Upward Bound Program

high school students with teacher

NIU's Upward Bound Program serves 120 high school students. The primary goal of the program is to promote in participants the academic skills and motivation necessary to successfully complete high school and gain admission to and complete a postsecondary education program.  The program is designed to encompass two components: a six-week summer component which will take place in the target cities and on the NIU campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and an academic year component which will average 26-weeks in length and provide services in the target cities.

Participant Selection

NIU Upward Bound students are selected from high schools in the cities of Aurora and Rockford. Selection criteria for participants includes the following:

  • Meets U.S. Department of Education low-income guidelines.
  • Potential first-generation college student; that is, neither parent has completed a bachelor's degree.
  • Has a need for academic support in order to pursue successfully a program of education beyond high school.
  • Completed the eighth grade but has not begun twelfth grade.


Evaluation of the student's academic potential will include a review of the following: 

  • School records, grades, teacher recommendations, achievements and attendance records.
  • Written application, including a personal statement.
  • Personal interview and review by the director and staff to determine whether the student is serious about completing high school and continuing his or her education.

Program Design

NIU Upward Bound courses, workshops, seminars and other activities are designed in response to the assessed needs of the students. As such, during both the academic year and summer components, students' participation and achievement records are carefully reviewed. Formal testing and assessments are conducted regularly, providing information that guides the program administration in planning activities and enables instructions and tutors to tailor services for participants. 

Academic Year Component

During the academic year, the NIU Upward Bound Program offers weekly classes and tutoring to promote academic success. Student grades are monitored and the high school counselors and teachers are visited regularly. All students are introduced to several Illinois and out-of-state colleges and universities through campus visits and trips to area college fairs. Seniors in particular are guided in the college admissions process and assisted in securing financial aid. Other activities arranged for students include leadership development conferences, workshops, field trips and cultural events at NIU and throughout the area.

Summer Residential Program

Each year, from mid-June through July, students are invited to Northern Illinois University to participate in the six-week residential program. 

Room and board are provided for the students in a university residence hall where they acquire firsthand a total living-and-learning experience. Emphasis is placed on academics as well as an introduction to a college environment.

Students are enrolled in English, reading, writing, mathematics, laboratory science, computer science, foreign language and other formal classes according to assessed needs. In addition, students are introduced to effective study and learning techniques, coupled with daily tutoring and monitored homework and study sessions. Various elective courses, workshops, seminars, field trips, and cultural activities round out the residential experience and add balance to a very challenging academic summer residential program.

Contact Us

Office of Precollegiate Programs
Felicia R. Bohanon, Director
815-752-1868 (fax)