The college experience is not one accessible to all types of potential students from all types of paths. The cookie-cutter university experience fails to accommodate the atypical student: one who doesn't see the point of higher education, when the parameters of her life prioritize a more "practical" alternative. I speak about the older student who wishes to start college at a later point in her life, about the person of color who doesn't believe he's "smart enough," and about the student who comes from a low-income family who can't imagine having a career, but has only known the value of a "job."
I'm a first-generational student from a low-income family who immigrated to the US at a young age. I always knew that I wanted to go to college, but could never picture myself doing anything "worthwhile." None of my older siblings managed to go to college and graduate. In my undergraduate, I struggled to pick a major and picked English simply because I liked reading. However, upon reflection, I feel I made a premature decision. As much as I appreciate my undergraduate, I truly didn't know what I wanted to do until my senior year, when I started taking Computer Science courses. Now I've transitioned to a CS interdisciplinary master's program, and have a clear idea of what I can do in the world, and how I can give back to the community I came from.
In my high school, a lot of the students simply believed the didn't have the ability to go to college because we lived in a poor community. We didn't have "careers"... We worked.
I'd like to get rid of this delusion that you are incapable of doing something bigger simply because of your upbringing or your environment. But I think that students need to visualize themselves succeeding in college, something that appears as a fantasy to many potential would-be students from low-income communities.
With this in mind, imagine that your education experienced could be previewed to you at the touch of a button, and that everything you needed to know about your future college major — what classes you’d take, what the homework was like, what the culture was like — was a mere click away.
How might we make it so that the college experience was easily accessible and advertised to all types of people of different paths?
If we can make it so that any one person could experience a preview of what their academic experience may hold, we would be able to bridge the gap that discourages many potential students from trying to start their academic experience.
Given that the success of a student can be factored by how well they relate to their major, isn’t it worth the effort in facilitating that user experience for them in order to meet their curiosity?
What if in helping them decide what to study, in giving them a preview, we set a path for them to do via smartphone or online that would ultimately count towards their degree? What if this online experience could guarantee transferal of credits, or possible acceptance into a 4-year program?
Whether or not virtual reality is the solution, is not my suggestion, although it speaks to the essence of my challenge to question the conventional path towards higher education.