Asset 1ScholarMatch

College Coach Training Module 1: Expectations & College List

This is College Coach training module 1 of 2.
Estimated time to complete is 60-90 minutes (including mastery assignment).

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About ScholarMatch

Founded by author Dave Eggers, ScholarMatch began as a simple crowdfunding platform and grew into a full service college-access organization. Our mission is to make college possible for underserved youth by matching students with donors, resources, colleges and professional networks. Our unique approach is fueled by community engagement and focused on what our students need most: hands-on help applying to college, financial assistance with tuition, and a support system throughout college.

We offer comprehensive college advising services for high school students at our drop-in center in San Francisco and have relied on the generous support of trained volunteer college coaches for years. Applying to college takes just a few hours yet can change a student’s life forever. As a College Coach, you’re at the heart of this transformation, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with high school students as they explore college options, and complete essays, applications and financial aid paperwork. College Coaches work in-person at our San Francisco center, and commit to volunteering throughout a semester.

Our Expectations of College Coaches

Now that you understand the significance of your role as a College Coach, please read the following closely to understand our expectations of your commitment to our students.

Volunteers must abide by the following to ensure a safe and positive environment for all.

  • Committed Engagement
    We expect you to be present at least twice a month (only during our peak season- September through February) in order to build relationships with the students that regularly attend our workshops. They will look up to you and may request specifically to work with you again. For them, being able to count on your support is invaluable.
  • Communication
    Please inform us when you will be tardy or unable to keep your commitment in a timely manner. Because we are a drop-in center our student’s attendance can be inconsistent, we appreciate your flexibility if we need to reschedule your attendance.  If for whatever reason we need to reschedule or cancel your attendance we will notify you by 3:30pm the day of your commitment. Also, if you live in the neighborhood and would like to be added to the contact list for last minute volunteering needs, please let us know.
  • Outside Contact
    All student communication must go directly through a staff member. Contact with students (via email, phone, or in person) outside our office is forbidden. We request that you do not give out your business card or contact information to any students. Additionally, we expect that you will not solicit students for any services you provide privately, such as college or career consulting. If you want to be matched in the future with the same student, feel free to highlight this on your sign-out form or let a staff member know and we will be happy to connect you to the same student.
  • Appropriate Content
    At ScholarMatch, our rule of thumb is this: if you cannot talk about it in front of a student’s grandparent, then you should not talk about it with your student. Only discuss sensitive topics when it relates directly to the work you two are doing.
  • Privacy
    It is important that every ScholarMatch student feels that their privacy is respected. We do not discuss personal information about our students in front of other students.
  • Safety
    If you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation with a student, speak to a ScholarMatch staff member immediately.
  • Background Check
    All volunteers will complete a background check via Chekr and we ask for volunteers to make a $25.00 donation to cover this cost.
  • Sign-Out
    All volunteers are expected to sign out on a computer at the ScholarMatch office before you leave the building. Please feel free to leave feedback here, or reach out to staff to discuss directly. We love to hear what is going well and where we can continue to grow.

Your engagement with your students will likely vary throughout the program year. The chart below illustrates the typical pattern of engagement we have observed in past years:

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The College Landscape

First, read our list of Essential College Terminology to understand the variety of admission cycles, application portals, and scholarship partnerships that affect all students regardless of where they apply.

Next, review the following for a high-level overview of the college landscape. In addition to the extensive network of public universities nationwide, each of which often have their own distinct requirements and application portals, the following are some types of colleges you will encounter:

1) Liberal Arts and Science Colleges

  • These colleges aim to impart a broad, general knowledge to develop strong intellectual capacities.
  • There is a stronger emphasis on the interaction between professors and students and receiving more individualized attention.
  • The table below illustrates different kinds of unique curricula that are found at various liberal arts institutions:
Unique Curriculum What is it? Example Colleges
One Class at a Time Student completes one course per quarter or semester. Colorado College, Cornell College, Quest University
“Great Books” Program Students are required to read books considered to be essential foundation to Western Culture Literature; open discussion Saint Mary’s College of CA; St. John’s College
“Jan- Term” Students can study abroad, intern, or take a fun academic class during the month of January Middlebury College; Bennington College; Eckerd College
Social Justice Focus Students learn about social diversity and social inequities University of San Francisco; Seattle University

2) Minority Serving Institutions

  • These colleges are institutions with higher percentages of students and professors of one minority, including Native American, African American (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Hispanic or Asian identifying people.
  • A student does not have to be a minority to attend these colleges, but some students prefer to attend a school with more ethnic diversity.
  • Examples include Howard University, Fisk University, Northeastern Illinois University, and Shaw University.

