Study on Louisiana TOPS Program Reveals Ethnic and Income Gaps…Why I’m not Surprised.

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A recent Advocate article reveals that a majority of the TOPS Scholarships recipients are from white, high income families. While Higher Education administrators see numbers, I have an on the ground perspective.  From this view, I am not surprised by what they found. While I am a proponent on policy changes to help increase access for minority and low-come students, I believe you can see results quicker if you create your own success.  I created E_Source Learning Solutions for those low-income and/or minority families who want to create their own college success.  However, for every one student that I see that has a solid college plan, I encounter several others that do not have one at all.  So these are the following observations that have caused me not to be surprised by the findings. Sadly, a majority of these observations do include the students from minority and/or low-income families.

  1. Many students wait to late to seriously prepare for the ACT.
  2. Many parents do not invest in ACT preparation whether it be in time or effort. There are many free preparation opportunities that are underutilized.
  3. Many students do not understand the value of receiving a thousands of dollars and what that means for their family and their future.
  4. Many parents are not fully aware of the TOPS requirements and rely on high school counselors to make sure their students meet those requirements.

In my humble opinion, the discrepancy is not the case of the have’s and have not’s is a situation of the know’s and know not’s, the do and do not’s. While most comments on this article are all over the place from racial discrimination to black fathers being in the household, I am more focused on personal accountability and practical solutions than theoretical conversations.

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Who Graduates College? Take a guess!

I read a great New York Times post about how talented, low-income and minority students experience hardships on their path to getting their college degree. While the article highlights the socioeconomic gap that permeates college graduation rates, my message is clear: NO MATTER YOUR BACKGROUND, KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM fills any gap. As I have worked with hundreds of students as college academic coach, I see a pattern in those students who achieve and those students that don’t.  It’s not that they are incapable of doing these things, but no one has ever inform them of the best practices in getting a college education. Why aren’t they communicated is another discussion about whose job is it to REALLY prepare our student for college. There are 5 things students can do to overcome any educational hurdle and obtain a college degree. Unfortunately, these things are not communicated to parents and students and students walk blindly into college.

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  1. Get involved in a bridge or transition program.  These programs are effective for so many reasons and many have proven to help retain and graduate more students from marginalize populations.
  2. Identify a peer, faculty, and staff mentor and foster a relationship.  Many low-income students are also the first to go to college in their immediate family, which means there are not as many people in their network to properly help them get adjusted to college.  However, establishing a mentoring relationships with faculty and staff can fill this gap.  Having a person of accountability and someone that can give you unbiased advice can help students remain focus and on track after theyencounter normal bumps and hurdles of college life.
  3. Utilize all campus resources especially academic support. This a biggie.  Tutorial services can be wrongfully thought of as remedial for some students.  However, students who use academic support services have higher grades than those that do not.
  4. Get involved in professional and social organizations.  Students who are social engaged on campus have a higher retention and graduation rate than those who just go to class and go home.
  5. Ask for help. With all the un-student friendly bureaucracy of college, a simple academic or financial aid issue can quickly snowball into a major problem.  Many times students feel helpless and don’t know who or where to turn. Simply asking for help or direction can make a huge difference.

 

College Exit Strategies: Five Academic Resolutions for the New Year

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Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spring is here! It’s another chance to improve your GPA, adopt new habits and to make up for the excessive fun the fall semester brought.

As a learning consultant, I see many students wanting a fresh academic start this semester.  Some want to improve their GPA to get into their major college, some want to get off academic probation, while others want to reduce their stress.  No matter their goal, I suggest five resolutions they should adopt for a great semester:

  1. Find your motivation.  What’s going to push you to power through the semester? Be specific. Once you find it, write down. Keep it as a reminder when things get tough.

  2. Become an accountant of your time. Write down all tests, assignments, projects and social events on a monthly calendar. Put all classes and work hours on a weekly planner. Identify gaps in between classes and designate them as study time. Monitor your time wasters like sleeping in, watching TV or playing video games. Prioritize your time commitments by their contributions to your semester goals.

  3. Take advantage of your/your parents’ investments. There is a good reason why textbooks cost as much as they do (at least for the purpose of this blog).  They are extremely valuable as they are a primary source of information. It contains more things than your professor can teach in a single lecture or a single semester. So make sure you both buy AND use your textbook this semester in every class for every exam.  Do this even against your professor’s advice of textbooks being unnecessary for the course.

