How CBOs can Help you Get Into a Top Online College

How CBOs can Help you Get Into a Top Online College

Community Based Organizations (CBOs) are a valuable part of the college admissions landscape, especially for high school students from low-income families and at-risk communities. Unfortunately, CBOs are often underutilized. In fact, far too few students even know about CBOs.

But today, with online education opening new pathways to higher education, CBOs have the potential to play an enormous role in helping disadvantaged students find and gain admission into affordable, accessible, and excellent online schools.

The number of high-quality accredited colleges offering online degrees continues to grow, consequently improving the flexibility, affordability, and accessibility of a college education. By removing many of the geographical, economic, and practical obstacles to earning a degree, online education has the potential to proliferate higher education in new and exciting ways.

However, as with Community Based Organizations (CBOs), far too few at-risk students are unaware of these opportunities. Those who are aware may lack the support to access these opportunities.

This is where Community Based Organizations can play a profound role in the lives of countless students. Community Based Organizations (CBOs), sometimes also called College Access Organizations, are non-profit organizations dedicated to expanding student access to college-level education. CBOs can be a valuable resource to support students who are exploring learning options, online or otherwise. CBOs can also play a critical role in helping students pay for their higher education.

If you are still shopping for schools, check out our Custom College Rankings tool, where you can filter your search for schools based on factors like affordability, geography, school size, and much more.

Otherwise, read on to learn more about Community Based Organizations and what these important entities can do to help you get into a top online school.

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What are Community Based Organizations?

Community Based Organizations are non-profit organizations that use their resources to support the long-term educational goals of students who are disadvantaged, at-risk, or facing economic obstacles. Community Based Organizations CBOs provide outreach, information, practical support, and material support on the path to college admissions. Many CBOs will also work directly with students during their college education to ensure ongoing success and eventual graduation.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) focusing on college access and retention generally work with underserved populations and undocumented students. Often these populations lack the resources, knowledge, and guidance to navigate the application and financial aid process without the additional support of CBOs.

By and large, these students are not extensively courted by elite post-secondary institutions, or, seemingly, are affordable for many private and some public institutions. One of the challenges facing every Community Based Organizations is finding resources to support these students while they find a good fit.

Many Community Based Organizations focus on the needs of impoverished, disadvantaged, at-risk or otherwise underserved students as well as students from low-income families. CBOs can play an important role in the lives of young, at-risk learners, helping to make them aware of their higher education options and subsequently helping to make these options possible.

Community Based Organizations come in many forms and offer their own services and support resources. But they share common ground in striving to create educational opportunities for a broad cross-section of students.

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What is the role of Community Based Organizations?

Community Based Organizations play an especially important role in ensuring that students in disadvantaged or low-income communities understand their higher education options and are given the tools to pursue their goals. Often in communities where the need is greatest, students and families lack awareness of their educational options. CBOs can play an important response part in filling this need.

According to EAB (formerly known as the Education Advisory Board), Many students in these communities need advocates. Often, public schools in majority Black, Latinx, and Native areas are under-resourced and underfunded, so access to college tools, resources, knowledge, and personnel are limited. Many students choose among their best available options instead of making informed choices, which is where Community Based Organizations come in. We show them that college is an opportunity, which is often not mentioned nor spoken about readily in homes, shelters, or fully operationalized in their schools. When there is a support need, we marshal all available resources to fulfill it.

But instilling knowledge is a more comprehensive undertaking than simply informing students of their options. It is also necessary to make these options credible, realistic, and desirable. Because Community Based Organizations frequently work with at-risk populations, there is often a level of intervention that must take place in order to achieve this end.

This is why many Community Based Organizations emphasize comprehensive support and outreach. While this support is meant to make a college education possible, it often starts at home.

According to a report by the Pathways to College Network, Many CBOs function as multi-service agencies, offering health care, housing, and food assistance as well as counseling and crisis intervention. As such, they can address the non-academic needs of students that affect their school achievement.

