Latinx students are increasingly successful in college, despite decades without the support they deserved.
According to the US Department of Education, between 2000 and 2015, the college-going rate among Hispanic high school graduates grew from 22 to 37%. And between 2016 and 2017, the Latinx undergraduate population grew by 3.1%, more than every other category combined. Still, the six-year graduation rate for Latinx students remains 10% lower than white students. If your Latinx student is preparing for college, here are a few ways to help them maximize the value of their experience.
1) Help your student find scholarships
There are many reasons that students drop out of college, but money is one of the most common. A practical way to help ensure your Latinx student succeeds is to recommend scholarships they can apply to. There are a wide variety of scholarships available specifically to Latinx students that range from $1,000 to $100,000.
For all high school students transitioning to college, one of the hardest adjustments to young adulthood can be money management. Many have very little experience in budgeting or incorporating finances into big decisions. Helping them find scholarships can be a great way to start having conversations about the financial implications of college, including student loans. For tips on minimizing the financial burden of college and reducing student debt, check out this article.
2) Teach your student to advocate for themselves
Another significant adjustment for college students is the necessity of advocating for their own needs. Particularly at larger colleges, there typically aren’t enough staff or resources to anticipate and resolve issues and challenges minority students to face – especially since they often fail to draw attention to themselves. Unfortunately, this problem can be even more pronounced for Latinx students due to ongoing institutional bias toward taking care of white students. Telling your student to take initiative and get the help or information they need to succeed can make all the difference.
The idea of advocating for yourself can feel a bit vague. So be sure to give examples: asking clarifying questions about assignments, requesting test retakes for extenuating circumstances, and letting staff know about abuse, racism, or bullying they observe or experience on campus.
Networking can be another example of self-advocating. Success often has a lot more to do with who we know than what we know. Introduce your student to basic networking skills or techniques so that they can find both professional and academic allies throughout college.
3) Encourage them to find safe spaces
Unfortunately, racism against the Latinx community remains prevalent. An FBI report found that hate crimes against Hispanic and Latino victims in 2017 rose by 24% compared to 2016. There’s also a less overt but persistently problematic pressure for the Latinx community to “assimilate” more thoroughly into “American culture.” For example, two women at a convenience store in Montana were reportedly detained after speaking to each other in Spanish inside the store.
It’s important to talk to your Latinx student about racism, share stories of you and their experiences, and encourage them to find people or places within the college where they can be themselves without fear of implicit or explicit bias. Finding and befriending faculty or staff who are also Latinx can be empowering. And teaching them to be proud of their heritage can contribute to a sense of confidence and identity that’s less likely to be undermined by hate.
One final thought
The transition from high school to college is no small feat. Be patient and supportive of your new college student as they do their best to become an adult. They will inevitably make mistakes—the important thing is to learn from them. And one of the best ways to do that is to have parents or guardians who are safe and easy to talk to.