Like many promising students from modest backgrounds, Nolan Arkansas started his college search with a major barrier: He was unaware of all of his options and undervalued his own potential.
Arkansas grew up on a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, earning mostly A’s in school and developing some fluency in his tribal language. He figured he was bound for a public university in his home state or just across the border at the University of Tennessee. Elite private schools seemed inconceivable.
But a growing movement of nonprofit talent hunters and advisers is seeking to raise the ambitions of disadvantaged students and connect them with premier colleges, attacking a widespread problem researchers call “undermatching.” Some are helping eye-catching numbers of students land at colleges with low admission rates, including Georgetown University in Washington.