Harding University Upward Bound Partners with MasteryPrep

Harding University Upward Bound program partners with MasteryPrep to afford students opportunities and resources to attend college

Harding University Logo

MasteryPrep partners with colleges nationwide to supplement their Upward Bound programs with college readiness resources that help first-generation, income-eligible college-bound students graduate high school and score college-ready on standardized tests. Since 2018, MasteryPrep has partnered with Arkansas-based Harding University’s Upward Bound program, supplying resources year-round such as ACT Mastery, ACT TruScore, ACT Boot Camp, and Summer Program test prep support.

Upward Bound on the Harding University campus serves 65 high school students at five schoolsAugusta, Bald Knob, McCrory, Riverview, and White County Central. All students must be from low-income families or be potential first-generation college students. Harding University’s Upward Bound has been federally funded since 1995. With an enrollment of more than 4,970 students, Harding is the largest private university in Arkansas. We discussed the benefits of MasteryPrep resources with Harding University Upward Bound Academic Coordinator Scott Palmer.

Describe the purpose of Harding University’s Upward Bound program.

“Because we are a private university, it can be a bit unattainable for the high school students who the Upward Bound program works with because we are working with students who originate from low-income, first-generation families. We work to open the door and create an entry point into our university for students within our communities who would not have had the opportunity in a natural way. We work with students in their academic assessments and progress, which includes tracking their ACT scores, GPAs, and maintaining their commitment to the core curriculum, making sure they have everything in place to graduate from high school and gain access to college. We have noticed a trend over the years showing kids who maintain a very high GPA begin to decline unexpectedly when it comes to standardized testing and assessment. There was an unfortunate gap that we had to work to fill and correct.”

Why did Harding University choose MasteryPrep for its Upward Bound program college readiness resources?

What makes MasteryPrep unbelievably different are the people we get to work with. I have not encountered an organization that has the type of people MasteryPrep has. The people of MasteryPrep are elite. They are competent, have skills, are educated; it’s the ability to care for people and the human spirit of our kids, and the ability to offer customer service at the most elite level. Then the product is undeniable in what it can do as well. The product is incredibly clear, simple, straightforward and breaks down how to take the ACT test, which has this other worldly intimidation for kids that looms over them. What MasteryPrep does is it brings it down to a ‘Oh, I’ve got this, and I understand this’ type of level that appeals to our kids. When you get the heart leaning that way, the rest just follows. You take that simplified, attainable material and then you have those messages delivered by a Roland [Moore] or a Grace [Butler] (MasteryPrep instructors) who are relational, warm, engaging, fun, insightful and inspiring. The kids are relaxed, confident, and they go into the test without nerves and uncertainty that usually shut them down.

How do you employ the MasteryPrep programs within the five schools you serve?

“We use MasteryPrep year-round. Every summer, we give a pre-test to students attending our five week, oncampus summer academy academic intensive that prepares them for the upcoming school year. Through MasteryPrep TruScore, we get results from that pre-test and share them with the students and the academy’s teachers. They then use those assessments to tailor to students’ strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the summer program, we do a MasteryPrep ACT Boot Camp to review the material. Students then take a post-test to see how they have progressed. The kids are poised to take the real test in July, and we have incredible success because they came out of all that preparation. In addition to summer, in both fall and spring, we have an 8-to-10-week course of ACT Mastery classes in the evenings once a week, and before the tests in October and March, we have boot camps to review everything they have comprehended.  

How have ACT scores improved through Upward Bound’s use of MasteryPrep resources?

“I have a three-ring binder on my shelf that shows how much our kids have improved. For example, in our 2021 summer academy, our composite went up from 19.9 to 20.9. We had 35 students take both the pre/post tests and 25 out of 35 increased by at least a full point and the majority improved by two or more. We had one student improve five points. At this year’s senior recognition banquet, seven out of 15 seniors recognized got scholarships to attend Harding. Almost all our seniors were able to obtain scholarships for their ACT scores. The benefits just keep going for our students, and it creates a ripple effect for our kids up and coming through the Upward Bound program.” 

What are some of the recent success stories of Upward Bound program participants?

One of our current student workers was a former student at White County Central High School. She had a 15 on the ACT. She went through our program and made a 21 on the October test in her senior year – a six-point jump. I’ll never forget the energy that was in our office when she jumped six points. She is on a full tuition scholarship at Harding, working for us, doing very well, and finishing up her freshman year. We had another senior who will graduate this year. She gave a speech at senior recognition night and one of the things she said was Upward Bound and MasteryPrep helped me with my ACT score. She said, I went from a 22 in English to a 32 in English. When she said that, she paused; she looked up, and her smile took over the room. Everyone applauded and cheered; her dad had tears running down his cheek. I thought, ‘You can’t script that moment.’ She will be attending Harding on many scholarships.

Unpaid testimonial. Individual results may vary, and testimonials are not claimed to represent typical results. ACT score average and gain data courtesy of MasteryPrep client district and based on year over year ACT test data for the same cohort. All testimonials are real participants, and may not reflect the typical user’s experience, and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.

Scott Palmer with a Harding University student
Scott Palmer with Harding University Upward Bound students
ACT Boot Camp

In just one day (6 hours in-person or 4 virtual), students will learn:

  • Pacing and time management
  • Essential test-taking techniques
  • Tips for most important question types
  • Effective guessing strategies

Implementation models:

  • Full-day workshop during school or after-school hours, or weekend programming
  • All virtual boot camps recorded for students who miss the event
  • A workbook for each student and practice

About MasteryPrep:

Founded in 2012, Baton Rouge-based MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources for the SAT®, ACT®, TSIA2, EOC, and WorkKeys®. MasteryPrep is the nationally preferred SAT and ACT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education and partners with schools and districts to level the playing field on standardized assessments and accountability measures. MasteryPrep is ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies,” featured by “Entrepreneur 360,” and selected among the “Growth Leaders” by Louisiana Economic Development for two years in a row.


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