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College applicants feel the economic crunch

By dbroussard
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 11:09 pm in college, Diamond Broussard, families, finances, high schools.

Diamond Broussard is a senior at Skyline High School in Oakland.

In light of our economic crisis, many college applicants, including myself, are feeling the burn. Students have been turned away from schools or wait-listed due to preservation or lack of funds by colleges. More students are applying to their own state colleges and others than ever before. The effects of these events have left many students undecided or unsure about their futures.

I found myself in oblivion when I realized just how much the economic crisis would affect college acceptances. I applied to about 13 schools. Though my GPA is average, my credentials are great, so I knew that I’d have a shot at the top state schools. I felt as though my chances were even better when two of these state schools sent me a supplement to find out more about me. So when I was rejected by them both, I was confused. Why? That was the one question on my mind.

Not only did I get rejected, but so did some of my peers who excelled even more than I did.  Soon, though, we realized a pattern. Most of our peers who were being accepted could better afford their education.  Schools, though many are saying that need is not a high criteria, were accepting students based on who could pay more for their education. While this decision that the schools made about my rejected peers and may not seem personal, it is. This means that many qualified students are being rejected from schools based on something as material as money. This also means that these schools may be less diverse, as many of those in the higher income brackets are white and Asian.

Not only are students feeling upset about being rejected, many are undecided as to what school they wish to attend due to lack of finances. Many of my friends have settled for schools based on finances alone. Yes, they could go to that fancy private school, but they are cautious of the cost of student loans and the possibility of not receiving some scholarships. However, I find myself doubting their actions. My question is, are they making the right decision?

I love to read, and once read that college debt is “good” debt, meaning that this investment is good and may boost your credit as long as the money gets paid back. I also believe this. It seems as though by investing in your education, you will see a return on this investment. Many of my friends are not very knowledgeable about debt and what is “good” debt vs. “bad” debt. Because of this, they look at owing money for college the same as they would owing money on a credit card. Luckily, my parents and other adults have spoken too me about this, and student loans are not as scary as many may think.

Though many students are scared about how the economy may affect them when they are in school they should breathe, and prepare themselves for future responsibilities rather than shy away from them. Despite these responsibilities, my future is very important. Nothing — not even a little debt — can keep me from going to the college I want to attend.

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  • Nextset

    I’m confused here. You have said that your GPA is average, you don’t mention what your test scores are – aren’t the scores hugely important? Yet you express surprise and indignation about the rejections. Without discussing whether your applications to the schools “match” you with the student population at those schools you bemoan the situation that other students were accepted with racial imbalance or worse, due to the fact that they can better afford the schools.

    It sounds like you are thinking of yourself as a victim and want others here to agree. I believe this type of thinking is carefully trained into OUSD students and it is part of why they have been made less desirable as employees and students.

    Welcome to the Brave New World. Nobody owes you anything and competition – which you have been protected from at OUSD – is cutthroat. For the rest of your life you are in competition with others your age (and younger) for jobs, spouses and social position. You have to play the game of life to win. There is no time to do the victim thing anymore – it detracts from survival and doing well.

    Look at your test scores and GPA (and OUSD graduate status) and start researching schools that “match” all this – schools where you fit with the existing student body. These would be your “safe” schools. Have you considered Howard? I know a student there who is having the time of her life. She fits their program and for the first time I’ve know her she is really focusing on the future as in careers and fields of education – including discussion of advance/professional degree.

    Beyond the “safe” schools you establish the next rung of “reach” schools based on your special assets where you my get accepted based on more than your GPA and Scores. Do you have a sport or special skill or references? Do you have mentors who are interested in getting you into schools they are connected to? The trick here is not to go for a school where you are so imbalanced with the existing student body that your survival and happiness there becomes doubtful. You also may have a short list of wild card schools where you may be admitted – they may even be recruiting you – but you are unsure why you should go. A cousin went to a wild card (nondescript) school in the middle of nowhere because she was recruited based on being black (I suppose) and having a relatively high test score. They sent her to Europe on a college excahnge program a few years later and she never returned – she graduated living in Europe and has an incredible life no one here imagined for her, is married with a family in Europe. She went to Richmond Unified.

