Common App and Reach Higher Unite to Make College More Approachable and Engaging for All Students

MBA Blog / 5th October 2018

The Common Application, a non-profit membership organization dedicated to access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process, announced today that it will acquire Reach Higher, the college access and success campaign started by former First Lady Michelle Obama during her time at the White House, to empower millions more students to successfully apply to college.

“Reach Higher was an initiative borne from my own experience—the idea that an education opens up doors that are otherwise closed for kids like me. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to help kids set their sights not just on getting into college, but on finishing it,” said former First Lady Michelle Obama. “I’m thrilled that thanks to the Common App’s commitment to those same values, that message will thrive for years to come.”

“The Common App and Reach Higher share a mission of increasing access to college,” said Jenny Rickard, President and CEO of The Common Application. “By uniting as one organization, we will accelerate progress toward our joint goals of inspiring a college-going culture, bringing joy to the admissions process, and supporting students in achieving their dreams.”

The Common Application offers unprecedented access to a wide range of diverse colleges and universities through more than 800 members in 49 states and across 20 countries and has decades of history in reducing barriers to the college application process. Each year, more than one million students — a third of whom are first-generation — apply to college, research financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and connect to college counseling resources through the Common App. Reach Higher brings unique expertise in inspiring underrepresented students to apply to college. Through its programs, including Better Make Room, Reach Higher has celebrated more than a million students going to college, championed the school counseling community, and nudged hundreds of thousands of first-generation and low-income students to complete their college applications.

“Reach Higher inspires confidence and creates a college-going culture, especially for underrepresented students, and the Common App channels that inspiration toward making college a reality,” said Eric Waldo, executive director of Reach Higher. “By bringing the two together, we will help millions more students successfully navigate the college application process and unlock their full potential by completing a post-secondary degree.”

As of January 1, 2019, Reach Higher will become a campaign within the Common App. Its core programming, including Better Make Room, UpNext, College Signing Day, Beating the Odds, school counselor support, and current grants will continue as part of the Common App’s work with its member institutions, school counselors, and students. Reach Higher staff will join the Common App, with Mrs. Obama and the rest of the Reach Higher Advisory Board continuing their support of Reach Higher. 

While Reach Higher will be leaving Civic Nation, the two organizations will continue to partner. “We are so excited about this news because Civic Nation is deeply committed to increasing access to higher education,” said Jenn Brown, Executive Director of Civic Nation. “Together, Civic Nation, Common App, and Reach Higher will be able to serve more students than any of us could alone.”

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done at the Common App to support access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process,” said Lee Ann Backlund, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid at Sewanee: University of the South and Chair of the Common App Board of Directors. “By uniting with Reach Higher, we will together show many more students what’s possible for them as they make the transition from high school to college and beyond.”

“I’m thrilled for Common App and Reach Higher, but more importantly, I’m thrilled for students,” said former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This will be a game-changer. Together, these teams will make getting to and through college possible for countless others.”

Former Franklin & Marshall president and recently inaugurated Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield commented, “This announcement is terrific news for America’s students, families, and educators. Mrs. Obama’s Reach Higher team has done powerful work to promote equity and college opportunity. The combination of Reach Higher and the Common App will open the doors of college for countless students and help make sure that our country develops the great talent of all our young people. I look forward to working with them to empower students for years to come.”

“Building a college-going culture takes close collaboration between like-minded organizations, which is why we’ve been proud to work with both Common App and Reach Higher,” said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We’re excited to see these two organizations join together to support students striving to make their educational goals a reality.”

For more information about the Common App, visit To learn more about Reach Higher, visit

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