Friday, December 9, 2011

Cultural Barriers For First Generation College Students

Jessica Dennis of Cal State Los Angeles has identified a number of factors that make it difficult for ethnic minority first generation college students.  These students are at a very high risk of not graduating.  Here is what she identified:
1.      They tend to work (for pay) longer hours while going to college, leaving less time for study.
2.      They tend to have unrealistic expectations of college. 
3.      They tend to lack knowledge of the university system and
4.      They have a culture that conflicts more heavily with college culture.  This leads to more interpersonal difficulties with classmates, roommates, and professors. 
5.      They also tend to have “interdependent” vs. “independent” families leading to greater family obligations.  This makes it harder to get study time scheduled. 
6.      Their parents have a lack of first hand college experience resulting in an inability to help with college tasks. 
St. Mary's College
What do you do with this information?  Do you ignore it and write me off as one of those discouragers?  Do you start chanting that line from Blues Clues, “With me and you and my dog Blue, you can do anything that you want to do!”  Snap out of it.  You need a game plan.  You must meet the challenge with aforethought and sound execution.  For each of the above factors, ask yourself, “How does this give my competition an advantage over me.”  “What can I do to nullify the negative affects of these factors?” and “How could I turn this into a competitive advantage?”
I have heard it more callously put, “You can take the kid out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the kid.”  There is some truth to this, but there are some ways to deal with these challenges.  This isn’t fair, but you will still have to work much harder to adapt than others (Titus 1:12-13).  If you come across as a knucklehead, you will be discounted by those around you and college will become more challenging.  When your professors and peers see you as smart, they will treat you like you are smart. If they perceive you as dumb, you will be ignored or mocked. Obviously smartness should not be judged based upon your cultural behaviors, but it does happen.  When people perceive you as dumb, they ignore what you have to say in discussions.  This can be infuriating to not be taken seriously.  To be taken seriously, you need to act like a serious person.