Frequently Asked Questions

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What makes Reach for Excellence unique?

Reach for Excellence is a three-year, tuition-free enrichment program that prepares middle school students to compete for college preparatory high school programs. Certified teachers equip students with the tools they need to succeed in high school and stay on the path to college. Reach for Excellence offers students of limited income a mix of academic, cultural, and community-based experiences that prepares them for the challenges of college-preparatory programs and high schools.

Reach for Excellence students learn from adults who are caring mentors, and they are surrounded by friends who share their desire to succeed. Reach for Excellence students attend middle schools throughout the Metro Atlanta area. The program requires hard work, commitment, and discipline. Students are ready to commit to three years of rigorous academics and leadership training, and they demonstrate the potential to achieve academically and the determination to succeed in life.

When is the program?

Reach for Excellence takes place during the student’s sixth, seventh, and eighth grade years. It includes both weekends and summer sessions for all three years. 

  • Saturday sessions meet two to three times per month from late August through mid-April for a total of 16 sessions per year. 
  • Saturday sessions meet from 9:30 to 12:30 pm with lunch provided.
  • Summer sessions consist of 6 weeks. They start the first week of June and run through the third week of July. 
  • Sessions meet Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 2:10 pm.
  • Both breakfast and lunch are provided for summer sessions. There are no classes the week of July 4th. 
  • Students begin in the August of their 6th grade year and graduate at the end of the summer session after 8th grade.

Where are Reach for Excellence classes held?

Reach for Excellence is hosted by Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia, located at:

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30319

Does Reach for Excellence charge tuition?

No. Reach for Excellence is free. The program relies on the support of individual donors, foundations, and other grants.

Who can apply?

To be eligible to apply, applicants must:

  • Currently be in 5th grade
  • Earn primarily As in core academic subjects in 4th and 5th grade.
  • Have demonstrated strong academic performance in the MAP test or in the Georgia
  • Milestones test in 4th and 5th grade.
  • Demonstrate high financial need.
    • Special consideration is given to families with an annual gross income below $65,000 or who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
  • Seek a rigorous high school experience that will challenge them socially and academically.
  • Demonstrate curiosity, motivation, and have strong family support

How do I apply?

Applications are currently being accepted for the session starting in August 2024. Applications and information can be found under Admissions.

Application requirements include:

  • 4th & 5th-Grade Report Cards>
  • 2 Teacher Recommendations
  • Family Financial Documents: 2023 1040 and 2024 W2’s

Once the application is reviewed, qualified applicants will be invited for an interview and a test in March. Candidates are notified of acceptance by May.

When is the application deadline?

For the session starting in August, 2024, the application deadline is March 30, 2024. The application is available online and on paper in the Reach for Excellence office. Please visit our application page for updates and to access the application.

What are the expectations for students?

  • Students are expected to attend 90% of all sessions and personal and family commitments should be scheduled around class sessions.
  • Students are expected to maintain As and Bs at their middle school to stay in Reach for Excellence.
  • Students are expected to come prepared for each class, complete all homework assignments, and actively participate in class discussions and group projects.

What are classes like?

Class sizes at Reach for Excellence are small. These smaller classes allow for more one-on-one instruction. Courses focus on enriching skills in math, reading and writing, SSAT preparation, computer science, robotics, and critical thinking skills. These courses are supplemented by community service projects, curriculum-based field trips, and opportunities to study topics in greater detail, integrating academic skills with life experiences.

Does Reach for Excellence provide meals during the Saturday and Summer Sessions?

Reach for Excellence provides breakfast and lunch during the summer program as well as lunch during the Saturday sessions. Scholars are always welcome to bring their own lunch should they prefer to do so.

Does Reach for Excellence provide transportation?

If a student does not have access to private transportation, the Reach for Excellence staff will work with each family to ensure that their child is able to get to and from the program. Arrangements may include riding MARTA, carpooling, or meeting one of our buses at a designated pickup location. 

Generally speaking, families are responsible for dropping off and picking up their children on Saturdays. 

During the summer Reach session, with each new cohort, the Reach for Excellence leadership coordinates a custom route of pickup locations for Reach buses to accommodate as many families as possible.

What does Reach for Excellence expect from the students’ families?

Reach for Excellence expects that the program is a priority for every family it serves. The program requires a 3-year commitment from students, as well as their parents or guardians. Students are expected to attend 90% of the sessions and maintain As and Bs in their respective middle schools. 

Parents and guardians are expected to attend family meetings, summer registrations, as well as high school options meetings (8th grade). Reach for Excellence also expects parents to work with its staff to explore and evaluate high school options available to their children.

What if my child plays sports or has other activities during the summer and on Saturdays?

The Reach for Excellence Attendance policy requires that all students attend 90% of classes during both the summer program and Saturday sessions. Applying students and families must decide if they will be willing to choose Reach for Excellence over other activities.

Does family income play a role in determining whether a child is accepted to Reach for Excellence?

Not necessarily.  Reach for Excellence partners with several independent schools around Atlanta and the US and has a long history of success in placing its students. However, each student is evaluated based upon their grades, activities, test scores including the SSAT, and teacher recommendations to ensure they have the motivation and ability to be successful in an independent school environment. 

Reach for Excellence does not serve as a pipeline to a specific school but rather works with several schools around Atlanta and the US.

Does Reach for Excellence have partnerships with boarding schools?

Yes. Reach for Excellence has partnerships with several boarding schools all over the US and several Reach scholars have attended boarding schools. Reach for Excellence staff will work with any family who is interested in applying to a boarding school.

Who decides at which school should a student enroll?

Each family will make the decision about which high school to attend after graduating from Reach for Excellence. The role of Reach’s staff is to educate families about the options and walk alongside them in the application process if they are interested in pursuing a private education. Counseling is provided by staff members to assist families in finding the best match for their student. Reach’s staff recommend that students visit several schools and apply to two to three schools.

The role of Reach is to educate and offer support. Reach for Excellence doesn’t require families to apply to private independent schools nor guarantee that students will be accepted if they do apply. About 60% of Reach for Excellence graduates have gone on to independent schools. In the cases where families decide they want to stay in the public school system, Reach for Excellence suggests charter and magnet schools around the area where families live.

Does Reach for Excellence provide tuition assistance once the students are admitted into independent schools?

No, Reach for Excellence does not provide assistance for tuition, books, supplies, or other expenses. Each year Reach for Excellence students are awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial aid, however families may be asked to pay some part of independent school costs such as uniforms, books, technology costs and lunch. Families should work directly with independent schools on matters of financial assistance.

Is Reach for Excellence a religious program?

No. Reach for Excellence was founded by the Society of Mary, the order of priests and brothers who also own Marist School. Reach for Excellence does not offer religious instruction and students of all faiths are welcome. However, students and their families must be comfortable in a Catholic environment.