THRIVE SCHOLARS  helps high-achieving, low-income, underrepresented junior and senior high school students to get into and graduate from top colleges equipped to reach their full career potential.  We aim to overcome the unique barriers our Scholars face to enrolling in and succeeding at selective colleges: their need for more informed college admissions advising; their inadequate academic preparation; their lack of professional mentors and experience; and their lack of access to a network for key internships and jobs.


We envision a world in which low-income students of color attend highly selective colleges and graduate with the same opportunities as their higher income peers, where the STEM workforce and corporate board rooms are reflective of the diverse population of the United States, and where low-income students of color feel empowered to make lasting positive change in their communities. We provide Scholars with admissions guidance and intensive academic preparation before college and academic, personal, social-emotional, financial, career development, and professional support during college.



Thrive Scholars was established in 2001, originally as a scholarship program called South Central Scholars (SCS) serving a few students in Los Angeles. We quickly realized the demand for a multi-stage, integrated program of support, and began supporting students throughout college with academic and social-emotional support and career guidance and networking. Within a few years, we achieved impressive results: 90% of Scholars who were attending very selective schools like Harvard and USC were graduating within 6 years.

Although our Scholars were graduating at rates far beyond the national average, a large percentage were unable to find jobs upon graduation that matched their passions. After reviewing their college transcripts, it became clear that, despite having excelled in high school, many Scholars were entering college without the college-level writing and math skills needed to persist in their chosen majors and were being forced to transition to less demanding majors. They were graduating, but with degrees that didn’t interest them and career options dashed.

To reverse this trend, we launched Summer Academy in 2012 to offset the discrepancy in academic preparation between our students and those from more affluent schools so that Scholars are able to persist in STEM and other rigorous majors. After the implementation of these new programmatic innovations, the results were overwhelming; our Scholars were attending top colleges at much higher rates than their peers and Scholars pursuing STEM majors were much more likely to persist and graduate in their major compared to similar students.

In 2014, our founders replicated the program in Boston as a pilot for further regional, and eventual national, expansion. After three years of successful outcomes in Boston, we merged to form one organization. Thrive Scholars now serves the top underrepresented students from all across the country.



Our six year-long program provides a continuum of support for our students throughout the entire life-cycle of higher education – beginning their junior year of high school through college and into their first job.

Prior to college, Scholars benefit from:

Once in college, Scholars receive:


Audience Served

We serve high-achieving, low-income students who are either students of color or who are the first in their family to attend college. We admit students who have proven themselves academically in high school with a strong GPA (3.5+) and high SAT scores (1100+) that are necessary to gain admission, but not sufficient for strong performance at top colleges.  Our most recent class of admitted Scholars had an average high school GPA of 3.93 out of 4.0.

Our Scholars represent  our diverse community, with students coming from all across the U.S.  For example, for the Massachusetts students currently enrolled in our program, 26% identify as Asian, 49% identify as Black or African American, 16% identify as Latinx, and 5% identify as Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 6% identify as white.  Our Scholars fall at or below the low-income status and tend to be the first in their family to attend college.  84% identify as first-generation college students and their average family income is $36,874.

Successful impact

Our most recent cohorts of students have achieved outstanding outcomes as a result of our programs:

·       More low-income students of color attend selective colleges.  For our most recent cohort Scholars who were admitted to college, 91% are attending top 100 colleges, 82% are attending top 50 colleges, and 29% are attending Ivy League or similar schools.

·       More low-income students of color graduate ready for top flight colleges and careers.  Our innovative Summer Academy helps to ensure our students have the skills they need to persist and graduate in the major of their choice.  The Academy equips students with the writing and math skills their better-resourced peers have and skills needed to excel in their first-year courses.  As a result, our Scholars have an average first-semester GPA of 3.25 and the average GPA at graduation for our Scholars is 3.2.

·       98% of our Scholars graduate from college, compared to 80% for similar students.  And, they are 10% more likely to graduate than the general population at their schools.

·       65% of Summer Academy participants are able to persist and graduate in STEM and other rigorous majors compared to less than 25% for similar students.  Impressively, our Scholars are 15% more likely to persist in these majors compared to the general population at their schools.

·       Students graduate with an average student loan debt of less than half of the national average. 

2020 Update:

Thrive Scholars have all received their college admissions, and they will be going to amazing schools: 

Response to virus pandemic:

We are adapting and innovating our program in response to this crisis, working around the clock to answer the immediate and long-term needs of our Scholars and continue our mission of preparing underrepresented students to thrive in college and career. We've already distributed over $100,000  in funds to support students with emergency transportation, lost wages from the disappearance of work-study jobs, technology needs to access online learning platforms, and food support. Early on in the crisis, we shifted our 2020 Summer Academy programs for this summer to a virtual platform, with some structural changes to accommodate students who are spread out among multiple time zones, and we expect full participation. We hired an experienced education technology firm to help design the best platform to provide these talented students with the same rigorous academic courses, college guidance counseling, and career development training that we are known for.  Finally, we are providing one on one virtual coaching and counseling to all of our Scholars to help them navigate this unsettling time.


Recommendations for Replication and/or Adaptation

While our program spans multiple phases over the course of six years, there are a number of key learnings that are replicable or adaptable in other settings:

Contact Info

Thrive Scholars

Karen Williams
Chief Program Officer
(310) 833-1670