The Best Inheritance
Contributing Guest Blog by Veronikha Salazar
I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, but I know what it’s like to have parents. I don’t know what being illiterate feels like, but I do know what it feels like to have a mother who cannot spell her own name or write my name in the language that we both speak (English). I am not ashamed of my mother, or her illiteracy for that matter, so don’t get me wrong. All that I am and all that I have — after God — I owe to her, and the best thing she could have done for my siblings and I was to push us to go to school and get an education.
I remember her last dying days, her words, and her tears at the thought of what was going to happen to her children, all four of us. We were already without a father and we didn’t have any close relatives to watch over us. And yet, as sad as it sounds, what she said and did during her last days is what I remember the most. She said, “I may not leave you any riches as an inheritance, but I will leave you the best of all inheritances – your education — and you can pass it on to your children and to your grandchildren.”
To have somebody who never went to school appreciate learning and respect education with the passion that my mother did, still blows my mind. To honor her memory, my siblings and I went to school and received an education. The three older ones obtained bachelor’s degree in Nursing, Accounting, and Education respectively. The youngest sibling, after ten years, is now working on her bachelors. She proves that it is never too late to go back to college or to begin a college degree.
I decided after my bachelor’s degree that I needed another degree, so the Masters degree and Doctorate followed. Those degrees have taken me to where I am today. I have been working for the last six years with students whose parents never went to school, some of which are illiterate in the language they now speak with their children (English). These students are the first ones in those families to even dream of the possibility of attending college. These types of students are the ones we categorize as “first generation” students. Their parents are similar to my mother– never having been to college but with the dream of being able to send their children to college.
Still, I have met parents who don’t know or understand the benefits of the education system in this country. There are many walls that they have to bring down before they can even consider supporting their children on their decision to go to college. It is expensive, they say. But the cost of a college degree should not stop anybody from going to college, and that includes our Hispanic students.
To those parents I say:
Why a college degree? Because those of us who are lucky enough to have one can attest to the benefits of having one.
Why a college degree? Because the impact (personally and professionally) that a college degree will have on your children, your family, and your future family is exponential.
Why a college degree? Because in some of the best paying jobs, your children will need more than a high school diploma.
Why college? Because it will open a whole new world for them. It will take them to places that they have never dreamed about. It will lead them to reach far greater things in life.
Why college? Because that is the best inheritance you can leave anybody, especially your own children. My mother did it for me. You can too!
“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”
- Gilbert K. Chesterton
Applying to College or University
Contributing Guest Blog by Veronikha Salazar
The fact that you are thinking about applying to college is a big deal, but you have to go beyond thinking about it and do it. Apply to college! Even after you apply, you need to enroll, study hard and graduate. It is a great but very doable goal.
Here are a few things to consider when applying to a college or university in the United States:
1- First, college is not like high school anymore. You will have more responsibilities. Although you may ask for your parents or mentors for their help during the application process, you should learn to complete some of the steps by yourself. You will have to do this A LOT in college.
2- Different colleges and universities have different requirements, i.e. high school transcripts or academic equivalent (GED), as well as SAT/ACT scores.
3- Your GPA is very important, not only for admission but also for scholarship applications. Consider whether your GPA meets the minimum admission requirement at the school(s) you want to attend.
4- Most schools require you to take the SAT or ACT. Depending on the school you are applying to, you may be able to take one or the other. Make sure you look over their specific requirements.
5- Take the SAT/ACT at least three times. The higher the score, the better your chances at being admitted and at qualifying for scholarships.
6- Most of the applications are now online. Be sure to have all the information you need before you start the process.
7- Begin the application process the summer before your senior year.
8- There is always an application fee you have to pay, and with each school those fees vary. The more schools you apply to, the more you will have to pay, so choose wisely. Some schools will wave the application fee for qualifying students (often for students from disadvantaged backgrounds). Be sure to ask your guidance counselor if you qualify for a waiver.
9- A good number of schools to apply to is no less than five and no more than 10.
10- If you can, schedule a visit to the colleges and universities that you are considering. If you cannot make the trip, try to find somebody who is attending or has attended the school of your choice. They may be able to give you great insight about the school.
11- Find the ranking of the schools you are applying to for the field of study you want to major in. A good source for this is the Princeton Review. However, you should keep in mind that the higher the ranking, the more competition you will face when applying for admission or scholarships.
12- Private schools cost more than public schools, and 2-year schools cost less than 4-year schools, but there are plenty of scholarships out there that can help you finance your education.
13- Do not limit yourself to the scholarships offered by the school of your choice; do your research. You will be surprised of the number of private scholarships and grants for which you may be eligible. A good website to use if FastWeb.
14- Although the cost of a college degree seems high, do not let the cost discourage you. Having a college education is worth the time and investment.
15- Remember that if the school you are applying to is located in a state different where you reside, you will likely be charged out-of-state tuition. There are some schools that offer tuition waivers for out-of-state students. Be sure to ask the schools you are applying to whether this is something they offer.
16- Keep track of admission deadlines and/or scholarship and grant deadlines. They will sneak up on you!
17- If you are not a U.S. resident or citizen, you can still apply to college. Few institutions have policies about admitting undocumented students.
18- If you are a resident, you may still qualify for some financial aid, e.g. grants, scholarships, or loans. Once again, do your research and find out the requirements and deadlines.
19- If you do not have a major at the time you are applying or enrolling, don’t panic. Most of the classes you will take during your first year of college are general ones. Stay in contact with the academic advisor assigned to you in college, and you will alleviate any risks of falling behind.
20- When in doubt, Ask, Ask, and Ask some more. There are many who want you to succeed. We are rooting for you! You are the one who will be writing our future, the future of our Hispanic community!