    Nobody is a victim. You make the most of what you have to work with. And if you express that “racism” cant in your dealings with employers and schools you may well find yourself shown the door.

  • Pamela

    Congratulations Diamond on your induction into the alameda county women’s hall of fame. Your future is bright. Keep your head up. You will get into the school that is right for you.

  • Catherine

    I work with a woman whose son has a GPA in excess of 4.0 with a verbal SAT of 765 and a math SAT of 785 in a Title 1 public high school. He has 24 units of AP classes. He is in the top 5% of his class. He has immigrant parents and is a first generation American.

    He applied to the Cal State system and was offered slots, however, his first choice, UC Davis turned him down. After reading his essay, I believe that’s what did him in. Because community colleges have first crack at transfers within the UC system that’s where he’s headed even though with the AP classes he’s already nearly half way to an AA degree.

    Top universities have a large selection of the best and the brightest – they want a particular mix of students and they want kids who can give back. What I saw in the essay is a bright guy who talked about what he can get with his education, not what he could or would give. The UC system – even the private system with scholarships – is giving their education with the recipient bearing very little of the cost. I see a high expectation from the universities and the scholarship foundations, for student recipients to give back to communities, society and the world at large. Those applicants who do not clearly state what they have and are willing to give are just not accepted.

    As a side note, this student’s class valedictorian was given full rides to both Stanford and Harvard. He accepted Harvard, and in reading his essay, he talked about his immigrant parents’ hard work, the American experience, the responsibility he felt to his community, to young people coming up behind him and contributing to the world.

  • Nextset

    Catherine, that last post was a wealth of information.

    Clearly applicants to competitive colleges need to do their homework to find out what works before getting into the process. The applicants are selling themselves, just as if they are applying for a job. Coaching works.

    I wish all these points were made during the high school experience. No one owes you or your race a thing – but there are lots of deals to be made. It’s all about trading value – yourself as the value – for something the other side wants. In other words a free exchange between two parties. Learn the rates of currency exchange.

    In the case of my relative, she wanted out of Richmond, her college wanted some color (their racial demographics were similar to West Virginia U), and the girl in question somehow had the moxie to leave every friend and family she ever had and go off into the great white heartland to see what she could make of it. Eventual stop was Europe where she wound up being “an exotic” – her college called her in and suggested the foreign exchange program in her Jr year and they financed it. Who could have guessed? Now she hardly ever comes back to the USA. She got her degree, a profession, a husband and European Kids. She’s really happy.

    Diamond, dust off the charts of colleges, there is one out there you may not have thought of who has scholarship money and may look at you as something more than you thought you were… Consider the wild card schools as well as the safe established places. You’re never going to be this young and this free again in your life. Get coaching, work the schools some more and let us know what develops.

  • Diamond B

    Nextset: I do not think of myself as a victim. Nor am I playing the race card. I’m simply addressing this application year’s trend in acceptances. I am fully aware that my average GPA could have been greater, as well as my nearly 1700 SAT score. However, I do know that my essays were great because I have used them for various other things, and have earned a big scholarship, as well as interviews for two even larger scholarships.

    There are people who I know I am similar to academically, and the one thing that I have noticed is that they can better afford their education at these schools. It just appeared to me as though one must either be more well off or play a sport- all so that they can earn an education at a top school.

    Anyway, I DO know about Howard University, and was accepted there on Early Action, asd well as Drexel University and other state schools. I also give back to my community through a lot of work and my internship with Girls Inc. of Alameda County. Heck, I will be inducted this Saturday into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. My one question is just, ehy them and not me? It’s a simple question that even the most secure person qould ask. There’s no harm in my wanting to know the answer or even doubting these schools decisions.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for writing this piece and for all the blog entries you’ve posted this year, Diamond.