In other words, the role of a Community Based Organization can be quite expansive, and may depend on the needs of a given individual. Because the student demographics served by CBOs often present overlapping risk factors, it is the role of the CBO to identify and intervene with these risk factors as a way of improving educational performance, outcomes, and access.

Community Based Organizations also play the important role of sparking interest in and enthusiasm about higher education. For students from communities where higher education is not a common goal, this type of positive encouragement is important. CBOs can help students truly embrace the value and excitement of a good education in ways that many have never experienced prior to this intervention.

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Are Community Based Organizations only for low-income or disadvantaged students?

While it’s mostly known that Community Based Organizations focus on supporting students, particularly low-income or disadvantaged students, they frequently offer services to a broader spectrum of students, irrespective of their socioeconomic status. Numerous CBOs are devoted to diversity and inclusivity. They understand that their services—whether advice on college readiness, college admissions, mentoring, academic help, or career development—can benefit students from all backgrounds.

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How can a Community Based Organization help me get into online college?

Community Based Organizations can help students get into online colleges in various ways including:

Expert Guidance and Counseling

CBOs offer professional advice and counseling, which will significantly help you compete for a spot in top online colleges in various school districts. CBOs frequently work with seasoned college counselors who are well-versed in the admissions process. These experts can serve as your compass, guiding you to the online college of your choice.

  • Choosing the Right Online College: The CBO counselors can assist you in finding online colleges that complement your academic and professional objectives. They can shed light on each college’s advantages, programs, and reputation.
  • Understanding Admission Requirements: Admission requirements for online universities are frequently different. CBO counselors can clarify these specifications, ensuring that you satisfy all prerequisites.
  • Personalized Application Strategy: Your abilities and ambitions are considered when CBOs develop customized application strategies. They assist you in making the finest possible first impression on online colleges.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Although online learning is known to be more “affordable” than traditional colleges, obtaining a degree can still be financially challenging. Online degree programs usually have less financial assistance available. Luckily, Community Based Organizations have the tools and expertise to guide you through the challenging financial aid and scholarship landscape.

  • Scholarship Search: CBOs can help you find grants and scholarships designed especially for online college students. They assist you in finding opportunities that match your preferences, competencies, and background.
  • Financial Aid Application Support: It might be overwhelming to complete financial aid applications, such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS Profile. CBOs provide aid and direction in completing these important paperwork.
  • Understanding Costs: CBOs may break down the costs related to online education, assisting you in developing a reasonable budget and looking at ways to save expenditures.

Academic Support

Academic excellence is a key need for many students to be admitted to their preferred online institution. Community Based Organizations provide various academic support services to help you perform at your best.

  • Tutoring and Study Resources: To assist you in raising your grades and standardized test performance, CBOs frequently offer tutoring services and access to study materials.
  • Academic Goal Setting: Counselors from Community Based Organizations work with you to establish academic objectives to help you stay motivated and concentrated on your studies.
  • Course Selection: They can help you pick the appropriate classes and make sure they complement your desired major or career path.

Test Preparation

The SAT and ACT, among others, are essential components of the admissions process. Adequate exam preparation with Community Based Organization counselors may improve your test results.

  • Test Prep Courses: Numerous CBOs provide test preparation classes that will familiarize you with the test style and teach you how to approach complex problems.
  • Practice Tests: Practice exams are frequently accessible through CBOs, enabling you to monitor your development and pinpoint areas needing improvement.
  • Score Improvement Strategies: CBOs collaborate with you to create individualized score improvement plans so you can perform at your peak on test day.

Extracurricular and Leadership Development

Like their traditional counterparts, top online colleges and universities favor well-rounded students who are actively involved in extracurricular activities and show leadership abilities. CBOs are crucial in assisting your growth in these areas.

  • Extracurricular Planning: CBOs can help you choose extracurricular activities that complement your interests and professional objectives.
  • Leadership Opportunities: To help you enhance your leadership abilities and experiences, they may offer internships, mentoring opportunities, and leadership development programs.
  • Community Involvement: Community involvement and service are frequently emphasized by CBOs, which can strengthen your college application and show that you’re committed to having a beneficial influence.

