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Helping Latino and low-income students take it step-by-step towards their “BigFuture”

LatinaLista — It’s reported that Latino students receive an average amount of financial aid totaling $7,900 — less than African Americans, Asians or Caucasians. At a time when the importance of higher education is made clear every day as news of how industries are either disappearing or reinventing themselves in a struggling economy, every student deserves an equal opportunity to receive the same amount of financial help.

Yet, the problem, especially for Latino students, is that many are the first in their families to go to college. Just choosing and applying to college are huge challenges enough for families who aren’t familiar with the process. Tack on applying for financial aid and some families just become too overwhelmed to know what all their child’s options are for getting financial help.

The College Board recognized the problems Latino families and low-income students were having with the college application and financial aid processes and decided it was time for something new.

Last month, the College Board launched a new site to help guide Latino and low-income students and their parents through the college application and financial aid process. The result is a site called BigFuture.

“We know many Latino students are facing challenging barriers, from parents who lack the experience in the college going process to overwhelmed counselors, or simply, not understanding the opportunities out there to pursue a post-secondary education,” said Jim Montoya, former admissions dean of Stanford University and current vice president of Higher Education at the College Board. “This site gives them a powerful tool they manage on their time with information and guidance they may not be able to obtain from their schools or families.”

The site offers a lot of easy-to-read information covering the college application process from beginning to end: From what kind of preparations students should be doing outside of school to prepare for college, what to look for on campus visits and how to decide which college is right for them to exploring a variety of careers/fields, finding financial help and how to fill out the college application and submit the necessary essays and submission materials.

Finally, the site offers students — whether they’re seniors in high school or junior high students — the opportunity to create a step-by-step plan on what they need to do to get ready to apply to college. Whether it’s talking to a school counselor, reviewing grades, taking the SAT, suggesting sources to explore possible careers or recommending certain readings, the individualized plan makes it seem like each student has their own personal college guide.

“Through our advocacy work to increase college completion rates in the United States, we have identified providing better college information and planning services to all students, with a special focus on low-income students, as one of 10 key recommendations for success, ” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board.

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