Applying to colleges is overwhelming to anyone and if you're the first in your family to apply, the obstacles can be more than financial concerns.
A new program can help some students on that path starting freshman year.
Each year thousands of Chicago Public School students apply for selective enrollment schools, which have more emphasis on college-bound careers.
But there are not enough seats in those schools for all those who qualify.
"We live in a time when you're going to earn what you learn and going to college is essential," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel spoke with students at his alma mater Northwestern University last year.
It was the discussion afterwards with the university's president that forged a new partnership with Northwestern and CPS to help more low-income students get to college.
"You have to prepare people for the world, of success in the world. You need to have them living and studying alongside the people for whom they're going to be for the rest of their lives. There shouldn't be an income barrier," said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro.
The Northwestern Academy will offer:
- Year round classes for four years
- College Counseling
- Test Preparation
- Family Workshops
The academy is an effort to boost the numbers of CPS students attending the nearby university and create more diversity on college campuses.
"We're obligated as a non-for-profit to prime the pump and produce these kids who are ready to go selective publics or privates and realize the advantages of going to one of these schools," Schapiro said.
The students who have successful college experiences can mean big returns for them and their communities.
"Having the best educated, best skilled workforce will ensure more companies more families move to the city of Chicago it's a real economic boon," Emanuel said.
There are about 1,200 CPS students who qualify for selective enrollment and qualify for the free lunch program.
Those students are being invited to apply to Northwestern Academy.
The first class will begin with 50 students this spring.
Northwestern commits to seeing four classes through to college.