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Local graduates from Collegiate reached 100% college acceptance!

A First-Gen Forward 901: Collegiate School of Memphis

Every student that has graduated from Collegiate has been accepted into college.

Since it’s founding in 2008, Collegiate School of Memphis has had nine graduating classes. All whom have been accepted into a four-year college or university.

Mostly recently, The Collegiate Class of 2023 has joined the rankings and  celebrated 100% acceptance rate into college! 

A group of Memphis students posing for a picture in front of a building as part of the First Gen initiative.
The Class of 2023 takes their well deserved acceptance rate photo outside of Collegiate!

What does first-gen mean?

Often, first-generation students are categorized simply as those who are the first in their family to attend college. While all first-gen students excel academically, they may lack the knowledge to navigate college procedures, jaragon, and more. 

First generation college students—whose parents did not complete a four-year degree—often leverage loans, grants, and scholarships to find a way to pay for college. Money can be scarce for extras-that-aren’t-really-extras (think toiletries and even textbooks). Because of this, starting college may bring more stress than excitement. 

And many of these students are preparing for the college adventure right here in the 901—at high schools like Collegiate School of Memphis, and at our local colleges. 

How Collegiate is first-gen forward as a high school

A great local example of “first-gen forward” thinking is happening at The Collegiate School of Memphis, located just off Summer Avenue. The school, founded in 2008, offers a private, college preparatory middle and high school experience. 98% of Collegiate students receive tuition assistance to attend Collegiate, and 100% of their graduates receive admission to four-year colleges. 

Collegiate has developed programs that bridge the gaps between high school graduation and that first job. 

Collegiate alumni programs range from simple but essential—like providing laundry baskets full of dorm room and school supplies—to complex—providing ongoing support and networking opportunities to students as they adapt to college and then begin moving toward employment. 


At our own University of Memphis, 30% of students are first generation students, and the school has been deemed a “First-Gen Forward” campus by the Center for First-Generation Student Success. The recognition came because of the way U of M demonstrates “a commitment to ensuring that first-gen students achieve their goals.” 

So how can the broader Memphis community adopt a spirit that is “first-gen forward”? These are the future leaders of the city! Their success will lead to a stronger Memphis, and there are very tangible things we can do to set them up for success

"The zip code where they were born, or their parents' income level, does not determine their potential. And we don’t want the need for dorm room basics, or for an introduction to a local company, to hold them back."
Keywords: woman, red coat
Mckenzie Cohen
Head of School, The Collegiate School of Memphis

How You can Be First-Gen Forward

The Collegiate “Launch a Leader” campaign helps to cover costs for services like these that are extra, but essential. Collegiate Head of School McKenzie Cohen shared her perspective, below.  

Other middle and high schools around the city are creating programs for alumni—programs specifically targeted at ensuring that first-gen students achieve their goals. We found similar programs at The Soulsville Charter School, KIPP, and New Hope Christian Academy, along with developing programs at Compass Community Schools and Grizz Prep. We invite you to let us know other programs and businesses you see around Memphis that are first-gen forward! 


  • GIVE: Support Collegiate’s Launch a Leader program—your gift will be doubled, so help them reach their goal this month to prepare 100% of their seniors for their first semester at college.
  • GOT JOBS? If you’ve got internships or entry-level jobs, reach out to the Choose901 Alumni program or any of the schools in this blog. They’re all serving a majority first-gen students and alumni and we guarantee they’d love to hear from you.
  • MENTOR! Many of the students in after-school programs today will be the first-gen college students of tomorrow. Help them reach their full potential! This Ultimate Guide to Mentoring can show you all the open mentoring positions in Memphis—let’s fill them!

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