What Latinos Should Look For In A College


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Anika Darling

College submission deadlines are just around the corner, and given the rapidly growing number of Latino undergraduates, colleges everywhere have been exceedingly interested in what it is Latinos are looking for when seeking a higher education.
There are several factors to consider when narrowing down your top college list, including location, student body size, majors available, and financial aid available. However, many top advisors at Connecticut universities agree that above and beyond all, there is one thing Latino students should be seeking in a college, and that’s a welcoming, comfortable environment.
Nilvio Perez, Director of Admissions at Albertus Magnus College, says, “The most important thing, not just for Latinos but for any student, should be whether they are comfortable on the campus they choose.”
He goes on to explain that the more comfortable, at home, and at ease a student feels the easier it makes the transition into college, and the greater possibility of success, not just for obtaining a degree, but having a fulfilling college experience.
Perez says, “For every person what they need in order to make them comfortable is going to be different, but in large part, especially for the Latino community, what seems to bring the most comfort is the integration of their culture with their surroundings.”
As a first generation Latino himself, Perez understands from experience just how important it is for Latinos to be comfortable on their college campus, “Transitioning into college is hard enough. Everything is different, not only from an academic standpoint, but from a social standpoint.” He continues, “Latinos enjoy their food, their music, their culture, their language, and when you go away for four years and can’t find that…it could be quite a struggle.”
In Perez’s experience, Latinos should look at the various cultural groups the campus has to offer and seek out mentors or other Latinos that are involved for support and guidance. Many campuses all over the country embrace and celebrate Latino culture, so this shouldn’t limit options in anyway.
One visit to Eastern Connecticut State University will reveal a plethora of these types of social and academic support groups.  Eastern has had the largest jump in Latino student graduation rates in the country in a report issued in fall 2012. Edward H. Osborn, Director of University Relations at Eastern, agrees that comfort plays a huge part in a student’s success and that these student clubs are a huge contributing factor to that comfort.
Osborn elaborates on campus life at Eastern, saying, “Of our 70 student clubs, we have one just for Latino students.  It’s called OLAS (Organization of Latin American Students.) Also, our Academic Services Center has tutoring and advising services, serving more than 2,000 students a year who visit 10,000 times a year. All students are welcome, and Latino students often study together in the center and elsewhere.”
Cultural events are also a priority at Eastern. Osborn says that many celebrations and events are handled by their Intercultural Center; they celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall and Latin American Awareness Month in April.
Osborn mentions that Eastern has the highest percentage of minority faculty in CT, and says he believes this is a very critical element in creating a welcoming environment for Latinos.
Perez agrees, saying, “It’s important for Latinos to have people around that make them feel comfortable.  And at the same time, while they need people around to make them feel comfortable, who look and speak like them.  They also want people around that are different too, right? That’s the part of the great college experience.”
Kimberly Crone, Associate Vice President for Academic Student Services at Southern Connecticut State University, acknowledges the importance of diversity in creating a welcoming campus for Latino students. She explains, “At Southern we really embrace diversity. We have a Multicultural Center that offers Latinos educational services and programs that are greatly focused on student recruitment and retention. We work hard to be a welcoming campus for all students, especially Latinos. We know this population is growing.”
In the end, Perez advises all students not to let the cost of a college be a deterrent, or to stop them from exploring the institution, heeding, “Don’t pigeon hole yourself; look at as many options as possible, and find your absolutely right fit. And when you find it, there are so many financial assistance programs that can make it a possibility.”
Further information in seeking the right college for you: