College Search: Racism Hidden When Applying

This is one of those stories that no one in my profession ever writes about. But the story is repeated on virtually every campus in America. From a student’s perspective it’s totally unpredictable. After months of research and planning by one of my students, not to mention positive experiences when he visited his first-choice campus twice before making a decision, everyone was excited for what appeared to be his very comfortable choice.

And to top it off, the college he is was about to attend awarded him a $30,000 scholarship, leaving the parents very excited about the school and their son.  College search days are over.

The student is off to a bright future and then the most unexpected happens.

What he didn’t expect at his college on Long Island was a not-so-subtle racism from black students (I refuse to use the politically correct term).

I don’t need to go into the details of his experiences, but only to ask, “How could any student applicant have known from a college’s catalog or from a campus visit that racism is part of the campus culture?”

When an applicant visits a campus, should she or he ask about the presence of racism among students? And if so, do you think your child isn’t going to feel intimidated by asking the question of strangers on a campus visit? And if the question is asked, how do you suppose students will respond?

When I’ve asked, I get the standard response: “It’s not that bad.”  These students don’t comprehend that “it’s not that bad” is similar to saying it’s not that bad to have a little cancer. Perhaps college – we can only hope – will change minds for the better.

I’m not suggesting there’s a real solution here (if “solution” is the accurate word to use), but only to make you aware that such subtle realities already exist on a campus, and until your student is actually living there is he or she going to discover what college is really like.

So forget the enthusiasm of the campus tour guide, who is wearing the college’s happy face: you get what the guide wants you to hear.

The door to the subtle realities of campus living is locked until your student shows up in the fall.

Here’s the blunt truth: racism is a real thread that’s woven into the fabric of our society, and a college campus is nothing more than blunt evidence of that thread.

College isn’t the real world? Think again.
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To learn how to find the right-fit college in your college search, click here.
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