Dear BI Career Consultants:
In the wake of recent court decisions undermining the role of race in college admission policies, what can I, as a director of admissions, do to help African American students enhance their chances of being admitted to college?
Good news! African American students today are just as capable, talented and eager as other students. The unfortunate news is that the information that they need in order to enhance their chances of being admitted is not always given or admission counselors do not understand it. Three initiatives are essential for the future of African American students’ admittance to college:
First, as an admissions director, support early college awareness programs for
African American students and their parents. In other words, broaden your recruitment efforts to include middle school students as early as seventh and eighth grade. The objective should be to educate these students about the importance of challenging themselves in high school so that they will be better prepared for the rigors of college. Sponsor an early college awareness night in their community or a day on your campus. Both students and parents need to know that college admittance begins with high school success.
Second, as an admissions director, educate your admissions counselors about the non-cognitives, as well as the cognitives, which determine college success for African American students. Whereas, a student with a high grade point average and test scores may have what it takes to be admitted to college, it does not necessarily equate to successful retention and ultimately graduation. Realize that often times, the non-cognitives (extracurricular activities, leadership, overcoming obstacles, motivation and interest, persistence, recommendations, awards and honors) for African American students, is just as telling as high GPAs and test scores. These students, combined with academics, will be more engaged and involved in campus life, which in turn will lessen their attrition rate.
Finally, once these students have been admitted based on early awareness, cognitives as well as non-cognitives, then it is time to use their academic and college experiences to help with the recruitment of future African American students. They are called mentors/ambassadors. Use them! They will be your best representatives. Involve them in high school visits, college fairs, phone-a-thons, campus visits, panel discussions, etc. Let them share their story so that prospective students see that college is realistic and attainable and that no one factor will hinder their chances.
I would advise minority recruitment officers to tell students of color to consider these three things:
First, be realistic about your chances of entering any institution you are considering. Students need to be made aware that their chances of being admitted are going to be based mainly on academic and/or test score considerations. If they know they do not meet the basic entry criteria for the preceding year’s freshman class for example, they may want to consider other colleges. This may eliminate a great deal of frustration and/or disappointment for students and their parents as well.
Second, I would tell them to go to a college or university that embraces diversity as a mission in its freshman class and has the track record to prove it. It is important that students feel comfortable about their college choice. One way to ensure that is to apply to schools who are demonstrating their diversity initiatives every day. Not only will their freshman class be a culturally diverse one, but they will also have student services in place to assist students of color to achieve their best while at that particular institution. These colleges and universities are proactive in their recruitment of students of color. If they seem to want students of color at the institution, that is an excellent beginning toward a student’s success.
And third, don’t take it personal if a college or university has recently changed its policy regarding race-conscious admissions standards. Trust me, it’s not personal. Many places have made such changes to ensure future federal and state funding. Others want to stay out of court and away from any negative perceptions that could be held against them (and their enrollment numbers) for years to come. They are not out to, in most cases, eliminate the numbers of students of color from their college admissions rosters. The truth is a lot of the universities who were forced to make these types of changes, have been quite creative in finding ways to admit the same number, if not more, new students of color.
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