Rena Pacheco-Theard, MBA ’16, and her husband co-founded City Football Club, a nonprofit where they combined coaching low-income public school students in soccer with tutoring them in SAT preparation in Washington, D.C., in 2007. Pacheco-Theard frequently contacted college admissions offices on behalf of the students who didn’t know how to navigate the college application process. She found that students were often intimidated by the SAT and ACT—which are still required by most colleges—and many couldn’t afford to take test prep classes. A private tutor can cost up to $150 per hour and Kaplan Test Prep classes can cost from $600 to more than $1,200 per class.
According to Pacheco-Theard, 74 percent of students at top colleges come from the upper quartile of the income bracket, which means U.S. colleges aren’t drawing from the full talent pool available to them. “For a lot of these students, it was easy to be left behind. In fact, the Brookings Institution found that the vast majority of high-achieving, low-income students do not even apply to any of the top 236 colleges,” Pacheco-Theard said.
In response, Pacheco-Theard co-founded Prepify, a college prep web app which helps connect low income students to top colleges. At MIT Sloan, she met her co-founder Alexandria Miskho, SB ’17, in senior lecturer Bill Aulet’s New Enterprises class.
In its pilot last year, Prepify offered free SAT preparation for 500 students in Texas, Arkansas, and California. Pacheco-Theard and Miskho are now expanding the web app so that it also includes information on financial aid, scholarships, and the overall college application process.
As one of 11 MIT IDEAS Global Challenge winners last spring, Prepify took home a prize of $5,000. Pacheco-Theard and her team members are currently working out of social impact accelerator Tarmac TX in Austin, Texas, and continuing to raise money from social impact investors.
Ultimately, Prepify will make money by providing student names to colleges for purchase, Pacheco-Theard said.
“Prepify is solving a problem that isn’t going to go away. We’re not trying to completely change the game, just make it so every player actually has a fair chance,” said Miskho, who plans to minor in management at MIT Sloan.
Prepify will launch its enhanced platform in the fall.