Exploring College


Exploring College is a four-year enrichment program to prepare high school students with high academic achievement and low-income backgrounds for admission and success in college. It serves students from Poughkeepsie High School as well as the surrounding school districts. EC includes special-education students, English Language Learners, homeless students, and others not traditionally considered candidates for college. The program’s aims are threefold:

  1. To improve college readiness and foster collegiate aspirations in students from under-represented backgrounds
  2. To increase the number of these students who attend college
  3. To expand the collaboration between Vassar College and the school districts of Poughkeepsie City and surrounding towns

During the academic school year, EC scholars come to Vassar College once a month to attend workshops on college preparation. EC provides additional academic support to scholars in the form of after-school tutoring, a writing group, and one-on-one academic advising. The EC Fellow coordinates these events and recruits Vassar College students to serve as tutors and mentors to the high school scholars.

The other central feature of Exploring College is a two-week residential experience at Vassar scheduled the summer between the students’ sophomore and junior years of high school. The summer intensive is an important point in helping to prepare students and their parents for college, and is modeled after Vassar’s award-winning Exploring Transfer program—which for 30 years has served a similar role for community college students. Exploring College scholars enroll in two courses team-taught by Vassar/PHS faculty and also attend workshops in writing, public speaking, and media literacy. Scholars live in residential halls with Vassar student counselors who assist with coursework, writing, and other academic and social issues. Working with Vassar students and living at Vassar for two weeks makes real to EC participants the idea of college attendance.

To see student work and pictures from the 2013 Exploring College Summer Intensive, check out our blog: http://ecvcuei.tumblr.com/

In 2014 Jazmin Pichardo, a former EC Fellow, published an article in La Voz magazine to teach Spanish-speaking students how to navigate the college application process. Read Jazmin's article here.


EC has been operating for over five years. In the fall of 2009, the first 20 students were recruited for the first cohort from the sophomore class at Poughkeepsie High School (Class of 2012) and participated in the summer intensive in 2010. Each subsequent fall, 20 students from the freshman high school class were recruited, bringing the total to 80 students from all four high school classes by January 2012. In 2011, recruitment efforts were extended to neighboring Arlington High School, and this year we will recruit students from nearby Hyde Park and Newburgh.

Read about how Exploring College has shaped these student's lives: http://info.vassar.edu/news/features/2014-2015/140902-exploring-college.html

Exploring College Readiness (ECR):

ECR is a free SAT-prep program under the Exploring College umbrella that takes place after-school on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Poughkeepsie High School. It is primarily for EC scholars, but it is open to any PHS juniors or seniors who are motivated to take the SAT. Vassar College students teach mini-lessons that cover important topics on the SAT and do targeted one-on-one tutoring in the areas where students need the most help. ECR began in the Fall of 2013 in order to provide more support to EC scholars on the SAT and the college application process. The program places standardized testing within a broader context that emphasizes a unique holistic approach to the college application process. Students are encouraged to develop concrete goals for their future with defined action steps. Standardized testing is understood as only one of many action steps necessary for actualizing student goals. 

Vassar students can participate as tutors in ECR for Field Work credit, community service work study, or as volunteers.

For more information about Exploring College, contact Weintana Abraha at weabraha@vassar.edu