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Study of Enhanced College Advising in Upward Bound: Impacts on Where and How Long Students Attend College

Tamara Linkow and Amanda Parsad, Abt Associates; Alina Martinez, Mathematica; and Hannah Miller, Civilytics Consulting


November 16, 2021

Find the Fit is a low-cost program that includes customized information about college and costs, sends text messages to students to remind them of key application and financial aid deadlines, and provides specialized training for the students’ advisors. These services are offered as an enhancement of the Department of Education’s Upward Bound college access program. Abt Associates investigated whether these promising postsecondary advising strategies could improve college choices for rising high school seniors; specifically, if they would help avoid “undermatching”—meaning help those students who are either not attending college at all or are attending colleges that are less selective than their academic credentials would allow.

Abt’s final report compares the college choices of 4,500 students in Upward Bound projects with and without access to Find the Fit to determine its effects on undermatching. Ultimately, the results show no significant change due to Find the Fit.

The key findings include:

  • Find the Fit did shift some students’ enrollment choices to more selective colleges, regardless of whether students ultimately were undermatched. This shift did not seem to come with higher costs or a greater risk of dropping out, both of which are potential consequences of attending a more selective college.
  • Despite its initial benefits — increasing the number and selectivity of the colleges to which students applied — Find the Fit did not change whether these students, mostly from low-income families, undermatched.

There was no significant effect on college persistence through the third year after high school.