The road to college has many pitfalls, from failure to take the right courses in high school to fixating on unaffordable universities. Education Lab tapped the expertise of two very different sources to help point the way.
(Editor’s note: As part of the back-to-school season, Education Lab asked readers what was on their minds this time of year. We’ve answered three so far — here, here and here— and will cover more over the next few weeks.)
Many students learn far too late that the requirements for graduating from high school with a diploma do not necessarily match those for getting into college.
This is especially true for foreign-language classes — most colleges want at least two years — and math, where more than half of high-school graduates here must do remedial work once they get to campus.
“What is the road map for a single mom who’s overwhelmed?” Amber Timmerman, recently asked Education Lab on behalf of her sister, who has three children, including a 16-year-old. She never went to college and has no idea how to navigate that system for her kids. She “works really hard,” Timmerman said, “but has no extra energy to put toward college stuff. Is there a checklist?”
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Education Lab found two very different experts to weigh in on that question.
One is Alejandra Perez, 23, the daughter of a single mother who cleans houses, and arrived at Cleveland High School for sophomore year. She and her family had emigrated from Guatemala and landed first in California, where Perez was told that as an undocumented student, she could not attend college in the United States.
Untrue in Washington, said Ray Garcia-Morales, an assistant principal at the school.
He helped Perez connect with the College Success Foundation, which works with low-income students in the Seattle, Highline, Kent and Auburn schools. Those accepted to the foundation’s Achiever Scholars program get mentors to help them figure out which courses to take and which colleges will provide the best fit.
Crucially, the foundation also helps link students with scholarships.
Perez collected a total of 22. Some amounted to just a few hundred dollars. Others were more substantial. For Perez, they added up to a degree. Last June, she graduated from the University of Washington, Bothell, with a major in American ethnic studies.
“It wasn’t until someone told me that all this was…