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Latinos and the College Application Process: Mount Everest

Latinos and the College Application Process: Mount Everest

Angelica Perez-Litwin, PhD

New Latina


As I am faced again with the college application process, this time with my 16 year old daughter, I am as concerned today about access to higher education and Latinos, as I was 25 years ago.

aschool.jpgWhile the social, educational and economic barriers to higher education for Latinos have changed very little, the college application process has become a Mount Everest, a monstrous process that stands steep and tall between students and college doors.

photo source: nepora

The bar for college admission to selective schools has been raised so high over the past twenty years, many high school students find themselves anxious, exhausted and drained by a nail-biting, complicated, competitive application process.

Good grades and community service are a thing of the past. Today, competitive students must show academic merit and excellence via transcripts loaded with honors and AP (advanced placement) courses, AND extreme talent and achievement in extracurricular activities (sports, music, the arts) or unique experiences (e.g., participating in the Intel Science Talent Search).

Long gone are summer loves and going to the beach during summer vacations. These days, high school students need to be strategic about how they spend their summers, and mindful of how these activities add to their application package.

Increased Competitiveness on Standardized College Admissions Tests

Remember the SAT tests? Well, today, standardized college admissions tests include the ACT tests and SAT II Subject Tests. Selective schools demand competitive performance on either the SAT or ACT tests, and submission of at least two SAT II subject tests.

One of the most debated discussions in racial/socioeconomic disparities and college admission has focused on cultural and socioeconomic biases argued to be inherent in standardized admissions tests. If these tests are indeed biased against students from academically- and economically-disadvantaged backgrounds and limit entrance opportunities to colleges, students are further challenged by the high scores required (by selective colleges) on standardized tests.

Of course, most community and city colleges do not require standardized college admission tests, making these colleges more accessible to the larger college-bound population.

However, the truth is that Latinos are highly under-represented in top-tier schools like the Ivy League Colleges and other selective schools. I would like to see more young Latinos taking advantage of the undeniably excellent educational experiences, resources and career networking opportunities available in these selective schools.

As I canvass the college application process for a second time, I am convinced that the traditional barriers between Latino students and selective universities have transformed into an extreme challenge that will continue to significantly limit access to these types of schools.

Complicated Application Submission Strategies

There was a time when colleges had one deadline for submitting college applications. When I was applying to college, there was also the choice of early decision, a binding application agreement to attend a college if accepted. Today, there is a conglomerate of application choices, including rolling, early action (restrictive and non-restrictive), early admission, and the usual early decision.

Confused already?

Imagine then how a 16 year old student might feel. Better yet, imagine how daunting this process must be for parents who never went through a college application process...

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