WashU is a proud member of the STARS College Network

The STARS College Network is a coalition of 16 of the nation’s leading universities and colleges who are redoubling our efforts to engage, support, and build pathways for students from small-town and rural America.

Becoming a STARS College Network member allows WashU to directly impact communities across the country that have often been left out of higher-education conversations, and help students find the school that is right for them and will support them once they’ve enrolled and continue that support once they’ve graduated.

STARS College Network

With a $20 million gift from Trott Family Philanthropies, the foundation of Byron and Tina Trott, the STARS College Network will build on efforts to create new pathways to college for students who might not otherwise recognize the full range of educational opportunities available to them.

starscollegenetwork.orgUpcoming events

Support for students

STARS members will support efforts including:

  • Pipeline programs that bring students from rural communities and small towns to campus over summer break to help them prepare academically and for college life
  • On-campus events for prospective students from rural areas and small towns, including flying students in from their hometowns
  • Expanded visits by college admissions staff to high schools in small towns and rural communities
  • Support for students in the college application process, including workshops and sessions designed to help students throughout their college search
  • Scholarship funds for students and help applying for financial assistance
  • Fly-in and virtual programs for counselors, teachers, and administrators from rural and small-town high schools, to help them better support their students on the path to college
  • Creating ambassador and mentor roles for current students, faculty, and staff, to promote a campus community that welcomes and supports students from small-town and rural America
  • Partnering with local and national businesses to provide internships and job opportunities for the next generation of rural and small-town Americans.

All programming is free to students who register with STARS.

How do we define rural and small-town?

We use data from the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics to determine which communities are considered to be “rural” or “small-town”. Most rural areas have populations of less than 50,000 residents and are located several miles outside of an urban or suburban area. If you are unsure whether your high school would be considered rural or small-town, please contact Lia Garofalo at garofolo.lia@wustl.edu or Dacoda Scarlett at dscarlett@wustl.edu.

Heartland Initiative

From Missouri or southern Illinois?

WashU’s Heartland Initiative is dedicated to serving students from rural and small-town communities throughout Missouri and southern Illinois.

Meet Lia and Dacoda

Through this initiative, two dedicated Admissions Officers will be engaged in outreach programs for high school students, counselors, principals, and community members. Lia Garofolo and Dacoda Scarlett will be visiting rural and small-town school districts and college fairs to help students learn more about preparing for college and the opportunities available at WashU.

Professional portrait of Lia Garofolo

Lia Garofolo

Assistant Director
Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri (Kansas City), and Nebraska

Dacoda Scarlett

Associate Director
Iowa, Illinois (outside of Chicagoland), and Missouri (Eastern Missouri, excluding St. Charles County, and St. Louis County north of I-64/US 40)

Don’t limit your options of what schools you can attend! There are plenty of resources (and people who want to help) to help you figure out solutions to your concerns.

Sierra, Class of 2025 from Fulton, Missouri


STARS is teaming up with Khan Academy and the non-profit tutoring platform Schoolhouse to offer a free, online math curriculum and peer tutoring for students in small towns and rural communities, leading to certification of mastery in calculus — an important credential for admission to more selective colleges and universities that is not available from all high schools.

WashU accepts Schoolhouse.world certifications as part of our application process.