Essay Writing and Application Assistance

It might be challenging to complete college applications and write attractive essays. Community Based Organizations give you helpful assistance so you can offer your best self to online colleges.

  • Essay Guidance: CBO counselors provide advice on essay subjects, organization, and substance. They aid in the successful telling of your particular story.
  • Editing and Proofreading: They proofread and edit your essays to ensure they are clear and error-free.
  • Application Assistance: CBOs assist you in accurately and completing your online college applications in a timely manner, lowering the likelihood of mistakes that could harm your chances of admission.

Mentorship and Peer Support

The transition to an online institution can occasionally feel lonely, but CBOs offer community and mentoring.

  • Mentorship Programs: Many CBOs provide mentorship programs where professional or college-experienced students will walk you through the college application process.
  • Peer Support Networks: Connecting with peers with the same objectives can give you a support network and a sense of community.
  • Advice from Alumni: Many CBOs have alumni networks that can share insightful knowledge and counsel based on their experiences.
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Do Community Based Organizations guarantee admission to top online colleges?

Community based organizations are extremely important in boosting your application and increasing your chances of admission. It helps prepare students for competitive college admissions.

However, CBOs cannot guarantee admission to any college, let alone the best online colleges. College admission selections in four-year institutions are made based on several criteria, including applicants’ academic backgrounds, standardized test scores, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, and personal statements.

Here are a few reasons why Community Based Organizations cannot guarantee admissions:

Competitive Nature of Admissions

Some colleges and universities receive an excessively high volume of applicants, especially top online colleges. Since there are more competent applicants than open spaces, the sheer number of applications makes admission extremely difficult.

Holistic Evaluation

Colleges frequently examine applicants holistically, considering not only academic accomplishments but also personal traits, successes, and community involvement. CBOs can undoubtedly assist you in enhancing your application, but they cannot influence the admissions decision.

Individual Variability

Applicants are different; their application materials reflect their unique backgrounds and skills. CBOs can offer direction and support but cannot foretell how admissions committees will assess a specific application.

Changing Admission Policies

The standards and regulations for admission may alter annually. What was successful for one application might not be a guarantee of success for another.

Limited Influence

Community Based Organizations can help with aspects of the application process, like writing essays, preparing for tests, and finding scholarship opportunities, but they cannot directly affect a college’s admissions decision.

What’s the best time to work with community based organizations?

Depending on a person’s unique situation and college aspirations, there may be a best time to begin working with a Community Based Organization for college admissions preparation. The following general rules will assist you in choosing the appropriate time to start college planning:

Early High School Years (Freshman and Sophomore Years):

It’s never too early to begin considering your college goals. You can start investigating your interests, strengths, and potential career routes in your freshman and sophomore years of high school. Think about cooperating with a CBO to:

  • Choose extracurricular and academic pursuits that suit your interests.
  • Enroll in demanding classes to start laying a solid educational foundation.
  • Start learning about colleges’ admission requirements.
  • Compile a preliminary list of colleges that align with your future goals.

Junior Year:

Junior year is a crucial time to start taking college preparation seriously. Beginning to work with a CBO this year can be quite advantageous. What follows can be your main focus:

  • Refine your college list by considering location, majors, and campus atmosphere.
  • Examine resources for test preparation and take standardized tests like the SAT or ACT.
  • Start composing your college essay or personal statement.
  • Ask for advice on creating a solid extracurricular profile.
  • Look into available financial aid and scholarship alternatives.

Senior Year:

You should be well into the college application process by the start of your senior year. During your senior year, working with a CBO helps ensure that you meet deadlines and submit the best application possible:

  • Complete your college list, and then promptly submit your applications.
  • Obtain letters of recommendation from your instructors and role models.
  • With CBO’s help, go over and improve your college essays.
  • Fill out financial assistance applications like the CSS Profile and FAFSA.
  • If necessary, get ready for admissions interviews or other criteria.

