Navigating college life sometimes a struggle

January 8, 2019

There are many social and financial struggles for first-generation college students. When they arrive at the schools of their dreams, they are thousands of miles from friends and family.

Achieving the academic excellence that allows them to get accepted at top-tier schools is no easy task. Navigating the application can be a major obstacle course, but there are usually mentors, high school counselors and other administrators along the way to help ease the process.

But, once away from family and the network they have established at home, college students find themselves facing social and financial situations no one likely warned them about before they headed off to campus.

Express-News journalist Alia Malik tells a compelling story about the culture shock some college students face. The article featured Isaiah Guzman, 19, a sophomore at Columbia University in New York City.

He graduated from Travis Early College High School in the San Antonio Independent School District in 2017.

Guzman’s experience is not unique. There are many other Bexar County students spread out across the country facing the same challenges. Teachers and administrators all know students who are facing the same types of struggles.

There are some efforts being made to provide these students some of the support they need long distance, but it could be better.

Malik reports that the SAISD Foundation has established a gap fund to help students struggling with unexpected emergencies such as winter coats, books and sometimes even the rent.

There are probably others similar funds that have been established by other entities, but it would be worthwhile if every district could have its own. And the Bexar County School Boards Coalition should put together a ready reference for students heading off to school addressing such issues.

Recent graduates would also benefit from having stronger high school alumni associations that match their members with underclassmen attending those schools. SAISD is already doing some of that.

Getting students college-ready has been the goal for decades. The successes are multiplying, but the effort has to be on ensuring they stay until completion.

Here’s why: SAISD reports only half of the students who headed off to top-tier schools in 2012 had completed their degrees six years later.

Fixing adjustment problems isn’t a panacea, but can help.

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