3) Single-Sex Colleges

  • There are several institutions which enroll only men or only women, which may be of interest to some students.
  • These institutions often offer excellent mentoring opportunities for students.
  • Examples include Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Simmons College, and Mount Holyoke College.

4) Religious Colleges and Universities

  • All religious colleges and universities are private institutions that receive no public funding.
  • Different strains of religious colleges exist, and they vary widely with expectations of religious practice. Some are extremely strict, mandating students attend church, take a Christian theology class, etc. whereas others are religious in the global sense, asking students to take religious classes to examine how religion and history/politics/economics are intertwined. Helping students to research student life at schools will give a sense of where the school falls on the spectrum.
  • Examples include Boston College, Kenyon College, University of Notre Dame, and DePauw University.

California’s public 4-year institutions

The most common type of colleges you will encounter are California’s public higher education systems, the California State University (CSU) system, and the University of California (UC) system.

1) California State University (CSU)

  • There are a total of 23 CSU’s located all over California
  • The campuses: Bakersfield; Channel Islands; Chico; Dominguez Hills; East Bay; Fresno; Fullerton; Humboldt; Long Beach; Los Angeles; California Maritime Academy; Monterey Bay; Northridge; Pomona; Sacramento; San Bernardino; San Diego; San Francisco; San José State; San Luis Obispo; San Marcos; Sonoma and Stanislaus
  • These colleges are more practical, career oriented
  • Intended for students who are interested in starting their career right after graduating
  • Most students will apply and attend a regional CSU

2) University of California (UC)

  • There are a total of 10 UC’s, but one is for graduate students only (University of California, San Francisco)
  • The 9 undergraduate campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz
  • These colleges are more theory and research based
  • Intended for students who will pursue a higher degree before entering their careers

*Please read through the “College Coaching Packet” for more detailed information about college requirements, programs, and resources. 

Building the College List

1) Thinking about College MATCH
Our job is to ensure students apply to a range of colleges that match their academic profile in different ways. On each college list, students need Reach, Target, and Likely colleges.

Type Reach Target Likely
What? REACH college is a difficult college to gain admission to. Even if a student has a 4.0 cumulative GPA and solid test scores, colleges like Stanford, Harvard, and Yale are REACH colleges because they admit less than 20% of their applicants. TARGET college is one where a student will probably gain admission if he or she fits the college’s admission academic profile by falling within the middle 50% of GPA & test scores.


LIKELY college is one where a student knows he or she will gain admission. The student falls above the college’s middle 50% of GPA & test scores.


How many to apply to? 3 3-4 2-3

2) Thinking about College FIT
In addition to matching colleges with the academic profile of students, it is also important to think about factors like environment, size, diversity, geographic location, etc. 
All of these factors comprise what we call college “fit.” This is also where understanding the difference in student experience between attending a large, public state university as opposed to a small, private liberal arts college comes into play.

In discerning college “fit,” we often encourage students to research schools by doing the following:

      • Watch college admissions videos to get an interactive feel for the campus environment.
      • The ScholarMatcher, our own free college search tool, designed specifically for low-income students, is a great way to generate a starting list of schools that may be previously unknown to students. Out of more than 1400 colleges analyzed, 301 colleges were found to be the best to offer superior resources, support, and outcomes for low-income and first-generation youth.


    • In addition to the ScholarMatcher, research schools using  Big Future along with our College Research Worksheet to provide depth and context to colleges that may at first appear interchangeable.

Mastery Check for Understanding

To complete this training module, please do the following:

1. Read the Chronicle of Higher Education article Where the Journey to College Is No Fairy Tale by Eric Hoover to deepen your knowledge of the barriers low-income and first-generation high school students face while navigating the college admission process. Once you are finished, follow with the NY Times article Who Gets to Graduate by Paul Tough to learn about the challenges our population of students face when they enroll in college.

2. Watch the video below from Hamilton College and reflect on how you would engage a student in a conversation regarding the potential fit of this college with their personal preferences.

3. Please find the profile of the college you attended on the ScholarMatcher and Big Future and complete our College Research Worksheet. If your school is not listed on The ScholarMatcher, please use the profile for The University of San Francisco to answer the ScholarMatcher related questions. The purpose of this exercise is not only to practice navigating the ScholarMatcher and Big Future, but also to draw your attention to the importance (and difficulty!) of finding what is unique and compelling about individual colleges. *Note that you may also use your college’s website (and your own first-hand knowledge!) to develop your answers.

4. Finished? Submit your answers to the Mastery Assignment here.

*Training Module 1 is considered complete once this assignment is submitted. Training Module 2 can be found here.



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