Right now, high school seniors across the country are preparing to apply to college. They meet with their advisors, scan leaderboards, and even consult Reddit discussion forums in hopes of finding the right spot for the next four years.
However, the college admissions process can be as stressful as it is lengthy, especially for black families who often face unique challenges.
Now here‘s Peter O’Dowd is in Timothy Fields and Shereem Herndon Brownthe authors of a new book called The Black Family’s Guide to College Admissions: A Conversation About Education, Parenting, and Race.
Book excerpt: ‘The Black Family’s Guide to College Admissions’
By Timothy Fields and Shereem Herndon-Brown
On a beautiful January day in 2021, a small crowd gathered in Washington, DC
the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as the forty-sixth President of the United States
Conditions. Although that day was overshadowed by the elimination in many ways
President, a tragic domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol earlier this month, and
the continuation of the global pandemic which had limited attendance and which had taken
Lives of millions of people worldwide, there was still so much to celebrate at this historic
Opportunity. As the world watched, we as a country could all witness one
peaceful transfer of power with several notable black figures in the crowd including
the first female Vice President of the United States to identify as such, Kamala Harris
Black and Indian. Vice President Harris is also the first Vice President in existence
graduated from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Howard
University, the same school that US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall had
attended law school years earlier and which is less than three miles away
the steps of the Capitol where she was sworn in.
On the podium for this momentous occasion were members of Congress, celebrities,
and family members of elected officials. Among the crowd was the first black
US President Barack Obama, who began his undergraduate education at Occidental
College and then transferred to Columbia University. (Occidental is private
predominantly white institution (PWI) in Los Angeles, California, with 1,839 students
and no graduate students.) He was accompanied by his wife, former First Lady Michelle
Obama, who attended Princeton University. Also present was Congressman Jim
Clyburn, a key catalyst in the election of the new president, is drawing to its south
Carolina State University baseball cap and shows great pride in his home state
and his HBCU alma mater. However, many would argue that the highlight of the day
was the powerful poem by National Youth Poet Award winner Amanda Gorman,
who attended Harvard College. We mention where these people went to college
because for many of us, college is a badge of honor. While there were many others
On this day we highlight these individuals because of their diversity
Educational choices they made that may have influenced why they chose them
stage on this important day.
Just as they achieved their success through various college paths, many people
Achieve success without going to any well-known or chosen college or without going
to college at all. The goal of most parents is for their children to lead a healthy life,
be good citizens and eventually become successful, whatever they choose
define it. Some define success as simply getting admitted to college; others through
Graduated with a college degree and earned honors and titles from her
achievements; but most measure success by the amount of money they make.
Regardless of how success is defined, college is usually a part of that equation
occupied by President Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President
Harris, Congressman Clyburn and Amanda Gorman. While all of them had different
Opportunities and life circumstances that may have influenced her path
college, they all decided to leave. Despite differences in resources, size, location and
institutional in nature, each school offered something that made it grow
and experiences of success at work. Did you know when you chose yours?
School, perhaps with the help of a parent, a college advisor, or a family friend
You would end up on that stage as part of history that day? Probably not, but the
The fact that they went to such different universities says a lot about the unique higher
We have an education system in this country that offers so many opportunities
Students pursuing higher education. In many places there is not such diversity
of the world.
No matter how great the school they went to, that choice didn’t determine theirs
presence on this stage; Rather, the key was what they did with the opportunities
offered to them both in college and beyond. As parents, it is important that you and
Your child understands the choices that lie ahead. Whether they choose to
going to college, wanting to be an artist or athlete, or having entrepreneurial spirit and
drive, you know your child best and as they enter their formative years, you can
likely say the path they are on given their skills, talents and others
Characteristics. College isn’t for everyone, and the journey to and through college can be
to be difficult. The multiple choices that go into it, especially for black families, have
multiple levels beyond simply selecting the college you wish to apply to
In June 2020, just weeks after the tragic killing of George Floyd, the entire
Land was trying to deal with the tragedy that had happened in Minneapolis
and the reality that was violent racism
alive and thriving long after desegregation in America. While many
wanted to consider what happened to George Floyd as an isolated case, his death
was one in a long line of unarmed black people to die at the hands of the police.
These deaths represented a reality check and an awakening for a country that had turned around
turned a blind eye to injustice for far too long. Across the country, people of all
Backgrounds took to the streets to protest and signal that these acts of injustice and
Racism can no longer be tolerated.
At the same time as millions took to the streets in protest, an online
Movement began in Atlanta and quickly spread nationwide. Brave young black man
People took to social media to express their anger and frustration with their wealthy
private schools for their blatant racism or for their complicity in microaggressions
white students and faculty. Thanks to the accelerated pace of social media, there is
soon [email protected] were posts from schools across the country who
documented cases of racism against black students. And it hurt us to read
We are both black parents and although we have made different choices regarding ours
Children’s schools, which all of our six children mostly attended
white schools. We’ve been to mostly white high schools ourselves: public
(Tim) and private (Shereem). The feelings expressed in these Instagram posts that
Fear, anger and isolation hit home very close. When we read student posts,
we knew they gave voice to truths we had known for most of our adult lives.
We also knew that we had to use our voices to amplify theirs and address one of the voices
Most common topics in the posts: student counseling.
Excerpted from The Black Family’s Guide to College Admissions: A Conversation about education, upbringing and race. Copyright 2022. Published with kind permission of
Johns Hopkins University Press.