four students going to their dream colleges
Bovard Scholars Osvaldo Cabrales, Kevin Gomez, Sabrina Pierre and Paola Ruiz, clockwise from top left. (Photos/Courtesy of Osvaldo Cabrales, Kevin Gomez, Sabrina Pierre, Paola Ruiz)

Paola Ruiz figured she’d go to community college or a state university after high school, probably somewhere close to her home in Whittier, California. No one in her family had gone to college, so universities felt unknown and out of reach.

Then she joined the USC Bovard Scholars program. The college-prep initiative offers academic coaching, financial aid guidance and other resources to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need. With the confidence and knowledge she gained through the yearlong experience, Ruiz applied and was accepted to six high-ranking universities. She just started her second year at Stanford University.

“At Bovard Scholars, I was part of a community with others from similar backgrounds,” she says. “That made the whole idea of college a lot less scary.”

Many students are motivated and accomplished but shy away from top universities because of unfamiliarity with the admissions process and concerns about cost. When it comes to getting into their dream college, USC Bovard Scholars empowers these students to think big.

The program begins with a three-week intensive residency (held online this year) the summer before senior year, followed by a year of one-on-one help navigating college applications, admission essays, financial aid and more. There is no cost for participants. Nearly 400 students have completed the program; 82% are first-generation college students.

Networking and career development ensure that low-income students not only get into top-tier universities, but also thrive in college and beyond, says Anthony Bailey, founding dean of USC Bovard College, which oversees USC Bovard Scholars. “Whether they choose USC or another elite school, they are well-prepared to embrace the opportunities that will come to them for years to come.”

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