Colleges shouldn’t write off low-income schools

This column first ran in the Daily Trojan on January 15, 2014.

Colleges shouldn’t write off low income schools

Before the fall of my senior year of high school, I had never heard of the University of Southern California. I know it seems like an exaggeration that I could not have heard of this world-renowned school, but growing up thousands of miles away in Chicago didn’t stop me from eventually discovering the Trojan family. Luckily for me, a USC recruiter came to my high school and introduced me to the university’s strong academics and vibrant social life. The rest is history.

Irene Wang | Daily Trojan

Irene Wang | Daily Trojan

Yet several high school seniors around Los Angeles are missing out each year on the experience of regularly meeting with these recruiters. According to the Los Angeles Times, many students attending public high schools in economically disadvantaged areas in and around Los Angeles are not given the opportunity to converse with recruiters from top-tier colleges.

Students in affluent neighborhoods are consistently bombarded with visits from college representatives at their high schools. In the last year, students at La Cañada High School in nearby La Cañada Flintridge received visits from 127 college recruiters, compared to the eight recruiters who came and talked to prospective college students at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles.

The lack of face-to-face interaction between recruiters and these students attending schools in low-income neighborhoods could have adverse effects on their college search. Without recruiters there to introduce students to the possibilities of their particular schools, some students will never be able to learn all of their options. Moreover, students without support from parents who didn’t personally go through the college search makes the financial aid and application process all the more complicated. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, fewer than half of students whose parents did not go to college enroll in college, compared to 85 percent of students whose parents attended college. Because first-generation and low-income students are less likely to attend college, they are the group of students who specifically  need more visits from college recruiters.

The discrepancy is alarming. According to the LA Times, college recruiters are compelled to visit high schools where a large number of students traditionally apply and eventually enroll in their college. Some recruiters also said that the students’ ability to pay tuition without the need for significant financial aid factors into deciding whether to visit a high school or not.

This process seems to deaden the purpose of a college recruiter.

The role of a college recruiter is to identify eligible students and convince them to apply to his or her respective university. No one expects recruiters to hold students’ hands during the process. But college recruiters are vital in showing certain students the possibilities for their college careers. For that very reason, recruiters come to high schools and essentially introduce the school and its information to the students.

Students who attend schools that do not get much foot traffic from college recruiters are not privy to this experience. Furthermore, it is not only advantageous for the prospective students, but the recruiter as well when recruiters visit high school campuses. It is an opportunity for them to sway top students from that school and identify talent for the future, and also gives them the chance to showcase the universities’ highlights and achievements to a new audience.

Though college recruiters have both time and financial restraints to consider when traveling to dozens of schools in such a short period of time, the top priority should be to find those students who have yet to learn about their university.

Interaction between college recruiters and prospective college students is critical. It was crucial to me during my nail-biting senior year, and has been for thousands of students across the country. Particularly with low-income or would-be first-generation college students who do not have many outlets to make contact with college representatives, the free and convenient interaction that is possible through recruiters’ visits should be a primary concern for universities. Plus, it only takes one visit, a PowerPoint and a push of encouragement to introduce someone to his or her future.

Jordyn Holman is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column “Making the Grade” runs Wednesdays.



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