The program specifically targets more than 2,100 students across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri in grades 6-12 to promote the skills and motivation needed to successfully complete a bachelor's degree. Two-thirds of program participants must be low-income according to federal poverty guidelines, and they must be first-generation college students.
Faculty, staff and current students from the university connect with schools to help future students prepare for college and get excited about the opportunities that are available through higher education.
"For many of the students who participate in Talent Search, this may be the first time they've learned about college or thought of it as a real possibility," said program director Gina Ervin. "What's most rewarding is that we can see the results of our hard work, and we see the excitement on their faces when they decide that college can and should be a part of their future."
The proof is in the enrollment numbers. In the fall of 2011, 86 percent of graduating high school students who participated in Talent Search successfully enrolled at an institution of higher education.
The success of Talent Search at the University of Arkansas hasn't gone unnoticed at the national level, either. The university, with three Talent Search programs, receives the fourth-highest funding amount out of all Talent Search programs in the country.
Click here for Talent Search application information.
"Talent Search is a phenomenal program that motivates students to start looking at post-secondary opportunities," said Kim Favero, counselor at Greer Lingle Middle School in Rogers. "It allows students to connect the classroom to the world, and it gets them excited, which is what it's all about. The kids will stop me in the hall and ask me when the next meeting is. I tell all the kids to apply because I know they'll be sad if they don't. It really is the 'in crowd'."
The objectives of Talent Search expand beyond getting kids to college. First, they aim to keep kids in school at the middle, junior high and high school levels. The Talent Search team wants students to successfully earn a high school diploma and then enroll in college. Additionally, Talent Search strives to guide students through their college years and help them to earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Last year alone, 652 college preparation workshops were delivered at target schools in seven counties; 31 groups visited a college campus; and 1,031 individual contacts were made to provide personalized assistance to students facing challenges along their journey to college, such as difficulties with financial aid applications.
Talent Search is an early-intervention TRIO project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO began with Upward Bound, which emerged out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. In 1965, Talent Search, the second outreach program, was created as part of the Higher Education Act. In 1968, Student Support Services, which was originally known as Special Services for Disadvantaged Students, was authorized by the Higher Education Amendments and became the third in a series of educational opportunity programs. By the late 1960s, the term TRIO was coined to describe these federal programs. Over the years, the TRIO programs have been expanded and now include eight programs. The University of Arkansas is host to the original programs plus Veterans Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math and Science.