First Steps

You have to take what you can get when you’re getting started.

– Selena Quintanilla

Latinx Opportunities was created to help Latinx high students during their college applications. We know exactly how you are feeling and we want you to know that you are not alone. Millions of Latinx students have survived that journey and so will you. You have what it takes to succeed and we are proud of each and every single one of you reading this.

The college admission process takes much longer and requires a lot of time and energy from the applicants. There are standardized tests to be taken and favors for letters of recommendation to be asked. Personal statements and other college essays must be written and reviewed. Financial aid applications have to be completed without one feeling discouraged at how their Expected-Family-Contribution (EFC) number is. While figuring out the applications, you still have the responsibilities of being a students and the other obligations in your life continue to exist. It is a stressful time and thoughts about how your future is going to be shaped by where you end up does not make it easier to sleep.

Latinx Opportunities was created to help Latinx high students during their college applications. We know exactly how you are feeling and we want you to know that you are not alone. Millions of Latinx students have survived that journey and so will you. You have what it takes to succeed and we are proud of each and every single one of you reading this.

Cynthia Orizaba, President of Latinx Opportunities

I want to go to college, now what?

When you decide you want to pursue higher education, the next two things you need to ask yourself are: 1.) What do you want to study? And 2.) Where do you want to study? These are the most important questions for you to answer because these answers will shape your list of colleges to apply to.

1. identify academic and career interests

I recommend students first identify their academic interests, as well as potential careers that align with those academic interests that stand out to them. Once they have this list, start researching about what it takes to become a professional in the careers they’re looking that. Look specifically for the education requirements. Some careers might require students to go to college but rather enroll at a technical school. Some careers like those of a doctor or architecture require students to go to college and graduate school (which happens after college). Regardless, many jobs today ask for a 4-year post-secondary undergraduate degree. Depending on the program you complete in college, it might be called a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Sciences (B.S.). Going to college means that you want to pursue an undergraduate degree. Applying to college in reality means that you are applying for entry into a specific undergraduate degree program offered by a select college.

2. find undergraduate programs that suit your interests

After getting a sense of what your academic and career interests are, start researching which colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in what you are interested in. Visit college websites and look at the curriculum of each program. Are you interested studying abroad? Check to see what study abroad programs schools offer. Speak with a college representative to learn more about specific programs. Look at the course listing of the program and see if the classes excite you. We recommend that students also look at the requirements to complete a degree and if the college takes AP scores.

3. compare college and university settings

Another way that some students have decided which schools to apply to depends on the location and type of college setting.

Technical schools

Technical schools, also called technical colleges or technical institutes, provide specialized training in a specific career field, trade, or profession, including computer technology, business administration, culinary arts, electronics, medical assisting, legal assisting, automotive technology, and cosmetology. Programs at technical colleges can take anywhere from less than two years up to four years to complete and typically award a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. Associate’s degree options include an Associate of Arts, an Associate of Science, and an Associate of Applied Science.

Unlike many community colleges and four-year universities that require students to complete general education courses prior to delving into their major field of study, students attending technical colleges usually take courses related to their major during their first term. Technical colleges emphasize hands-on training and offer internship experience in a relevant work setting. Job placement services are also available to students.

College vs University

A college is a smaller institution that typically offers undergraduate degrees. Some colleges, such as community colleges and junior colleges, may offer only two-year degrees. Most colleges offer bachelor’s degrees, and some colleges also have associate degrees. A university is an institution that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. Universities offer graduate programs leading to a master’s degree or a Ph.D. These institutions also may have a medical or law school for students wishing to pursue professional degrees. Some universities offer special programs where their students can earn both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in a reduced amount of time. For the most part, universities have a more diverse offering of classes and programs than a college because of the larger number of enrolled students.

Big School vs Little School

Traditionally, big schools are research-based universities while liberal arts college are considered little schools. Deciding between a big school or little school comes down to one’s personal preference and needs. For example, at a big school class sizes could range anywhere from 30-600 students. At the same time, students who want the experience of televised football games and a variety of programs may be drawn to the big college experience. Big schools can offer more research opportunities and people to meet. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some students prefer a smaller college because they want to be able to connect more with their professors due to the smaller class size, more focus on them from advisers, and prefer a more quiet setting altogether. At small schools, there is a tighter knit community and opportunities to pursue a more individually-tailor undergraduate program.

City vs Suburbs vs Campus Town

Aside from the population sizes, students should consider the location of colleges and universities. Some students who grew up in cities will choose rural universities for the campus town. A campus town is a small town that has a university or college. Most of the business comes from the students who live in the area. That being said, the campus town might the largest town in the surrounding area for miles. Both large and small schools can be located in campus towns. Big Ten schools like the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have campus towns. Suppose you do not like the idea of being in the middle of nowhere and would prefer something more urban. Some students want to study in big cities like Chicago and New York for the internship and research opportunities. Schools like New York University have an urban campus where academic buildings are scattered throughout the city. In other words, the city becomes your campus. Perhaps living in a city sounds too big of a first step and rural towns seem too small, consider attending a college located in a suburban area. Schools like Northwestern University are located in residential areas.

4. look at college financial aid packages and cost of attendance

As you begin to look at colleges, take a look at their financial aid packages. Do they offer scholarships? What about grants or loans? If they offer loans, what kind of loans do they offer? What is the cost of attendance per year at these schools? How much money will it cost you and your family? Some colleges have financial aid calculators to help you see how much financial aid you qualify for.

6. take note of application deadlines

As you compile your list of colleges to apply to, beware of the deadlines. If you decide to apply to colleges through the Common Application or the Coalition Application, there should be reminders set for deadlines. Either way, you want to give yourself enough time to complete your applications and get them reviewed before sending. You also want to make sure you have all of the necessary components completed.

Connect with Latinx Opportunities

If you would like to schedule a meeting with us to discuss any questions you may have, feel free to go to our contact page or schedule an appointment down below.