In America, earning a college degree is critical to good economic prospects and a higher quality of life. Americans with more education typically earn significantly higher wages and are far more likely to be employed than those who have no post-secondary education. Among the employed, the median college-educated worker earns 84 percent more than the median worker with only a high school education. The benefits of post-secondary education extend beyond those who graduate from four-year universities; Americans with just some college and no degree or an associate’s degree earn 16 percent more than if they had not attained this education.

Yet, too many high school students are not applying to or going to college. This is especially true among America’s highest need students: first-generation college-going, low-income, and/or underrepresented students. While half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do. High-need students receive the least assistance in the college admissions process. Not only is the national student-to-adviser ratio over 450:1, high-need students often lack the guidance and support they need to prepare for and apply to college.

Duke College Advising Corps (DCAC) works in 16 central North Carolina high schools to provide the support for 3,856 seniors to navigate the college admissions process and encourage 14,815 students to pursue post-secondary education upon graduation. A DCAC adviser’s primary responsibility is to assist seniors with the complex processes of college admissions and matriculation and securing financial aid. Additionally, DCAC advisers work to foster a college-going culture within the schools they serve, which is one of the best predictors of whether students will pursue higher education. Advisers become part of their school’s community. They collaborate with teachers and administrators to tie college-going into the life of a school, devise creative approaches to reach and connect with students, and most importantly, open the eyes of students and their families to the possibility of college. Equally imperative, advisers supplement, not replace, existing high school counseling staff, thereby reaching more students.

We are deeply committed to building upon the present college advising and admissions programming at each partner high school. Duke advisers work with a range of students; some who are college-bound but need advice and support to choose the right college, as well as students who never thought college was possible for them. It is important to note that Duke advisers are not an extension of the Duke Admissions Office. We also do not focus on getting students into the most elite colleges and universities; rather, Duke Advisers seek to increase the rate at which students apply to, are admitted to, and enroll in “match” colleges that fit their academic profile and meet their financial and personal needs.

Our partner high schools are incredibly appreciative of the extra support and the holistic approach to advising. “Duke CAC partnership is one of the best opportunities that will directly influence the educational advancement of all students in our four comprehensive high schools,” said Col. Tommy M. Macon, Assistant Superintendent for Academics and Student Services with Sampson County Schools. “We are very fortunate to have this opportunity in this time of scarce resources. This partnership, at no cost to the school system, will without a doubt benefit students, teachers and parents,” Macon said. “Through this partnership, our students will receive more one-on-one assistance and support to plan and prepare for their high school careers and post-secondary prospects.” DCAC Advisers serve high schools in the following North Carolina counties: Caswell, Person, Durham, Wake, Lee, Johnston and Sampson.

We are extremely proud that of the current 16 DCAC Advisers, 50 percent were the first in their families to attend college, 56 percent identify as people of color, and 75 percent were Pell Eligible during their undergraduate studies at Duke. They represent a variety of academic disciplines, extra-curricular involvement and future professional pathways.

We are currently recruiting outstanding Duke undergraduate alums from the classes of 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 to join our 2016-17 cohort, and we encourage you to attend our upcoming information session on Wednesday, March 23 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Student Life Conference Room in the Bryan Center.

Girija Mahajan is the Program Director of the College Advising Corps.