We are
Philadelphia Futures.

Throughout its more than thirty year history, Philadelphia Futures has developed and established proven strategies to connect low-income, first-generation-to-college students to the tools, resources, and opportunities needed for admission to and success in college. Futures makes a transformative difference in the lives of individual students, enabling them to succeed in college and in life.

In Philadelphia, only 69% of students graduate high school, only 55% go to college, and only 23% of those who matriculate graduate college. In comparison, Futures’ results are a testimony to the power of our approach:

Philadelphia Futures City of Philadelphia
High School Graduation Rate 100% 69%
College Matriculation Rate 98% 55%
College Graduation Rate* 70% 23%

*Classes since 2012

Our Vision

Philadelphia Futures envisions a city where every student has what they need to succeed in college and thrive in life.

Our Mission

Philadelphia Futures supports low-income, first-generation-to-college students with the tools, resources, and opportunities necessary for admission to and success in college.

Our Core Principles

Scholar First Orientation

Students feel heard, supported, informed, and empowered, and make decisions about and in college that are informed by both Futures’ expertise and the students’ life experiences.


Our work is best accomplished in partnership. We consult and seek to partner with our students, their families, the community, other college access organizations, and higher education institutions in our work.

Commitment to Excellence

We aim to serve as a model of excellence in executing and delivering our services, and by incorporating best practices, data, and research into all programs.

30+ Years of Proven
College Access and Success

Although a college degree is a gateway to financial and personal success, higher education attainment rates among low-income, first-generation-to-college students are significantly lower than their peers. The gap has persisted for decades. A student born into the top quartile of family income is over seven times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than a student born into the bottom quartile of family income. The disparities for students of color are even starker.

Yet, the reality is that a college degree dictates whether Americans can make the climb up the economic ladder: adult children from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution are at least four times as likely to reach the top fifth if they earn a four-year degree.

The next five years present an opportunity: to build on the success of Philadelphia Futures’ prior strategic plan, and leverage its proven organizational strengths to grow its impact.

There is a need to do more.

Organizational Strengths

Philadelphia Futures brings considerable strengths to its work, and our research during this process confirmed those strengths. Futures is known for depth and quality. It is distinguished by its comprehensive program and track record of success. Futures has developed a suite of college guidance, admissions support, and retention services specially designed to address the many barriers faced by low-income, first-generation- to-college students. The organization’s understanding of admissions “fit” issues for its students helps to support their enrollment in schools that are best suited to support their academic, social, and financial success.

Our College Success program is a nationally recognized model of support and engagement during college that helps students to navigate this new and often challenging territory. The depth of expertise developed over the years of work in college admissions and student persistence places Philadelphia Futures in a unique and well-equipped position to expand its reach and to serve more of Philadelphia’s low-income, first-generation-to-college students.

Philadelphia Futures’ staff members are known as experts in the field of college access and success. They bring a tenacity, commitment, and passion to our work that is inspiring. It is a diverse and highly educated team with deep and rich experience that works collaboratively and effectively to achieve our mission.

Environmental Factors Informing the Plan

Research showed that the vast majority of organizations provide services in schools, as opposed to stand-alone locations. The reasons for providing services in schools vary but include maximizing the opportunities to connect with students (rather than limiting these opportunities to out-of-school time); the ability to develop relationships with and connect to resources in schools to assist students; and increasing the time spent with students and their families while minimizing the costs and time associated with travel.

We also know that there are students and families who would benefit from Philadelphia Futures’ services who cannot travel to Center City.

Futures’ data and expertise support the efficacy of a service delivery model change. Since 2012, Futures has provided services to a cohort of seniors at Northeast High School through the College Admissions Collaborative. The results of that program are impressive, with 100% of each cohort matriculating to college. Staff at NEHS attribute the positive change in the school’s college-going culture to Philadelphia Futures.

Strategic Priorities

The strategic questions of where and how Futures can make a bigger difference in Philadelphia resulted in three strategic priorities: expand, deepen, and sustain. These strategic priorities reflect the overall aspiration for Futures to support more students with greater impact and to build a sustainable organization that can continue this important work in the long-term.


Ensure more students have access to proven strategies that support college access and success.


Enhance our services to increase the ability of our students to thrive.


Invest in the human, financial, and technological resources to achieve our mission and vision.

By 2025,
Philadelphia Futures
will serve 50% more students
in its direct service programs
through a campus-based service
delivery model.

Campus-Based Model

In order to leverage its strengths and to expand the number of students served, Futures will begin to provide direct services in both Center City Philadelphia and neighborhood-based locations. These neighborhood locations will be called “campuses” to reflect Futures’ emphasis on college access and success, and will be located in schools or community-based organizations. Students from various schools can attend these campuses.

The geographical shift will both deepen and expand our services. It will make it easier for students to be involved in other clubs and activities at their schools or community-based organizations, giving them opportunities to build more relationships with other students and community members, and positively influence peer attitudes about college attendance. Futures will focus on its core strengths in college access guidance and leverage the expertise of the community and community organizations to provide other complementary services and resources to students. This shift will also facilitate greater opportunities to build and strengthen partnerships, and expand our outreach efforts.

Strategic Priority #1:


Ensure more students have access to proven strategies that support college success.


1. 50% increase in students in direct service programs in five years.

2. Campus-model established and implemented, including strategic partnerships with other organizations.

3. 100% increase in the number of high school and college students served through Outreach Futures.

Strategic Priority #2:


Enhance our services to increase the success of our students.


1. Increase the college graduation rate (6-year) to 80%, starting with the Class of 2020.

2. Increase or maintain the percentage of students in each class graduating with manageable debt.

3. Build a diverse network of engaged volunteers to enhance student programs.

Strategic Priority #3:


Invest in the human, financial, and technological resources to achieve our mission and vision.


1. Financial: Secure and effectively steward financial resources for growth.

2. Talent: Develop the appropriate board and staff leadership, skills, and structure.

3. Technology: Implement technology systems to enhance student service and operations.

Our Path Forward

The next five years present an opportunity for Futures: to build on the successes of the prior strategic plan and leverage its proven organizational strengths to grow its impact in the region.

These strategic priorities will support Philadelphia Futures’ vision to significantly contribute to increasing the number of students in the Philadelphia School District who enroll in and graduate from college, and to creating a city where every student has what they need to succeed in college and to thrive in life.

Join us as we work to achieve this vision.

For more information about Philadelphia Futures and how to contribute to achieving this vision, please contact Sara Woods, Executive Director, at 215-790-1666 or sarawoods@philadelphiafutures.org. Thank you for your commitment to and investment in our scholars and their college dreams.