Yasmeen Khan is a reporter covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
As college acceptance letters go out, Mariely Garcia is one of the high school seniors already breathing easy. She was accepted early decision to Bowdoin College where she'll be going in the fall on a full-ride. She is an exception in many ways, including being one of the few low-income high-achieving students in the country admitted to a selective college, according to recent research.
"I kinda started crying cause I was just so excited," said Garcia. "And I went to my mom, she was in the room, and I was like, ‘Mommy, I’m going to college in Maine. To Bowdoin. For free.’”
Compared to her Harlem neighborhood, Garcia said Bowdoin, in Brunswick, Maine, is kind of in "the middle of nowhere." But she liked that idea.
Garcia is leaving the Richard R. Greene High School of Teaching with a nearly perfect grade point average. She said she's determined to change the world, starting with the issue of low self-esteem issues among teenagers.
Despite her talents and motivation, she may not have found her way to a competitive college without help from her high school guidance counselor and several non-profit professionals.
Nationwide, there are up to 35,000 high-achieving students who come from low-income families, according to a recent study from researchers at Stanford and Harvard. These are student who score in the top 10 percent or higher on college entrance exams and maintain a grade point average of at least an A-.
The data showed that many of these students are not applying to selective schools. Hear the full story above.