Sunday, April 3, 2011

Taking HS Students to Visit Colleges

This past week I accompanied thirty-two students on a three day trip to visit colleges in Maine. While on the campuses of Bowdoin, Colby, University of Maine and New England School of Communication, my students met college students, participated in tours and info sessions, and ate in college dining halls. Being that we are a college prep school, part of our mission includes getting our students on college campuses and gaining perspective on the range of possibility that college has to offer. To graduate from Bronx Prep our students must visit at least ten colleges and must be accepted to at least one college at the time of graduation, so attending these trips comprises an important part of a student's curriculum.

I had an amazing time over the three days in Maine. The highlight had to be the deep conversations about diversity and prejudice that took place throughout the three days, as our thirty-two black and latino students visited one of the whitest states in the nation. Our students learned to ask admissions officers important questions about diversity and retention rates, financial aid and student support services. In addition we subsequently worked with them to analyze the meaning of this data. The trip also presented multiple instances when we had to address proper conduct and demeanor when traveling with a group, out of one's home community, and when others might be inclined to prejudge us based on race or class.

I do have some reservations about the way we conduct our college trips: for instance, we have students "apply" for the trips, but we haven't found a way to capitalize on these process to make a substantial learning experience. Some of our students aren't prepared to fully appreciate how much they can learn from these visits, and others still have to work on their behavior. Despite these limitations, the fact that we take our students to visit colleges, especially a wide range of colleges, is impressive and remains one of the greatest assets of our school. We will certainly continue to improve this aspect of our program, and through collaborative dialogue with others we may teach and learn about providing the best range of opportunities for America's youth.

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