For immediate release
Contact: Matt Rubinoff,, (949) 329-8291

Strive for College and the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO) join forces to scale online mentoring program and college partnerships aimed at increasing college attainment and success for deserving young people

May 4, 2016–MILPITAS, CA–The directors of Strive for College, a national nonprofit that delivers technology-powered mentoring to remove barriers to college access, and the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO), which partners with colleges and universities to support first-generation college students, today announced an agreement to merge organizations and integrate their programs. Both organizations aid underserved, first-generation college students and aspiring college students, who too often lack the resources and support necessary for successful college outcomes. Strive for College focuses on connecting young people with dedicated online guidance through the college admissions & financial aid application processes. CSO, through its I’m First! program, helps students and their supporters discover colleges and universities that care about first-generation college students and navigate the path to college with a substantial range of content tailored to these students’ unique needs. The agreement to merge is subject to customary regulatory approval, including from the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California, and is expected within thirty days.

“Right now, far too many hard-working, qualified young people who should go on to college fail to even apply,” said Michael J. Carter, the founder, President & CEO of Strive for College. “Most of these students come from lower-income families with parents who did not go to college, and they typically do not have access to reliable college guidance in their high schools. We see the college access problem as an information access problem.”

To directly address this problem at a national scale, Strive for College commissioned a custom-built, proprietary online mentoring platform called UStrive, where students and trained volunteer mentors can connect in a secure environment, using built-in communications features to conduct mentoring sessions. Sessions follow a guided curriculum and focus on specific tasks like college essay writing and applying for financial aid. The platform includes sophisticated data technology and college matching tools so students can discover the institutions that are the best fit for them, both academically and financially.

“Joining forces with CSO is a tremendous opportunity to grow our virtual college advising program and better serve students with the critical information they need to not only get into college, but thrive when they are there,” Carter added.

An online community for first-generation college students and those who aspire to be, CSO’s I’m First! program is a rare offering in a field that has only recently begun to recognize the importance of offering support specifically to students who are the first in their families to attend college. Higher education institutions are moving quickly to develop programs for these students, and CSO is one of only a few incumbents with expertise in the area.

“Only in the last decade has there grown a real national awareness of the importance of improving access to college and understanding how to create better outcomes for students who lack a family history of higher education,” said Matt Rubinoff, CSO’s founder and Executive Director. “Doing this right requires working together to ensure that all students who need help find it. Hundreds of thousands of students graduate from high school every year lacking assistance from caring adults at home, in school, or in their community to pursue college.”

“Mergers are exceedingly rare in the nonprofit sector today, especially among national organizations,” Rubinoff added. “I hope our merger can be an example of innovation for maximizing efficiency and the quality of what we offer for deserving young people. With Strive, we’ll be able to serve far more students and colleges with a much deeper range of services.”

The combined organization will operate as Strive for College, with I’m First! becoming a distinct brand in the Strive for College portfolio. Strive for College will continue to be headquartered in the Silicon Valley area, with Michael J. Carter as President & CEO. Mr. Rubinoff will lead college partnerships and the I’m First! program, while guiding development of new opportunities for the combined organization as Strive for College’s new Chief Strategy Officer.


About Strive for College
Strive for College was founded in 2007 by Michael J. Carter, then a student at Washington University in St. Louis, to help acutely under-served area high school students apply to college and navigate financial aid. College students volunteered as in-person mentors for high school students, and mentored students achieved substantially better college go-on rates than their non-mentored peers. Strive for College grew to become a respected college access organization, serving in-person mentoring across the country. Delivering its mentoring service at sufficient scale to make a meaningful impact on the national college access problem soon became Strive’s biggest challenge, which led to the development and launch of UStrive in 2014. Virtual Mentoring by Strive for College is now a national service, which is intended to serve one-million students within three years.

Strive for College has staff in several regions of the country, including Silicon Valley, Idaho, Chicago & the central Midwest and the New York City tri-state area. The organization counts Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, Deutsche Bank, UPS, College Board, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Chicago Public Schools among its major funders and partners. Strive and their founder Michael J. Carter have been featured by CNN Heroes and Forbes 30 Under 30 and received major national media attention from outlets including Time, National Journal, and Fast Company. Learn more at

About Center for Student Opportunity
Center for Student Opportunity (CSO) has a ten-year track record of success, creating programs to bridge the divide between four-year colleges and universities and students who most need college guidance, preparation, and admissions assistance. CSO was a 2013 winner of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-sponsored College Knowledge Challenge, leading to the creation of the I’m First! program. is now a robust online community with over 10,000 student users. CSO also publishes the I’m First! College Guide, which is distributed nationally to high schools and youth-serving organizations. CSO was named the 2012 National Scholarship Provider of the Year by and the National Scholarship Providers Association for its I’m First! Scholarship where winners blog about their college experiences on Its work has been featured by Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ed Tech magazine, USA Today, NPR, Clinton Global Initiative University, and Univision. Learn more at