How to Find a Good College Fit As a Latiné Student
By Priscilla Blossom
Picking a college can be an exciting process, but it can also be overwhelming. And if you’re a Latiné student, there can be some additional factors you may need to consider as you search for a college where you can thrive.
While some Latiné youth might be following in their parents’ footsteps by attending a particular college or following a certain career path, others might be the first in their family to attend college. Some Latiné students have to navigate college applications entirely on their own.
There can be a lot of pressure to figure out this next step and ensure that it’s the best one for you. How do you know whether you’re making the right choice? In reality, there is no “right” or “wrong” choice — there’s simply the one that meets your needs and puts you on a positive path toward reaching your goals.
If you’re a Latiné student who’s looking for a college, here are some steps you might want to take to help you make your big decision.
Look Into the College’s Academic Offerings
The first thing you’ll want to consider is whether the schools you’re looking at offer the kinds of classes and programs you’d like to study. You don’t have to choose a major just yet, of course. But having a basic idea of which subjects you’re interested in can help.
If you’re unsure of what you want to study, look for universities that offer an undecided track, like the University of Toledo. You can also look into ones that offer a high number of academic programs, like UCLA, with over 125 majors to choose from. You might even consider getting your core credits at a community college like Miami Dade College, where you’ll save money and give yourself more time to decide what to study if you decide to transfer to a four-year institution.
Assess the Support Resources Each School Offers
Every college student deserves access to social, emotional, educational, and career readiness resources to support them as they complete their academic goals and transition to the work world. Resources like on-campus mental health care, tutoring, and career counseling can be critical to your college experience, and it’s important to look for the availability of these things when researching schools.
Additionally, as a Latiné student, there are other resources to be on the lookout for that may speak to your experiences and needs and ultimately improve your college experience. Those resources might be:
- Access to work-study programs that can make the cost of attending college more manageable
- Financial aid programs that are accessible, easy to apply for, and offered in various languages
- Academic advising tailored to Latiné and first-generation students
- A simple process for transferring community college credits to the four-year institution
- Peer connections and mentorship through a Latiné student center, club, or organization
Consider How Far You Want to Be From Home
If being close to your hometown and spending time with family during your college years is important to you, consider looking into schools that are either close to home or make it easy to visit home.
That might mean universities that are just a short drive or bus or train ride away, so you can go home occasionally on weekends and school breaks. Or it might mean looking at colleges that are based near major airports or airports that have direct or frequent flights to wherever your loved ones live.
Of course, you’re also going to want to create a community for yourself on and off campus, but it’s worthwhile to consider just how close (or far) you’d like to be from home, too.
Look Into Financial Aid Programs
There’s no doubt that tuition these days is incredibly expensive and continues to rise over time. In fact, many people choose not to attend college because of this. But if you have your heart set on going, don’t let the cost stop you. There are many ways to pay for college.
What to Do Before Applying
First, figure out what each school’s tuition is, as well as additional fees and costs, such as room and board, meal plans, class registration fees, books, and supplies. Remember that out-of-state tuition is generally higher than in-state, and that private universities tend to be more expensive than public ones. Next, reach out to their financial aid advisers to get a sense of what options you might have for paying for school.
Scholarships and Grants
Depending on your family’s household income, you may be eligible for a number of grants to offset the costs. As a Latiné student, you might also have access to a number of scholarships. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Scholarship are just a few. There are also scholarships for those who are first in their family to attend college, as well as ones specifically for women, LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and more.
You can also earn additional scholarships that are specific to the city and school where you intend to study, the field of study you want to pursue, or sports and other extracurricular activities. Websites like Scholarships.com and College Board can help you search for these opportunities. You can even find opportunities via social media by following influencers like Ms. Susy, who posts content about scholarships and internships.
Don’t forget that you can always bundle scholarships and grants with small loans if needed. Speak with your family and financial aid counselor to figure out the best route for you.
Consider On- and Off-Campus Diversity
Although you don’t have to limit your college search to schools with a large population of Latiné or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students, you might want to factor diversity into your decision. There are major benefits to attending schools that make an effort to support Latiné (referred to as Hispanic-serving institutions), BIPOC, and other students from underrepresented populations.
You will not only have a better chance of encountering more students who share and understand your background but also likely find already established clubs, organizations, and other campus resources for Latiné and BIPOC students. You can use the HACU database to find schools that are committed to helping Latiné students succeed.
College can also be a time of self-reflection. You might find that you’re more interested in exploring what it means to be Latiné. And you’re going to want to be able to find at least some people or resources (like culturally competent therapists) to help you navigate these complex thoughts and emotions. It’s not impossible to have this experience at a school where you may not see many other people who look like you or have your same cultural background, but it can be more challenging.
Also, although you’ll spend much of your time on campus, you’ll eventually go off and explore the surrounding community, as well. Even if your school is predominantly white, there’s a chance you’ll still be able to find and connect with others at Latiné and BIPOC community spaces nearby.
Remember: You don’t have to do it all on your own. Figuring out which college is right for you is a complicated but manageable process. Reach out to trusted individuals like school counselors, academic advisers, and alumni who attended your prospective schools, as well as friends and family. They can answer questions, give you a better sense of your options, and support you in this next phase of your life.