I'm a black man at a top ten university. Yet, before the summer of my senior year in high school, I could not tell you what Harvard was or even how to pronounce Yale. My grades (and some of my friends for that matter) were always high. But to us, college was college. We did not know difference between Stanford and the local community college. Mostly, because we did not know what Stanford was.
Funny story--first time I heard about Stanford; it was through some movie in which Jack Black plays a bum and his brother/friend or something is trying to get into Stanford.
What was an ivy league? What is prestige? What does ACTing have to do with college?
You have to understand that these are not common place discussions in a "URM" home. Even if the parents wanted their kids to go to good schools, they did not know how to help their kids because they were also in the same situation.
I could not even find a credit/debit card to pay the online registration fee for the ACT. I had to give some random neighbor cash so I could use his card.
And now, I go to school with students whose parents AND grandparents were students at the same University. You think their parents did not craft their personal lives and their resumes to reflect a successful applicant for this particular school.
As mentioned earlier, there is something about the hood. It's a place where people lack access to information, success is discouraged as is seen "acting white" because achieving success (law school/standard English/eating salad) requires you to distance yourself from 'the hood.'
There are all types of sociology books on this type of mentality and it is not limited to the American Blacks. Read and you might understand.
Another important consideration is when all this is happening. We're talking about teenagers and young adults, people that can be easily swayed by peer pressure. Not too many teenagers go on soul searching missions.
I remember when Harvard and Columbia came to interview me and I also remember how lightly I took it. Not because I did not want to go to those schools but because I did not understand the magnitude of these interviews. Why? Because no one was there to tell me.
The career services office was tucked away in some small corner of the building where none of my friends kicked it. So why would I ever go there? . . .Unless I needed to print something and it happened to be the nearest room with a computer and then I saw an ACT booklet (remember those) on a shelf and then just happened to inquire about it and then . . .well you kinda know the rest.
Remember my friends from high school, those with the good grades, well they went to community college because they did not know better. Their families did not understand the value of sending them to distant schools for their FUTURE when their help with the bills was needed at home, NOW.
And me? That summer before my senior year, I happened to get a phone call from an uncle that I did not know existed. One of those uncles who some in the family consider "white washed" and chose to live in some random state away from the community and become a dentist. He knew I had no parental support and, at the time, I was living alone in some low income apartment.
He was my access to information. My ticket from that environment. He challenged me to gain acceptance into a top ten school. It was the first time anyone had taken an interest in my academics. But it would be a long time until I fully came to appreciate my new environment of opportunities and white people and ass kissing professors for recommendations. In fact, my first year in college, I did not speak to a single professor towards the end of the year. They weren't extending a handshake to me and I was too busy wondering "where the fuck I'm I" to do so.
I specifically remember in one of my classes, the TA kept giving me Cs on my papers. I never said a word. I just assumed I was doing C work. Until one day, she gave me a 67. I took all my papers to her and asked her to explain to me why I was getting low grades. She couldn't. She simply changed them all to B+ and A-s (I still think they were As
We (my friends and I) grew up hiding from authority figures. Cops were always harassing. Principals were always hating. We only got to deal with white people when they summoned you.
So what the fuck is office hours?
Despite all the randomness in this post, I hope it conveys the message that a minority student from a disadvantaged background may need several lucky moments in his/her life to get to where a majority (i generalize) of TLSers knew they were going from the get-go.