Access is a magical and attractive word. It resonates positivity; it embodies equality, equity, diversity and inclusion. Access to higher education is even more charged with positivity; it reverberates with the fight against social injustice, stratification, and unequal opportunities and promises a positive shift in the lives of all students who are included in our higher education systems. With the rise of inequalities, many policies and studies have focused on ways to widen access and ensure participation of the most vulnerable students in higher education. These concerted efforts aim to break the vicious circle of inequality and poverty, provide equal opportunities for all, and facilitate social mobility. However, access to higher education is fraught with dangers of a promise we may not be – and indeed have not been – able to afford. For vulnerable students, access is only the beginning of a rather difficult – financially and socio-culturally speaking – journey that can be ended at any moment of time. The promise of access, hence, can potentially carry a Cinderella Syndrome with it, i.e., an illusionary world of happy endings while in reality we fail to accommodate the academic and pastoral needs of the vulnerable students we so fervently desire to include in higher education systems. In this conference a comparative study of some of the challenges and good practices in ensuring access and success in higher education institutions among vulnerable student populations, particularly from – but not limited to – Western Europe, will be delineated.