Campus Ventures: Solving University Undermatching

Campus Ventures' Team Left to Right: Talia Farrell-Rosen, Monica Lannom, Zhaukhar (Jenna) Mukametkhan. (Not pictured Charmaine Nieves)


Remember your college application process? The tedious Common App applications, hours upon hours of research, ACT/SAT, FAFSA, visiting schools, etc. Do you remember who helped you through this process?

Your family and guidance counselors perhaps, maybe your peers or you may have received little to no help. Often the latter is true, particularly for many students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds, who are forced to figure the complex college application process on their own, further exacerbating structural inequality.

“We want to see more minorities, women, and LGBTQ individuals in top positions across all industries,” states Monica Lannom, Co-Founder, and CEO of Campus Ventures. One way to achieve this goal? Break down the barriers to obtaining a quality higher education.

Campus Ventures bridges the gap between admissions teams and high-achieving high schoolers. Universities want these students but struggle to recruit them – especially first-generation and underrepresented minority groups.

Undermatching is the main cause for high achieving-underrepresented groups not enrolling in highly elite schools such as Stanford and Yale. Undermatching is the practice of choosing to attend a college for which you are overly qualified when a superior one is available. 

What does this look like in practice? “A student got the opportunity to go to Yale, you think who would ever turn that down,” said Lannom, “yet she did because she did not feel welcome.” There are many reasons why students will turn away prestigious higher-ed opportunities.

During the team’s customer discovery interviews, students recounted their campus visits. Some students were outright ignored by other students, faculty, and guides. “The potential students didn’t see others that looked like them or thought that the college was too expensive,” explained Lannom. 

“That’s one of the big myths we want to debunk. It’s actually cheaper for underrepresented students to go to elite institutions,” stated Lannom. Institutions like the University of Chicago and Boston College tend to have more generous financial aid packages. These packages cover the cost of attendance, even room and board so in some cases the student pays nothing out of pocket.

“Students do not know that these opportunities are out there. If you’re the first person in your family to attend college and don’t know how the process works, it can be extremely difficult,” explained Lannom. Recruiting one student, a public university spends $573 on average versus a private college spending almost $3,000. Elite universities want these students and Campus Ventures is determined to break down the physical and mental barriers for enrollment at these institutions.

Understanding the admissions process for higher education is a challenge facing Campus Ventures because of its many layers. The team is driven to tackle this demanding issue because fundamentally going to college should not be inherently difficult. “For me, it’s helping a younger version of myself,” Lannom stated.

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Company

“I didn’t realize how much your team matters. Even though it was my original idea, I feel pretty lucky because there was a lot of investment very quickly from everyone on the team,” Lannom said.

The team consists of four highly motivated women all wanting to ensure high schoolers have the best college opportunities. There’s a lot of work and moving parts for the venture, but with their motivation, the team will persevere.

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