From Capitol Hill Public Schools to Top-Tier Universities

Diverse_students_studying.jpgThanks to Company for Causes, one of the UK’s most successful inner city school programs is taking root in Washington DC.  Dr. Tania Nguyen, The Brilliant Club-DC’s founder, is working closely with Companies for Causes as well as teachers, community organizers, and PhD mentors to put middle and high school students from the Capitol Hill area on a proven track to top-tier universities.

Companies for Causes & The Brilliant Club-DC


Dr. Tania Nguyen launched the Brilliant Club-DC in January 2015 in partnership with a dozen students from Eastern Senior High School and their community partner, Companies for Causes. The pilot program had a dozen 11th grade students, but soon The Brilliant Club-DC will be starting its next tutorial cycle with students from Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School. Along with Companies for Causes, they aim to expand across the District, so that every willing student can access the expertise of a PhD mentor and strive for an education at a top-level university.

What is The Brilliant Club-DC? 

The Brilliant Club is a network of education advocates who aim to increase access to higher education in underserved communities. They connect highly motivated public school students to the academic expertise of PhD students, teaching them to “think like researchers.” The Brilliant Club-DC guides students through the college admissions process and takes them on university tours to familiarize them with the university environment.


What Sets The Brilliant Club Apart? 

  • They instill confidence, offer advice, and prepare students for the rigors of university by pairing them with PhD mentors.
  • The program delivers challenging university style tutorials to build students’ critical thinking, communication, and adaptive skills.
  • They help students build networks — ways to get the vital information they need to gain access to top-tier universities, and succeed beyond admissions.
  • The program reduces the financial burden on schools and places absolutely zero financial burden on students and their families.

Does it work?

Since it started in 2011, The Brilliant Club (UK) has enrolled tens of thousands of students across the United Kingdom. In 2013-2014 alone, they worked with over 4,600 students, 56% percent of whom were first-generation university students. Out of the 12th year students (equivalent to US high school seniors) graduating in 2014, 54% of them went on to secure a place at a highly selective university.

Dr. Nguyen has brought the UK model to Washington DC, because, as she said: “College access and success are universal problems,” and The Brilliant Club method addresses these problems with a well-thought-out, straightforward approach.

The Brilliant Club-DC Model

There are two fundamental aspects to the model: Building Research Skills and Developing a Social Network.

  1. Building Research Skills — The Brilliant Club-DC connects passionate PhD mentors with highly motivated students. Students develop the fundamental skills that universities demand, including: problem solving, critical analysis, articulation of ideas, and presentation techniques. They also get great advice about what to expect at university from their near-peer PhD mentors. 

  2. Understanding the University Environment— Getting into a top-tier university requires understanding your options and learning how to approach applications and the financial aid process. The Brilliant Club-DC helps students navigate these complex processes, and constantly exposes students to a university environment so that they will be prepared to stand on their own when the time comes. The Brilliant Club-DC is helping students build personal and professional networks.

What are classes like?

The Brilliant Club offers an environment where groups of six students or less intensely research and discuss critical, real-world issues—writing essays, developing cogent arguments, and giving presentations.

How does it all work?

   Identifying interested students

  • Public school teachers identify students who would thrive in an intensive research and discussion environment.
  • The Brilliant Club provides university-style tutorials in subjects that match, or nearly match, students’ wide-ranging academic interests, such as politics, biology, or history, for example.

   Classes—from start to finish

  • Launch trip—a half day orientation to the program:
    • Tutorial 1 — PhD mentors and student meet
    • University information, advice, and guidance sessions in admissions and financial aid
  • PhD mentors and students meet for 4 more tutorials (~50 minutes each) over about a six-week period.
  • Final assignment, feedback tutorials, and grades
  • Graduation ceremony (half day trip) with students, parents, and mentors
  • University information, advice, and guidance sessions in admissions and financial aid

Help us meet our goals!

We hope you will help the Brilliant Club pursue our mission of fostering cultures of excellence in our public schools and widening access to higher education in underserved communities.

Our goal is to reduce the financial burden on schools and place absolutely zero financial burden on students and their families.

  • $100 donation covers the cost of 1 week of tutorials for up to 6 students.
  • $350 donation covers the cost of a bus trip to a university workshop.
  • $1000 donation covers the cost of 6 weeks of tutorials for up to 12 students.

Donate Now Button 

If you have any questions about donations or how to get involved, please contact Tania Nguyen at [email protected].


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.