  4. Be a professional student.  Pretend someone was paying you 70k per year to complete your degree.  If being a student was a salaried position, what would you do? How would you act? The same way you would (should) treat your dream job, is the same way you should handle college.  Set your “work” hours to be up and ready by 8AM.  No sleeping in until your first class of the day.  Fill in your 40-50 hours per week with everything related to academics: class, work-study, office hours, studying, study groups, and tutoring.  If you really commit to doing these thing between the hours of 8:00AM-4:30PM, then the rest of the day is yours.  Use your evenings to reward yourself.

  5. Get rid of the Drake mentality. “No new friends”? “No help…that’s all me”? That may work in the music industry (I doubt it), but that mentality definitely won’t work when you’re trying to improve your academic situation. Make sure you use your resources before you desperately need them.  Go get tutoring even if you don’t think the material is difficult.  Visit your professors and teaching assistants to discuss your initial course concerns. Begin a study group to begin studying weeks before the first test. Yes, you may have to take an exam by yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you have to prepare for it alone.

Raising College Grads: Home is where SMART starts! Part 1

family_reading“That school does nothing for my child!”  “That teacher doesn’t teach my baby anything.”  “This school district is terrible.” “We have the worst education system in the nation”.  

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard those phrases I would be at least a thousand-aire :).  Yes, a formal education is necessary.  However, students CAN NOT learn everything in 8 hours per day for 9 months per year, for 12 years. Impossible! Yes, I’m all for education reform (not the one that in the news…but a real change). But while all the change is taking place (whenever it happens) your child still has to become educated.  Jobs and colleges will not accept excuses for why a student does not have the qualifications to compete. While parents feel helpless and restricted in providing quality education for their children because of finances or locale, the real TRUTH is: Everything your child needs to compete academically with the best is at home! 

The ultimate goal of K-12 education is not to pass a standardized test but to become a productive adult that can solve real life problems and make wise decisions.  Most real life problems occur outside of the classroom. Therefore, the most important lessons students can learn are at home and in extracurricular activities.  No, i’m not a parent, but I am a child who succeeded despite coming from a minority, low-income and first-generation household and a “medium”-quality school district.  The things that I was exposed to at home over-compensated for any lack that I may have experience in my K-12 education.

In “Raising College Grads: Home Is Where SMART starts! Part 2” I will give several tips and strategies that parents can considered in making sure their child is academically prepared for college.

Creating African American Male College Grads: 4 Tips for Parents

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African American males are at higher risk for leaving college without a degree. While many Higher Education administrations have a great of work to do to ensure the success of all student populations, there are many things parents can do to ensure their African American sons are successful on any campus. 

  1. Attend minority or multicultural orientations or mixers. These information sessions are the first attempt to connect with minority students.  There you can meet staff that directly work in programs that provide support.

  2. Encourage your son to get involved on campus.  Not getting involved in activities outside of class is a number one reason why most students are not successful.  Students who are involved have access to influential people, resources and insight compared to students who are not involved. There are various opportunities to work on campus, play intramural sports, or join a student organization.

  3. Encourage your son to find a mentor through an upperclassman, staff or faculty member. A mentor is someone that can connect your son to resources and can motivate him to attain his goals. Identify and connect with African American staff and faculty members. You will be surprised at how many are open to mentoring students.

  4. Encourage your son to find a mentor through an upperclassman, staff or faculty member.  A mentor is someone that can connect your son to resources and can motivate him to attain his goals. Identify and connect with African American staff and faculty members. You will be surprised at how many are open to mentoring students. 

Creating African American Male College Grads: 4 Tips for Parents

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African American males are at higher risk for leaving college without a degree. While many Higher Education administrations have a great of work to do to ensure the success of all student populations, there are many things parents can do to ensure their African American sons are successful on any campus.

  1. In exploring college choices, be sure to find out the options in specialized programs for minority students. Many universities have mentoring programs, student organizations and academic programs that build a community of minority students.  
  2. Attend minority or multicultural orientations or mixers. These information sessions are the first attempt to connect with minority students.  There you can meet staff that directly work in programs that provide support. 
  3. Encourage your son to get involved on campus.  Not getting involved in activities outside of class is a number one reason why most students are not successful.  Students who are involved have access to influential people, resources and insight compared to students who are not involved. There are various opportunities to work on campus, play intramural sports, or join a student organization. 
  4. Encourage your son to find a mentor through an upperclassman, staff or faculty member. A mentor is someone that can connect your son to resources and can motivate him to attain his goals. Identify and connect with African American staff and faculty members. You will be surprised at how many are open to mentoring students.