Post-High School Graduation:

Some Community Based Organizations assist students who want to take a gap year before pursuing a bachelor’s degree. They can help you plan your gap year, submit transfer applications, or make any changes to your course of study. Other CBOs can help you narrow down for free online courses or apply for an associate degree in community colleges.

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Are CBOs worth it?

CBOs are definitely worth it considering it will not cost you a dime but it could significantly improve your chances of getting into a top online school. CBOs have a strong track record for achieving positive outcomes on behalf of their participants. The Pathways to College Network report indicates that these benefits begin early in high school but can make a positive difference for students all the way through college. From increased high school attendance and better grades to increased college enrollment rates and a greater likelihood of graduating college, students who enlist the help of CBOs typically enjoy positive educational outcomes.

In other words, a CBO can be an excellent resource not just as you pursue the dream of a college education but also as you advance within your education. Students who have received this level of support generally experience better outcomes once they arrive at school.

NACAC offers its own directory of CBOs that can be accessed free of charge, and which make it their mission to advance opportunities for students of every background. For more, take a look at NACAC’s Coalition for Colleges List.

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Can a CBO help me find an affordable college admissions consultant?

College admissions consultants can be costly, but many admissions consultants offer packages designed for low-income students and families. CBOs can help you find these specialized consultants. Your local CBO may actually be in a position to match you with a college admissions consultant in your region who offers discounted rates or even pro bono services to students with demonstrated financial need.

College admissions consultants are often strong advocates for CBOs, and may work alongside local organizations to create avenues for access and affordability. College admissions consultants and CBOs share common ground by providing specialized access to certain scholarships, community service activities, internship opportunities, and more.

Some college admissions consultants may even work side by side with certain CBOs to create opportunities specifically built for those who might lack access. Take a look at our feature on How College Admissions Consultants Can Address Inequality in Higher Education.

If possible, inquire about college admissions consultant services matched to your financial needs. Your CBO may be able to open the door to this valuable opportunity, one which could significantly improve your chances of getting into the online school of your choice.

And if you feel you need additional support on your way to the college admissions process, some of The Best College Admissions Consulting Agencies may offer reduced rate packages or pro bono consultation for low-income or at-risk students. Check out our directory if you would like to choose a college admissions consultants & counselors in your home state.

Things to Consider About Community Based Organizations

Remember that the right CBO can be crucial in helping you achieve your educational and professional goals. Analyzing these characteristics will help you make an informed selection when picking a Community-Based Organization to assist you with your college application journey.

When assessing community-based organizations (CBOs) intended to assist you with your college applications, you should take into account the following factors:

CBO Mission and Goals:

Think about your objectives, demands, and preferences. The ideal CBO for you should align with your unique situation and goals. Identify the CBO’s objectives and mission statement. Make sure they complement your academic and professional goals. Choose a CBO that meets your needs because some concentrate on particular demographics or subject areas.

Counselor Qualifications

Examine the college counselors at the CBO’s credentials and experience. Counselors with more wisdom can offer more helpful advice.

Services Offered

To what extent does the CBO offer services? Do they offer support with choosing a college, obtaining financial aid, preparing for tests, writing essays, and other crucial application process elements? 

Accessibility and Location

Take into account the CBO’s services’ accessibility and location. Can you visit an actual facility, or do they provide online support? Choose one that fits your preferences and logistical constraints.

Cost and Fees

Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) fee schedules can be very different. While some CBOs are free to use, some may impose small fees or membership dues. The particular organization, its funding sources, and the services it offers all have an impact on the cost structure. Here are a few typical situations:

  • Free Services: Many CBOs are non-profit institutions or are supported by grants and contributions, enabling them to provide services to students and families at no cost. This covers college counseling, mentorship, academic tutoring, and help with scholarship hunts.
  • Sliding Scale Fees: A sliding scale fee structure, where the family’s income determines the fees, may be used by some CBOs. This strategy guarantees that low-income households can still receive services at a reasonable price.
  • Nominal Fees: A minor fee may be levied by some CBOs for particular services or programs. For instance, they may charge for workshops or test preparation courses related to college applications. These rates are often far lower compared to what private businesses may charge for comparable services.
  • Membership Fees: Families may pay an annual membership fee to CBOs in some instances to access various services and resources.

Success Stories

Inquire about student success stories or testimonials that benefited from the CBO’s services. This might offer information about the effectiveness of the organization. Online reviews and testimonies also offer insightful information.

Be bold and request recommendations from businesses, educators, or other experts who have worked with the CBO. Their viewpoints may provide additional support.

Peer Network and Support

Ask if there are any networking and peer support possibilities within the CBO. It is  beneficial to connect with like-minded individuals.

Financial Aid Expertise

If receiving financial aid is an issue, see if the CBO has experience guiding students through the FAFSA and scholarship application processes.

Academic Resources

Check if the CBO provides academic services like tutoring, reading material, and test-prep classes.

Application Timelines

Clarify the CBO’s timelines and deadlines for application assistance. Make sure they can assist you by the dates for your application.

Cultural Sensitivity and Inclusivity

Think about whether the CBO is inclusive of all students, regardless of their circumstances or diverse cultural origins.

How can I get involved with a Community Based Organization in my community?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Research Local CBOs

Search for local CBOs that align with your interests and goals, whether college admissions, career development, mentorship, or other support areas. You can do this through online searches, community directories, or by asking community college or teachers, school counselors, or mentors for recommendations.

Contact the CBOs that interest you via phone, email, or their website to learn more about their initiatives and how you can be involved. Express your desire to assist them or take part in their activities.

Visit the CBO

In case the CBO has a physical site, think about going there. This allows you to visit their facilities and speak with staff in person. It can also assist you in determining whether you would fit well in the organization’s environment.

Attend Community Events and Workshops

A lot of CBOs hold community activities, workshops, and informational sessions. Attend these events to find out more about the company and its offerings. Getting to know the CBO staff and other participating students is a great chance. This will also allow you to network, leading to more opportunities to seek assistance.

Complete Necessary Paperwork

You might need to formally complete enrollment forms or other documents to participate in a CBO program. Make sure to supply all the required information promptly.

Be Active

Utilize all of the opportunities a CBO provides once you’ve joined. Attend workshops, look for mentors or advisors, and participate in pursuits supporting your objectives. Commit to participating in all of the CBO’s services and initiatives. More significant advantages can result from consistency and dedication.

And as you gain from CBO assistance, think about giving back by volunteering or helping with CBO endeavors. Others in the community can benefit from your involvement.

Stay Informed

Check the CBO’s website, emails, and newsletters frequently to stay informed about its activities, workshops, and opportunities. This makes sure you don’t overlook worthwhile resources.

Seek Guidance

Never be afraid to seek advice and assistance when you need it. CBOs can help with anything from job planning to college application support, personal development, and college life.


Because Community Based Organizations serve students who may be facing geographic, economic, and practical obstacles, these organizations are especially suited to help students who might benefit from an online education.

Indeed, there is a direct overlap between the needs that both CBOs and online colleges serve. Both CBOs and online schools make college more accessible and affordable.

CBOs can also help students choose wisely. If you choose to go to an online college, it is important that you know how to navigate the landscape in search of the best online opportunities. Many of the top schools in the U.S. are offering a growing number of fully online degrees.

But it is important that you know how to differentiate these schools from the many shady, for-profit schools and degree mills that also populate the online education landscape. A CBO can help you make sure you are on the right track. CBOs may provide advisors who can help you understand accreditation and spot the differences between quality online colleges and online education scams.

And if budgeting for college is a top priority for you, make sure that you get the Best Return on Investment (ROI) From College.

Check out the College Admissions Process Guide for additional tips on finding, applying to, and getting into the college of your choice.

See our Resources Guide for much more on studying, starting your job search, and more.

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