The Benefit Of College For Disadvantaged Students
As a high school teacher, I hope to see my students advance to higher education in the pursuit of their career goals and dreams.
This is true of my colleagues as well. Many of our students already plan to attend college—in fact, their parents have already decided that they are college bound. However, there is another type of student we work with. They are talented, hard-working students, yet they are at risk of ending their education with a college diploma. As teachers, we know just who these at risk students are. They are bright and full of potential, but they don’t plan to go to college.
Some come from families who do not value education. Or, perhaps their parents may not have gone to college themselves so they do not know how to help their children through the complicated college preparation and admissions process even if they want to. For others, the daunting cost of higher education makes a college education feel beyond their reach.
As teachers, we are uniquely positioned to encourage and support these at risk students and help them make higher education a reality. If we believe in them—and they know it—they will thrive and excel. By pointing out their talents and helping them explore possible career choices we can help these students begin to dream big dreams for their future. Motivated students can overcome almost any obstacle in their path.
Many of these at risk students do not realize what it takes to get accepted to college. By not starting early enough with college preparatory courses they sabotage their own chances of getting accepted. We can act as mentors, helping these students get on the right path academically. We can also encourage them to get involved in extracurricular activities and take on leadership roles. Perhaps we can invite them to join the clubs and extracurricular activities we lead. Teachers can also help at risk students prepare for college entrance exams or suggest low cost tutoring and resources.
The admissions process can be a significant obstacle for many at risk students. This is where our help as teachers gets practical, and the process more obvious for us. These students need guidance as they work through the process of filling out applications, writing essays and preparing for interviews. We can offer to help by proofreading their college essays and we can write reference letters for them.
Very often, at risk students do not have the financial resources to pay for college. One critical thing teachers can do is point students to the financial aid that is available to them including grants, scholarships and student loans to pay for college. Encourage your students, that with a bit of determination and tenacity, lack of finances should not stop anyone who wants to pursue an education.
According to a UCLA study, at risk students—those least likely to go to college—actually get the highest economic return for their education. The article, Disadvantaged students reap most financial return from college education, reports:
“The economic value of a college diploma is nearly twice as high for women from disadvantaged backgrounds as for women from privileged backgrounds, the findings show. For disadvantaged men, the lift is even greater: A college education is worth three times more for them than for privileged college-goers.”
Helping at risk students go to college will take energy, time and commitment. Yet, seeing students reach their full potential is our passion as teachers. This study is encouragement to any teacher that helping at risk students go to college is a monumental and worthwhile investment in their future.
This is a contributed post from Jenna Smith. Jenna is a freelance writer who normally writes about personal finance, education, and career. Jenna’s normal writing topics are higher ed, specifically college tuition funding