The transition from high school to college requires a student to make a big leap. Many may leave home for the first time, or enter a campus environment that lacks the intimacy of high school. Even students who feel they prepared properly can be sidetracked by college pressure. It’s one thing to be accepted into college, it’s quite another to graduate.
The following tips for college success may seem like common sense but considering that many Latino students will be the first in their families to attend college, they bear repeating.
Top of Class
Even the most successful high school students will find college a little daunting. The coursework increases exponentially and mom or dad may not be around to help with homework. Students will be asked to read more than they ever had to before, write longer essays, and commit to studying for more hours than they ever imagined, and that includes weekends!
At the same time, there’s a sense of freedom that students feel, being on their own for the first time, and with that comes a lot of temptations. Finances can sometimes limit the amount of fun a student can have, and some fun is necessary to find relief from the daily grind and stress of classes and studying. Moderation, in all things, is well advised here.
Part of the cost of tuition includes providing access for students to tutoring or study programs to help them through a rough patch. “Many Latino students struggle with writing assignments, for instance, so it’s important to access writing labs. Tutoring centers are covered by your tuition and the career development center can help with internships or job training,” asserts HCF’s Erika Viramontes.
Once a student settles in, it’s important to start developing a support system. College campus visits and orientations may expose students to some of the campus activities and organizations that Latino students may find appealing but if a student lacks that information, it’s important to start researching what your campus can offer.
Latino student organizations exist for almost any major, e.g. Latino pre-med or engineering groups, plus certain colleges have Latino fraternal organizations, like Phi Iota Alpha (Phiota), at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, one of the oldest in the country. The largest national Latino student organization, with branches in campuses nationwide, is Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA). These organizations and their activities expose Latino students to other Latino students who they might have difficulty encountering campus wide. Links to leading Latino student organizations can be found at CollegeforLatinos.com.
While a fellow Latino friend is great, any friend in class is a plus. If you don’t have friends in class, make a friend, and quickly. Study partners can be invaluable. Join activities and clubs to meet people with the same interests and background.As the song goes, you get by with a little help from your friends. That applies not just to college, but to life itself.
“Make sure, from the get-go, that you develop a circle of friends to share notes and make sure you have support. If a student is living on campus, or going to school away from home, get involved in sports and service organizations,” says HACU’s Jeannette Morales. “It’s a way for students to become invested in college life. When a student has that support, he or she tends to do much better.”
Understanding the Challenge
A college or university offers admission to certain students based on the likelihood that a student will complete the coursework and ultimately graduate. Students must commit to this journey, for four years at least, to see it through to the end. Like elite runners in the college marathon, completing the race requires a lot of discipline and dedication.
According to CollegeTips.com: “It’s all about the study to party ratio. Here is a college tip: Get your studying and school work done during the week, and then you can go to the college parties you were looking forward to without a guilty conscious. You can truly relax when you are not worrying about a final you didn’t study for.”
It helps to have someone to turn to who understands what you’re going through. Latino students may not be able to get that sympathy from mom and dad but they can reach out to an adult, such as a former teacher or employer who has been to college and understands the challenges.
“Good advice can be invaluable for first time college students,” adds Viramontes.