    I never saw “race card” in this latest blog entry … maybe “economic questioning” but I saw no “card” played, not even the “economic card.” You just want to know what could possibly separate you from students whom you feel have equal academic backgrounds to yours. And you have a legitimate reason to QUESTION whether it might be economics that separates you. After all, the NYT recently published an article saying that universities across the country this year are accepting more students who have the means to foot the college bill themselves and fewer who need big financial aid packages. You weren’t playing victim … in fact, your closing statement shows you are full of determination that you will go to what you feel is your “best fit” school and you will find a way to finance it. You seem to be just the type of person that your strongest critic on this blog wants you to be.

  • Nextset

    Diamond: Being well off or playing a sport are examples of the candidate having something the schools want.

    You probably have something to trade for your school seat also. Without expert help you won’t be able to gauge your relative position in the short time you have to get offers collected. I am not an expert in this process – it’s been way too long since I was immersed in it and I certainly wouldn’t know what the current coin is here. Whatever it is, you probably aren’t in a position to know and it (current coin) may vary from region and to type of college. You may want to consider colleges where you are less common in their population (the wild card thing), although that seems to carry more risk.

    And information is power, so go see as many people as possible for consultation and take your paperwork. Nothing should go out to these schools without as many experts as you have available at the time reviewing what you are sending. Apparently minor things probably make a difference.

    Howard and Spellman sometimes are the perfect fit, and sometimes one can do better. Your intended career choice may also affect where and what school will work. And sometimes it’s who will give you the most money.

    Because of the short time students have to get through the selection process experts, free or paid, are a good idea.

    Lisa: Best fit is often a term for “comfort zone”. Teens staying in their comfort zones often miss out on a lot of goodies.

    As to questioning whether it’s “economics that separates you” – well, yes… economics does separate people in this Brave New World. Get around it whenever you can.

  • Nextset

    Another postcript to an earlier college story, the sister of the relative who went to the wild card school I mentioned above went to Spellman. Her family was delighted, Richmond Unified to Spellman. Well she ran into the Whitleys there and walked out in a year. It didn’t work out. She returned to state schools in CA and wound up in a 6 figure career in corporate America (and this was a generation ago when money was money). One thing quickly led to another career wise and she ended up among other things living around the world in the International Div of her company working on projects. She’s been back in the states for a long time now but still does 50% (US) travel in her career. She’s happy and lives well despite the war stories about Corporate America. Not bad for Richmond Unified.

    For various reasons that branch of the family were always willing to move anywhere – alone – for something that seemed new, interesting and cutting edge. I never could see their comfort zone – it was amorphous. In their generation here in the East Bay I didn’t see many blacks doing this. I wish I’d been more like them.

    The downside is that in both cases they were typically the “first” doing what they did professionally. They were normally the “only” where they were. That would make many people uncomfortable. I’ve been there too, but not to their extent. With them it all started by doing coursework in school that had few if any blacks.

    Brave New World.

  • Jose, former student

    Catherine,

    Did you see your friend’s son’s SAT scores and GPA or is this what she told you? I have several friends who are at UC Davis and I attend UC Berkely.

    We all agree that your friend’s son academic performance in high school exceeded our own. So, something seems not right about this story. Could you please give us more facts.

    Thanks,

  • Catherine

    Jose:

    I saw the package after it had already been submitted. The thing about the essay was that it appeared to me to be very selfish. This student did not talk at all about anything he had done, why he wanted to attend UC Davis or how he had contributed or would contribute to society. The statement had numerous grammatical errors and one spelling error.

    The essay talked about his single mother, how much money he would make if he got a Civil Engineering degree and how he could pay back student loans without his mother paying for them.

    I also saw a copy of his unofficial transcript and an unofficial copy of his SAT scores.

    I should also say that due to his academic performance UC Riverside and Modesto offered him slots without application. Also, Cal State East Bay was approved and in the approval waived the requirements for freshman math.

    But, Jose, I think as more students apply and more students are achieving GPAs over 4 schools are able to edge out students based on an essay, goals or that click of a difference.