All students in the study were sampled from seven urban schools in the Big Picture Network, which is located in Rhode Island. The school population at Big Picture schools is predominantly low income and minority, with large numbers of potential first generation college students.
The students in Big Picture Network schools must opt-in to attend these schools and may, therefore, have higher motivation and/or greater parental involvement than students enrolled in traditional public schools. The sample of intervention students (n = 81) was 43% male, 29% Black, 49% Hispanic, 21% White, and 2% Asian; 17% of students had an IEP, 68% received free lunch, and 81% reported that they planned to attend college. The sample of comparison students (n = 81) was 45% male, 29% Black, 40% Hispanic, 21% White, and 5% Asian; 17% of students had an IEP, 62% received free lunch, and 80% reported that they planned to attend college.
Participants were recent high school graduates who worked with school-based counselors throughout the summer to "secure financial aid, complete necessary paperwork, and alleviate concerns about going to college" (pg. 2). The counselors' primary goal was to help students receive financial aid or address any gaps between financial aid packages and anticipated costs of attending college. Counselors also acted as liaisons to the colleges and addressed any information barriers the students faced. The counselors took an active role in communicating with students via email, text message, and in-person consultation. The study authors reported that 84% of students interacted with the counselors at some time during the intervention period.
Students in the comparison condition had access to regular counseling services delivered by the high school; however, comparison students did not receive proactive counseling from the counselors over the summer. The authors report that 21% of the students in the comparison condition contacted a counselor during the summer intervention period.
Support for implementation
Two college counselors were hired full-time to work through the summer to provide information and work with the students. The authors reported that the intervention cost less than $15,000 in total, which costs approximately $187.50 per student.