Being prepared for college means not only getting students to college, but through it. More than 35% of Latinos enroll in college. Impressive, especially given the fact that this rate has grown significantly over the last decade. Yet, the stark reality is that only 15% of Latinos nationwide actually have a bachelor’s degree. This has real consequences, especially for those who entered college and dropped out, leaving behind a trail of debt and no degree to show for it.
So, why are our youth enrolling in, but not finishing college? A few challenges include finances, family burdens, and difficulty in navigating the college landscape, to name a few. However, one of the biggest deterrents to graduation is that students are not being academically prepared for college-level coursework.
Preparation for postsecondary success starts the moment a child is born. As parents, we are their first teachers, engaging them in literacy and sparking their creativity to ensure they are hitting developmental milestones. And, when they enter school, we must continue to not only be their teachers, but also their advocates, enrolling them in quality schools and engaging with the school staff to ensure that the child is on the pathway to postsecondary success.
The pathway to college includes a solid educational foundation that starts in the early grades, ensuring that students are prepared to take challenging and rigorous coursework in middle and high school. When selecting a high school, parents should look for advanced placement (AP) courses or dual enrollment, programs that can provide college credit once the student graduates. This also means that the student is better prepared to manage rigorous coursework by being exposed to college curriculum while in high school. It is also strongly encouraged that students take four years of math and English, as well as any other courses that they see would be prominent in their college credit requirements.
Being informed about the process of going to college is also key to ensuring that students enroll in and graduate from college. As a daughter of immigrants, and a first-generation college student in the United States, I had to learn to navigate the application process alone. And, although most schools have counselors dedicated to helping students through this process, the reality is that they are often stretched thin across hundreds of students.
The college application and financial aid process can be challenging, but equipping yourself with the necessary information and ensuring that your child has access to college prep opportunities can ease this anxiety. As a parent and advocate, it is your responsibility to ensure that the counseling needs of your child are being met. To inform parents, some community-based organizations, like the Hispanic Federation, offer free workshops for parents on the college going process. As you advocate, your child will learn to advocate for themselves, and ideally enroll in free afterschool and summer college programs for high school students. Many of these programs begin in 9th grade and support the student throughout their high school career, ensuring that they get into college, and some even support students through their first year as well.
As you can see, there are multiple ways to support your child on their pathway to college. By being actively engaged in their academic achievement, serving as their advocate, helping them advocate for themselves, and taking advantage of rigorous coursework and college prep programs, students will be more likely to enter and graduate college. This is how we increase the Latino graduation rate and servr as an example for future generations of Latinos. Adelante.
Note: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision News.