By Tony Losongco
For many high school seniors at this time of year, college acceptances are merely accepted, like gaining a new follower on Twitter. At the same time, each denial letter is crushing, like some cruel April Fools’ joke. As nerve-wracking as April is for all seniors, it’s even more challenging for our diverse students, who had socioeconomic barriers to get to this month and still need to complete several critical steps to transition to college.
For some students, the critical steps are procedural. Their families don’t know to remind them to check their student portals or register for placement testing. Some students face financial barriers at this time. Every dollar amount in a financial aid package matters, and families must make tough decisions about campus visits, housing deposits, and other expenses. Furthermore, there’s a huge social transition on students’ minds at this time of year. They ask: What if I miss home? What if I don’t make any friends?
Many Aprils ago, during my senior year, I struggled with these steps. The college where I ended up (and loved, by the way) was a place I had never seen, in a state where I didn’t know anyone. But a few April acts of kindness from others went a long way. Now, I’m able to return the favor, having worked with seniors who’ve struggled through the most important April of their young lives. The toolkit for working with these diverse students includes three must-haves worth sharing this April:
- Compassion. A few caring words can work wonders. We’re all busy at this time, but take the time to talk to your seniors. And don’t just talk … listen. Find out what’s on their mind. As a prospective college student, I took comfort in a phone call from an enrolled student whose hometown was more than an hour away from mine. He was of the same background and understood my concerns, even though he was three time zones away and I had never met him.
- Resources. Seniors must make long-term decisions based on limited information and short-term circumstances like not having enough money for a deposit. Do you know a current college student who your senior could talk to? If there aren’t enough resources for your students, your school might create its own resources, like a modest fund for seniors to travel to their prospective colleges this month.
- Faith. This isn’t necessarily religious faith. We need our seniors to understand that they will be all right. They will get through this April and many more. Trust that if you’ve supported your seniors before April and they’ve completed certain steps up to that point, they will end up at a place where they will be successful.
The place where they will be successful may not be their first choice, and it may not be your first choice either. But if we want equity to prevail at our high schools and colleges, we have to support diverse students with compassion, resources, and faith. This will prepare them to make good decisions even after they’re out of our care.