A Girl's Dream College

When I woke up this morning I was still thinking about a young woman who I talked to last night. I was in my hometown of St. Louis to give a speech about college strategies to a large gathering of CPAs and I also squeezed in a book signing at a Barnes & Noble during the visit.

At the bookstore, I met the African-American teenager who is a scholarship student at an exclusive and expensive school — Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School. On her dream list of colleges are some great schools, including Middlebury College (VT), Swarthmore College (PE) and Macalester College (MN).

Her good grades, her excellent college prep schooling, her gumption and her race all make her a wonderful candidate for these exclusive liberal arts colleges, which are trying hard to reach out to minority kids.

What’s more, the schools she has been researching offer phenomenal financial aid packages for needy students. Middlebury is so eager to attract this St. Louis teenager that it has offered to fly her out for a look. Plenty of exclusive schools underwrite visits to promising minority teenagers.

I’d be very happy for this ambitious student except for one stumbling block: Her mother.

Her mother has forbidden her from visiting Middlebury or applying there.

How come? There aren’t many black people in Vermont.

In one respect, I can understand this single mom’s concern. You want your child to successfully make the college transition and being able to make friends with students with similar backgrounds can help. On the other hand, attending college in a distant region of the country with different types of students can be an incredible experience. What’s more, the senior has already spent more than three years attending a high school that is predominantly white and affluent.

What is so sad about the girl’s plight is that her mom has no money to pay for the girl’s college and yet she is refusing to let her daughter consider the sort of exclusive schools that typically offer some of the top financial aid awards.

I told the girl that the director of cultural diversity at any of the schools she is interested in might be able to put her mom’s mind at ease. Also I told her that she should ask schools for the names and contact info for black students attending their institutions so she could ask them about their experiences as minorities on their campuses.

The girl — I didn’t ask her name — called her mom to see if she would buy her a copy of my book, The College Solution. My chapter on minorities and college might have addressed some of the mother ’s concerns. Her mom said no and eventually the girl walked away after I had handed her my card that contained the addresses for my email and blog.

What bothered me when I woke up this morning is that I didn’t just give her a copy of my book.

Learn more about college strategies by reading my book, The College Solution.

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