Many Latino high school graduates will become the first in their families to have the opportunity to attend college. But precisely because their parents did not go to college it is sometimes difficult for these young men and women to actually become interested in going away to college. For many, this is an abstract idea, something that is expensive, distant and not necessary. To many students who struggled through high school, college seems like just more school, more suffering. But a higher education is more than academics or a famous football team. The campus, friends and faculty, are all ingredients for a positive experience. If you approach the prospect of higher education as a lifestyle change, it might entice you children into applying to a variety of schools.
For most, the obstacles to attending university are usually financial, but many times it’s the students themselves who have a lack of interest in going to college. In families with college-educated parents it is easier for students to be interested in pursuing a higher education because there’s been a precedent. Parents who have been to college can talk to their children about their own experiences and get them interested in continuing their education.
According to The Education Trust, in a comparison of non-Latino white and Latino students who graduated from high school with comparable math, reading and writing skills, only 7 percent of Latino students enrolled in college compared to 74 percent of non-Latino white students.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that university is an abstract idea for many students, especially if their parents did not attend college.
Parents who want their students to further their education push their children to get good grades, high SAT scores and tell them of the importance of a college education. But like the saying goes: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force him to drink. So the question remains: How do you get your tenth or eleventh grader interested in attending a university?
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It’s a good idea to have students start thinking about college while the student in tenth grade.
Talk to your son or daughter about possible career choices and research state schools, (tuition is less expensive).
Order brochures from a number of schools and check out their websites.
Narrow down your choices and schedule campus tours. These tours are important because they allow students who know little about what college might be like to understand that college is not an extension of high school, but an entirely new experience. It’s not just about academics, it’s also about lifestyle. Campus tours will show students what college is really like. Students can see the computer labs, dorms, classrooms, the student center and hopefully the beautiful school grounds.
I did not attend college after high school because my experience of what I thought college was like was a local community college. I wasn’t impressed. It looked and felt just like high school.
It’s important to choose a school not just for academics. One must also consider the type person the student is. According to a report by the American Enterprise Institute, only 51 percent of Latinos who start college actually graduate compared to 59 percent of Anglos.
If your child is shy, or you feel he or she might need special attention, consider a private university. They are easier to navigate and the faculty to student ratio is usually better than at large state university where the student can easily get lost and become a number.
Another good idea is to enroll your high school student in a summer pre-college program at one of the universities they might be interested in attending. These programs are usually one to two months long. Students live in the dorms and take college level classes for which they can sometimes earn college credits. While some of these programs can be expensive, it’s a good investment and a great way to show students what college is all about. This can help them make a major mistake and attend a school that is not a good fit for them.
And don’t let the cost of a college education scare you away. Make sure you spend time with a financial aid officer. There are many federal and state grants available to college students.
In Florida we have the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. There are also scholarships that are target-specific to particular cities or counties, and for individual majors and areas of study. As a financial aid advisor once told me, there’s money out there, you just need to know how to get it. As far as paying for college, the school’s financial advisor is your best friend.