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What are the various college-preparation programs currently available for middle school students? What do they offer, and what are their eligibility requirements?

Middle-school children can participate in a variety of programs to help develop their enthusiasm for and interest in going to college. Many of these programs provide students with the opportunity to attend workshops and/or conferences and build relationships with college mentors. Students and parents who participate in these pre-college programs are exposed to information, materials, and activities that provide them with support during the college-evaluation, -planning, and -preparation process.

Listed below are some city, state, and federally funded college-preparation programs that you may be interested in enrolling your child in or at the very least, obtaining more information about. This list is not comprehensive. To find out what other pre-college programs are available in your area, check with your child's school and school district, as well as local community and faith-based organizations.

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC)
    The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program is a state-administered operation that provides an opportunity for students and families living in rural and inner-city communities to learn new skills and discover new abilities after the school day has ended. The 21st CCLC program provides expanded academic enrichment opportunities for students attending low-performing schools. Tutorial services and academic enrichment activities are designed to help students meet local and state academic standards in subjects such as reading and math. In addition, 21st CCLC programs provide youth development activities, drug and violence prevention programs, technology education, art, music, and recreation programs, counseling, and character education. Contact 21st CCLC to find a site near you:
    Call (916) 319-0923 or visit
  • Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
    Advancement Via Individual Determination is designed to increase schoolwide learning and performance. The mission of AVID is to ensure that all students succeed with a rigorous curriculum, participate in mainstream activities at school, increase their enrollment in four-year colleges, and become educated and responsible participants and leaders in a democratic society. Contact AVID to locate a site near you:
    5120 Shoreham Place #120
    San Diego, CA 92122
    (858) 623-2843
    Fax: (858) 623-2822
  • California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP)
    The California Academic Partnership Program, established by the California State Legislature, is a pre-college academic preparation partnership between California higher education institutions and public schools. CAPP offers grants in support of partnerships between schools, higher education institutions, and business entities to improve academic programs so that more students are prepared for college. For more information or to see what CAPP programs are available in your area, contact your child's school.
    California Academic Partnership Program
    Office of the Chancellor
    California State University
    401 Golden Shore, 6th Floor
    Long Beach, California 90802
    (562) 951-4780
    Website: projects/culver.shtml
  • California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS)
    California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science programs were established by the California State Legislature to motivate the most creative young minds made up of prospective scientists, engineers and mathematicians. COSMOS offers residential academic programs for 8th-to-12th-grade students during the summer. Course topics include astronomy, earth science, mathematics, ocean science, and other math- and science-based topics. COSMOS programs are offered through the University of California. To learn more, contact your local University of California campus, or visit this website:
  • California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP)
    California Student Opportunity and Access Program is administered by the California Student Aid Commission. The program was established by the California State Legislature to improve the flow of information about postsecondary education and financial aid to future, first-generation college students, while raising the achievement levels of low-income, elementary, and secondary school students and/or geographic regions with documented low eligibility or college participation rates. Currently, Cal-SOAP projects operate in 17 locations throughout the state by consortia made up of secondary and postsecondary schools and community agencies. Cal-SOAP works in cooperation with other pre-college outreach programs in the state to avoid service duplication. Contact Cal-SOAP to locate a site near you:
    California Student Aid Commission
    Outreach and Training Division
    P.O. Box 419030
    Rancho Cordova, CA 95741
    (916) 526-7988
  • Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP)
    The Early Academic Outreach Program is sponsored by the University of California and provides college-preparation and instructional activities, test-preparation programs, and general information for families, including college and financial aid counseling. Students and families are encouraged to explore the range of academic and support services that are available. Visit EAOP's website for more information:
  • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
    Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is a national operation that funds partnerships between middle schools that serve low-income students, colleges and universities, community organizations, and businesses to provide tutoring, mentoring, and information on college preparation and financial aid. The GEAR UP philosophy emphasizes core academic preparation, and some of the state-based programs even offer scholarships. Contact the National GEAR UP program for more information:
    Office of Postsecondary Education
    Department of Education
    1990 K Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20006
    (202) 502-7796
    Fax: (202) 502-7675

    The California GEAR UP program is designed to develop and sustain the organizational capability of middle schools, with an emphasis on preparing all students for high school and postsecondary education. This is accomplished through the establishment of a statewide infrastructure, or network of support, for the adults who influence middle school students, specifically their teachers, counselors, school leaders, and families. As a result of the program outreach and the expanded capacity to effectively serve all middle school students, it is believed that GEAR UP middle schools will impact and educate a higher proportion of students, particularly those from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, and those students will be more likely to enroll and succeed in postsecondary education. For more information, visit the California GEAR UP website:
  • Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA)
    Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, funded by the State Legislature and managed by the University of California, serves educationally disadvantaged students and, to the extent possible by law, emphasizes participation by students from groups with low eligibility rates for four-year colleges. MESA works with students throughout California from elementary school through university levels. Two programs provide services to pre-college students: The MESA Schools Program (MSP) operates centers that serve elementary and junior and senior high schools throughout the state; and The MESA Success Through Collaboration (MESA STC) program, in partnership with American Indian tribes and education centers, assists students in rural and urban sites through its centers. MESA offers academic advising, group study techniques, instructional workshops, career exploration, parent involvement services, and a host of other academic support services. To find a program near you contact MESA:
    MESA Schools Program California Director
    University of California
    300 Lakeside Drive, 7th Floor
    Oakland, CA 94612
    (510) 987-9381
    Fax: (510) 763-4704
  • Puente Project
    The Puente Project combines innovative teaching and counseling methods with community involvement. The program offers college-preparatory English, sustained academic counseling, and role models and mentors from the professional community who help students to achieve their academic and career goals. For more information, visit the Puente Project website:
  • Talent Search
    Talent Search programs serve young people in 6th-12th grade. In addition to counseling, participants receive information about college admission requirements, scholarships, and various student financial aid programs. This early intervention program helps young people to better understand their educational opportunities and options. For more information, visit the website:
  • TRIO Programs
    The Federal TRIO Programs are educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes six outreach and support programs targeted to serve and assist low-income, first-generation college, and disabled students to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school through graduate school. TRIO programs include: Educational Opportunity Center, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement, Student Support Services, Talent Search, Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs, TRIO Dissemination Partnership, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math/Science. To learn more contact the Council for Opportunity in Education:
    Council for Opportunity in Education
    1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 900
    Washington, DC 20005
    (202) 347-2218
    Fax: (202) 347-0786
  • University of California Links (UC Links)
    University of California Links is a statewide network of after-school program sites that offer computer and multimedia activities for low-income youth. This program provides access to quality technology-based educational resources and activities for children, while providing UC undergraduates with valuable in-service, learning opportunities. Contact UC Links for more information or to find a program near you:
    UC Links Statewide Office
    UC Berkeley
    615C University Hall
    Berkeley, CA 94720
    (510) 643-7349
    Fax: (510) 642-3890
  • Upward Bound
    The Upward Bound program helps students prepare for higher education. Participants receive instruction in literature, composition, foreign language, mathematics, and science on college campuses after school, on Saturdays, and during the summer. Some Upward Bound programs offer opportunities for middle school students and parents. For more information, visit the Upward Bound website:
  • Upward Bound Math/Science
    Upward Bound Math/Science helps first-generation, college-bound students from low-income families strengthen their math and science skills. In addition, students learn computer technology as well as English, foreign language, and study skills. For more information, visit the Upward Bound website:

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