Michael Reyes

Michael Reyes

McMinnville, OR — In just eight short years, minority students are projected to outnumber whites on college campuses for the first time. Many will be the first in their families to attend college. Millions more, lacking family background or familiarity with higher education, will have a difficult time deciding whether to go to college, or knowing how to get there.

“Many of our youth are trying to figure out what to do with their lives,” said Michael Reyes, a multicultural program director at Linfield College in Oregon. “But it’s possible for anyone to go to college, whether it’s a community college, public university or small private college.”

Reyes offers the following tips to students and their families:

  • High school students and their parents can talk to school counselors or teachers, who can offer encouragement and connect them with admission counselors at colleges. Many families often feel more comfortable if they go through personal connections, and students who have backup support are more likely to succeed.
  • Hundreds of scholarships are available, but application deadlines are coming up. Many are due in February, so it’s best to start applying now.
  • Many high schools host college fairs in late winter, giving prospective students a chance to learn more about college offerings and campus life. Ask your school counselor when and where college fairs are being held in your area, and attend as many as possible. Bring questions, explore college websites, and make plans to visit.
  • More students are using alternative routes to get through college. Consider living at home, working or going to school part-time if that works best, but be aggressive about scholarships. If you do end up borrowing money for college, borrow wisely and be thrifty.

“Higher education is sometimes not part of young people’s mindset,” said Hilda Escalera, who serves at Linfield as a mentoring coordinator through the AmeriCorps Retention Project. “We tell high school students, ‘Yes, you can do it.’ Education is the best form of helping our families.”

“College is invaluable,” Reyes said. “It’s still about employability and social mobility. The lowest paying jobs are the first jobs cut, and those who are better prepared are the first to be rehired.”

Scholarship resources:

  • Oregon Student Access Commission, getcollegefunds.org
  • UNCF, www.uncf.org
  • Scholarships.com
  • Hispanic College Fund, http://scholarships.hispanicfund.org/applications/
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund, www.hsf.net/
  • Oregon Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber, www.hmccoregon.com/scholarships/