CollegeSpring: Democratizing College Test Prep for Low-Income Students

In this article, we look at the work of CollegeSpring, an organization that works with students across America, inspiring, supporting and empowering them to pursue further education.

CollegeSpring was founded with the aim of enabling all students to attend college.


Nationally, college enrollment rates increased from 35 percent to 41 percent from 2000 to 2018. These figures represent the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in a two- or four-year post-secondary institution. Still, there are disparities. The enrollment rate for people of Asian descent was 59 percent, as opposed to 42 percent for white people, 37 percent for Black people, and 36 percent for Hispanics.

CollegeSpring was established to help students improve their ACT and SAT scores. This is one of the most powerful ways students can boost their chances of gaining college admission, and, in turn, significantly improving their income-earning prospects.

Though it is possible to get a good-paying job without going to college, a bachelor’s degree usually allows a person to earn a higher salary. In the US, people with college degrees earn on average $30,000 more per year than people with only a high school diploma.

Nevertheless, college is not accessible to all students who want to attend. The admission tests can be difficult for even the brightest students; most students need help preparing for them. This help doesn’t come cheap, however. Test preparation can be prohibitively expensive and out-of-reach of low-income families. For example, the Princeton Review charges around $1,200 to $1,600 for a three-week SAT-prep class.

Since it was founded in 2008, CollegeSpring has helped more than 30,000 students.

The organization provides test-prep support to young people from low-income backgrounds, helping them to boost their SAT scores by an average of 104 points. More than 80 percent of CollegeSpring students are from low-income families, 73 percent would be the first person in their family to attend college, and 47 percent speak English as a second language.

CollegeSpring is determined to help these young people access the support and opportunities they need to thrive.

Jessica Perez and Garrett Neiman founded CollegeSpring.

After learning that students from low-income households statistically score lower on SAT and ACT exams, Perez and Neiman, two Stanford University sophomores, established CollegeSpring in 2008 to provide free, inclusive test prep for 55 students in East Palo Alto.

Since its foundation, CollegeSpring has helped tens of thousands of students across America by offering school-based test prep. In 2012, the organization expanded its reach to Southern California. In 2014, the organization started supporting community-based organizations and high schools in New York.

From its first class of 55 students, CollegeSpring has grown exponentially. Today, the organization serves more than 5,000 students each year across more than 50 community organizations and schools.

CollegeSpring is funded by several esteemed organizations, including the Kresge Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

CollegeSpring has earned recognition from major philanthropists and school administrators alike. From its small beginnings, the organization has grown to serve two of America’s largest public school districts.

As part of its Strategic Plan, CollegeSpring aims to double its impact and reach.

Dr. Yoon Choi, the organization’s current CEO, was appointed in 2017. He has led the organization through a comprehensive strategic planning process, building on CollegeSpring’s successes and learnings over the past decade. The resulting 2019-2021 Strategic Plan sets out ambitious objectives and outlines plans to serve 25,000 more students.

Other goals include implementing new technologies and prioritizing a robust research and evaluation agenda, with the objective of replicating its impact for students across the US.

Excelling on the SAT and ACT tests takes more than a few tips and tricks.

CollegeSpring guides students through the college application process, helping them see why SAT and ACT test results matter, which school is the best fit for them, and how improving their test scores could transform their life trajectory. The staff at CollegeSpring strive to help students gain the academic skills they need to reach their full potential.


The organization focuses on building students’ test confidence and providing valuable skills, knowledge, and motivation to help them increase their test scores. CollegeSpring also provides a wealth of resources to partner schools and teachers, equipping them with detailed student data and materials.

CollegeSpring students improve their test scores by an average of 104 points after participating in the program.

Before CollegeSpring, just 31 percent of participants met or exceeded reading and writing benchmarks. After participating, this figure rose to 55 percent. Additionally, four out of five CollegeSpring students say they feel more prepared for the tests and more confident about applying to college. 

With 84 percent of CollegeSpring students coming from low-income households, the organization provides a vital lifeline to tens of thousands of students across America, helping young people throughout the nation access higher education and ultimately enhancing their lives.

About Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens

Based in Menlo Park, California, Mark Stevens is a venture capitalist with three decades of experience investing in the technology industry. Currently, he serves as managing partner of S-Cubed Capital and as a special limited partner of Sequoia Capital.  Continue.