Earlier this year I presented at a conference at Harvard, organized by Latinas Unidas de Harvard, a group of unbelievable young female students helping each other become the leaders of tomorrow.
Many of the organizers and participants are the first in their families to attend college. Add the fact that they are attending Harvard, one of, if not THE, world’s most prestigious universities, and you can easily imagine the economic and social impact that attending this college will have in the future of these ladies and their families. The connections they make during and after their years at Harvard and the opportunities that will be opened for them as a result are unbelievable.
Also attending the conference were students from other top universities in the Boston area, such as MIT and the women-only Wellesley College. After my workshop I had a chance to interview several of the participants who shared with me their experiences with internships, study abroad programs, and even getting money for college. (Here’s a video of Isamar Vega, a Harvard student who works in the admissions office.)
So, let me share with you three things you need to know if you’re helping your child decide to which colleges to apply:
1. Many times, the top private universities have more money to offer scholarships than state schools. If your child is academically strong and has an interesting profile, consider applying to the Ivy League schools: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. These institutions have huge endowments and great initiatives to help students from middle- and low-income families.
2. Many of the students that I met at the conference, both U.S. citizens and foreign students, have taken advantage of Harvard’s Middle Income Initiative and are getting a full free ride! Here is how it works: Families who make less than $180,000 a year are only expected to contribute up to 10% of the education cost. There is a sliding scale from there on, until families with incomes below $60,000 are expected to pay $0.00. Yes, your child can get her entire education paid for at one of America’s top universities if she is admitted and your family can’t afford to pay. Most Ivy League schools have a similar initiative. Investing a little time and effort to explore their websites could pay off in a big way for your student-to-be and your family.
3. Although students admitted to these top universities have a strong academic profile, that is not the only element that admissions officers take into consideration. They look at the individual and leadership skills, as well as involvement with the community, the programs they took over their four summers in high school, their letters of recommendation and student essay; this is because they aim to admit students with unique and interesting life experiences. So, if your kid has an unusual story (if he/she opened his/her own business as a teenager or if he/she excelled at one particular extracurricular activity, or if he/she had to take on family responsibilities early on), make sure he/she writes about it in his/her essay.
In other words, if your child is a great student encourage them to not just look at prices. Harvard may be waiting for your kid with a big scholarship! If you need more information, visit our website and ask questions on our Forums or on our Blogs.
Mariela Dabbah is the award-winning, best-selling author of Latinos in College: Your Guide to Success and many other books as well as the co-author of the Latino Advantage in the Workplace. She is a speaker and a consultant on issues around education and professional development.