The packages arrived by mail in October of the students’ senior year of high school. They consisted of brightly colored accordion folders containing about 75 sheets of paper. The sheets were filed with information about colleges: their admissions standards, graduation rates and financial aid policies.
The students receiving the packages were mostly high-achieving, low-income students, and they were part of a randomized experiment. The researchers sending the packets were trying to determine whether most poor students did not attend selective colleges because they did not want to, or because they did not understand that they could.
The results are now in, and they suggest that basic information can substantially increase the number of low-income students who apply to, attend and graduate from top colleges.