Since its inception in 1989, the Sponsor-A-Scholar (SAS) program has provided direct services to low-income, first-generation-to-college students starting in ninth grade through college graduation and has evolved over time. SAS is a comprehensive, individualized, time-tested college access program serving promising students attending Philadelphia’s public high schools. Students matriculate in 9th grade and receive the support, resources, and opportunities they need to be admitted to and graduate from college.
To be eligible for the Sponsor-A-Scholar program, a student must:
- Live in Philadelphia and attend a public high school in the School District of Philadelphia
- Currently be in 8th grade
- Be a first-generation-to-college student
- This means that neither biological parent has a bachelor’s degree from an American college or university.
- Earn good grades, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Meet family income guidelines
- This is determined by the number of people who live in your household. We require that applicants submit proof of family income.
Philadelphia Futures’ application review process is holistic – we are seeking to learn about the student and the student’s family, and why they are a good fit for the program. This means that we will carefully consider all parts of an application before making an admission decision. All application materials must be submitted before an evaluation is made.
Sponsor-A-Scholar aims to instill positive attitudes and beliefs about college to Philadelphia students. With personalized attention and comprehensive targeted strategies, we make long-term investments in every SAS student. Our program is designed to best meet each student’s individual needs.
Philadelphia Futures’ students receive opportunities that help build students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, strengthen their writing abilities, develop their non-cognitive skills, and introduce them to the academic rigor and pace of college-level work. Our offerings are specifically designed to complement the curriculum in our students’ high schools. Academic enrichment activities include:
Ninth through twelfth grade students are offered weekly, mandatory, after-school classes for a minimum of 30 weeks, and students are held accountable for their performance, attendance, and punctuality. Woven throughout the curricula is the opportunity to develop the 21st century skills required to succeed in the professional workforce.
In the spring of their junior year, SAS students begin a rigorous course of SAT preparation for approximately 17 weeks.
All SAS students are required to attend approved academic programs over the summer. We provide rigorous summer study programs for students in collaboration with partner colleges. Students explore a variety of topics including writing, environmental science, and career exploration. In addition, we offer students special opportunities for enrichment during the summer, such as our French Connection Program (a three-week cultural immersion experience.)
Students are encouraged to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities designed to boost their academic and leadership skills. Activities include an array of after-school clubs (Speech and Drama, Robotics, Book Club, and Production Club), tutoring that is available almost daily at our office, use of an on-site computer lab, and educational and cultural outings.
Individualized College Guidance
Students receive intensive assistance as they navigate the complex college application process and select a college that will be the right “fit” – academically, socially, and financially. Attending a school that is the right fit greatly enhances the likelihood of our students’ persistence in and graduation from college. Specific college guidance activities include:
Annually, at least 30 college campuses are visited to expose students to a wide variety of institutions.
College Admissions Marathon
We kick off students’ senior year by hosting a nine-day program on a local college campus each June. The College Admissions Marathon immerses students in the process of writing their college essays, engages them in the college admissions process, and is often their first exposure to residential campus life.
Each senior, parent/guardian, and mentor team meet with a professional college consultant to develop a list of prospective schools that fit the student’s academic, financial, and personal profiles. Throughout the critical senior year, Coordinators work intensively with each student to help them complete admissions application forms, revise essays, meet deadlines, pursue scholarship opportunities, and submit financial aid applications.
During the fall of their senior year, students attend a weekly “Application Lab” course, which which leads them step-by-step through the college application and financial aid processes. In the spring, students attend a weekly “Senior Seminar,” where the curriculum turns to helping students develop the life skills necessary for a smooth transition to college, as well as the critical analysis and discussion-based skills necessary to be successful in a college classroom.
Each student in the Sponsor-A-Scholar Program is matched with a volunteer mentor willing to make a long-term commitment to a student. Our mentors “mentor with a purpose” – they provide students with a personal guide to the college experience, professional careers, and a world of opportunity. Mentors are optimally matched with students in the spring of their ninth grade year. We expect that the relationship will continue through at least the first year of college, but many have proven to last a lifetime.
Find out how you can become a mentor with Philadelphia Futures.
Once students are accepted into a Philadelphia Futures program, they have access to special student-interest groups. Read more about the Young Men’s Initiative, Young Women Rising, and Career Initiatives on our Special Initiatives page.