The majority of high-achieving kids from low-income backgrounds fail to apply to any selective colleges.
Middle-class American high-school seniors with good grades go through a familiar ritual of the college application process each year. The seniors file a bunch of applications. They submit test scores, grades, essays, and letters of recommendation. They apply to a “reach” school or two and a “safety” school or two along with some in the middle. The idea is to see where you can get in and then decide where you want to go after researching both the quality of the schools on offer and the actual financial cost of attending. This system is a bit stressful and annoying, but basically it works. Students get matched with schools that roughly suit their level of academic preparation and people have a chance to shop around a bit for the myriad forms of financial aid that make college attendance feasible.