Harvard Students Help Create Unofficial Admissions Guide

A group of students from Harvard and several other universities have produced and distributed a free college admissions guide to about 40,000 public school leaders nationwide.

Titled “The Guide,” the 66-page PDF document is the product of the Fair Opportunity Project, an organization that students from Harvard and other universities including Yale, Pomona, Brown, and Stanford created last year. Luke R. Heine ’17-’18, one of the project’s directors, said the guide models one he and other members of the Midwest Club created last year, though the newer guide is more comprehensive and not targeted at students from a particular region.

The student-produced guide is available to download for free on the group’s website and includes information about standardized testing, interviewing, financial aid and scholarships, as well as timelines for the college application process.

Fair Opportunity Project member Jonah C. Hahn ’18 said the organization created the guide to make information about the college admission project more accessible to students who would not otherwise easily have access to admissions information or quality counseling—such as first generation college students or students from lower income brackets.

“One of the driving forces behind the project is to essentially say, no matter what income characteristics of your community exist, you deserve the right to have the best amount of information possible,” Hahn said.

Several of the Fair Opportunity Project’s members are first-generation college student or come from regions not typically represented in admissions pools. Indeed, Yale junior Alan Díaz-Santana, a first-generation college student and one of the guide’s editors, said these perspectives were important to creating the guide.

Cole C. Scanlon ’18, another student involved in the project, pointed to the guide’s digital format as another way the group has tried to create as accessible a resource as possible.

In addition to the student coordinators, a group of roughly ten education experts are involved in the project as advisers. They include Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation—which operates charter schools across the country—CEO of education nonprofit City Year Michael Brown, and Cabot House Faculty Dean Stephanie R. Khurana.

Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Katherine K. Merseth is also an adviser the project. Merseth, who teaches the popular undergraduate course United States in the World 35: “Dilemmas of Equity and Excellence in American K-12 Education,” applauded the group and its guide, calling it a “brilliant solution.”

“This is targeted to people who don’t have those resources, who are kept out of the know, and it’s a way of sharing information that could be extremely helpful to broaden the access of all students of all students to institutions of higher education,” Merseth said.

After working on the guide for the last year, the Fair Opportunity Project has begun distributing it to a total of 60,000 public school officials across the country. Heine said the group has sent the guide to 40,000 public school administrators. In addition he said the document has been downloaded in every state and in 19 countries so far.

While the students involved in the Fair Opportunities Project are still refining and distributing the current guide, Scanlon said they have discussed potentially creating a video series or expanding to cover international universities. Díaz-Santana added that the group has talked about medical and business school guides as possible future endeavors.

The Harvard Admissions Office declined to comment on the guide or the Fair Opportunity Project.

—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.