironically, Out-of-Pocket Costs (including room and board) for a student at the 20th percentile of family income are lowest at selective institutions. In other words, low income students pay less to attend a more competitive college. As shown below, Low-income, high-achieving students attend non-competitive and two institutions at a rate 2 times their high-income counterparts. 


The Opportunity

Bridge the Gap and Challenge the Undermatching Problem


One of the most commonly cited reasons for the undermatching problem is the rising cost of applying to college - let alone the cost of tuition, the financial hurdle for these students begins before even a decision can be made about his or her attendance. Our current system isn't providing high-achieving, low-income students even the opportunity to be CONSIDERED for admission. We hear this troubling question often:


""Why pay for an application to a reach school if I won't get in anyway?"


Of course, there are fee waivers that students can apply for through the CollegeBoard and the universities themselves, and those available to students who are past of the Free or Reduced Lunch Program. We guide the students who qualify to take advantage of these resources. For the students who don't, our organization will 'waive' the fee for the student via the Catalyst Scholarship. The student can now apply for a 'reach' school without the burden of paying for the application and Catalyst for Achievement can focus on the bigger picture of getting the student into a competitive college or university.


Application Criteria

Students from Our Partner High Schools are Eligible to Apply


The Catalyst Scholarship looks for a balance between merit-based and need-based criteria for selection of scholarship awardees. Catalyst for Achievement targets high schools within district median income guidelines set by our organization. Meeting these guidelines satisfies the need-based criteria. Merit-based eligibility requirements include:

  • Junior or senior level high school students currently enrolled at an eligible partner high school.
  • Minimum GPA of 3.3 out of a 4.0 scale.
  • Completion of the SAT. A confirmed test date supersedes this requirement.
  • Above all, we are looking for candidates who have a drive to succeed and a willingness to learn. 

The Catalyst Scholarship is just one part of the solution. Application fee waivers are available from other nonprofit organizations for those who qualify. Colleges and universities also offer application fee waivers - each adhering to their own determination criteria. 


The Catalyst Application

The Catalyst Scholarship and Hand-in-Hand Initiative


A student awarded a Catalyst Scholarship will have one undergraduate application fee of his or her choice paid in full by Catalyst for Achievement. All awardees are automatically enrolled in our Hand-in-Hand Initiative, our mentoring program for high school juniors and seniors.


Join Our Team

Become a Career Advisor or Mentor


Career advisors and mentors form the core of Catalyst for Achievement - they are the ones who make the execution of our mission possible. 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.


Become a Catalyst

Challenge the Undermatching Problem


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.