Scholars Program:

Admission Process

At Steppingstone, we partner with you and your family to make your dream of college a reality. With proven results, we help you achieve the future you seek by preparing, advising, and supporting you through every phase of your educational life, from elementary school until you earn your college degree. We welcome all Boston 4th and 5th grade students and their families to learn more and apply.
A staff member sits to the right of two Scholars behind computers completing homework.


We serve Boston students who desire to attend college and would not otherwise have access to opportunities like Steppingstone. In order to apply, each student and/or their family should meet the following guidelines:
  • Be a Boston resident
  • Be in 4th or 5th grade at the time of application
  • Be motivated and eager to learn
  • Attend an eligible school*
  • Steppingstone does not use any one factor to determine the outcome of an applicant’s candidacy; instead, all parts of the application are considered holistically. The below income guidelines are just one tool we use to identify candidates who demonstrate the greatest need for Steppingstone's tuition-free program. Consideration of income alone is not a determining factor in an application.
Household Size Suggested Total Income
2 $94,800
3 $106,650
4 $118,450
5 $127,950
6 $137,450
7 $146,900
8 $156,400
**This household income chart represents the 80% Area Median Income for the Boston Area

* Eligible schools include public and select parochial schools. Students currently attending one of Steppingstone’s placement schools or a school accredited by AISNE are not eligible to apply. If you have questions about your student or family’s eligibility, or whether your student’s school is eligible, please contact

A staff member sits between two Scholars and reads them a story.
Please review the following grade-specific program timeline for a detailed outline of our 12+ year program.
In addition, our program looks for families who:
  • Are committed to supporting their students through the Steppingstone journey.
  • Demonstrate a need for our tuition-free program (note: there is a $100 fee for each summer of academic program in grades 5–7, which can be reduced or waived if it is a hardship).
  • Are interested in exploring independent schools and select Boston public schools, including the three exam schools.
Two scholars sit on a bench sharing a computer, their eyes intent on the screen.
Steppingstone scholar hangs from monkey bars.

Admission Timeline

1. Submit an Inquiry Form

All students and families who are interested in applying to Steppingstone must submit an Inquiry Form. Submitting the Inquiry Form will allow us to send you a personalized link to the Steppingstone application.
Inquire Now

2. Attend a Family Information Meeting

October, November, and December
Families who submit an Inquiry Form are invited by email to attend a Family Information Meeting. Families are strongly encouraged to attend an information session before beginning the application.
Register Here

5. Final Admission Decisions and Next Steps

May – July

Finalists will be notified if they have been accepted to the program on May 1. Accepted Scholars will complete enrollment paperwork and attend the New Scholar and Family Welcome Event in May. Scholars begin their first Steppingstone summer in July.

Teacher Recommendation

  • Families applying to the program must share the Teacher Recommendation Form with their student’s current classroom teacher and ask them to complete it by January 3, 2024
  • Includes a brief evaluation of student, Term 1 Report Card, Spring 2023 MCAS scores, and most recent MAP scores
  • We encourage you to start speaking to your current classroom teacher now about your interest in Steppingstone. As a reminder, the links to your Student and Family application as well as the Teacher Recommendation Form will be emailed to you in early December.

Finalists for the program will be selected at the end of January based on an evaluation of the Student and Family Application, Teacher Recommendation, report card, and standardized test scores. All components must be submitted by Wednesday, January 3, 2024 in order for a student to be considered for admission.

4. Complete an Interview and Exam

February – March

Finalist students and families are invited to interview with Steppingstone staff. Interviews take place throughout the months of February and March. Finalist students will take the Steppingstone Exam in mid-March.

3. Submit Your Application

By Wednesday, January 3, 2024

After attending a Family Information Meeting, you will be sent a link by email to complete a written application. The required components of the written Steppingstone application are:

Student and Family Application
  • Includes family contact and demographic information as well as short answer questions for both the student and the parent/guardian
  • Optional Independent School supplement for families interested in applying to independent schools
Four scholars walk side by side, sharing smiles and laughs.
Two scholars walk alongside their Advisor outside a shiny, academic building.

Have questions?

The Admission team is here to help! | 617-423-6300 (press one for Admissions)
Hablamos español.


Ailyn Rivera '09

Program Operations Coordinator

Ailyn joined Steppingstone in 2023 and supports both the Admission and Academy teams in her role. She is a Steppingstone Alumna and first-generation college graduate, receiving her B.A. in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Stanford University. In her role, she looks forward to learning from and supporting the Steppingstone community throughout the first chapters of the Scholars Program journey.


Cindy Chen

Admission Associate

Cindy was born in Boston and grew up in the Greater Boston Area. She earned her B.A. in Political Science and Chinese Language and Culture from Beloit College in 2022. Though she thinks the Midwest is underrated, she has since returned to Massachusetts and she joined Steppingstone as an Admission Assistant in 2023. Being a first-generation college graduate herself, she appreciates being able to both work with Scholars and help them reach their academic goals.


Danielle Rettinger

Director of Admission

Danielle received her Ed.M from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and her B.A. from Bates College.  She has spent the majority of her career working at schools in New York and New England, and loves speaking with students about their favorite things: classes, books, games, artists, etc...

Originally from New York City, Danielle is a huge fan of live theater.  Although she cannot carry a tune, she can often be found singing songs from her favorite musicals (loudly) to her patient family and friends.  

Danielle is very excited to welcome new Scholars and their families into the Steppingstone community.

Learn More About Our Scholars Program

Request Information
A staff member sits to the right of two Scholars behind computers completing homework.