Why getting my son into the right college is not enough

For the last two months, my older son has hit the “SUBMIT” button on the Common App several times. Together, we completed the FAFSA and CSS financial disclosure forms. We are fortunate in that my son receives excellent college counseling at his high school and that he has many family mentors upon whom he can call at each step of getting to — and through — college. He will do well, and we’re all excited for his journey.

But it’s not enough for my son and his classmates to succeed in college. All young people who have the desire and the determination to continue their educations past high school must be provided with the guidance they need to succeed, too. Only then will our society — local and global – capitalize on the full power of human potential.

Local college access networks (LCANs) now exist in more and more communities. I volunteer with the one in our city, Rochester, NY (RCAN). With a shoestring budget, RCAN has established an informative website, RochesterCAN.org, and brings together community organizations in support of events like the upcoming “FAFSAfest,” the purpose of which is to provide one-on-one support to high school seniors and their families so that they get their FAFSA form completed in time.

Many national organizations have been formed to help with college access, like the one I support, the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO). CSO provides information and support to the first-generation college-bound student through its online community, ImFirst.org, which brings together first-gen students, colleges that have a track record of success supporting the first-gen student, and community organizations that provide counseling and other direct services to our youth and their families. Take a look at the website and you will be inspired by the video testimonials of our nation’s “first-gens.”

Why is it so important to help all young people attain a post-secondary school education?

It’s because, ultimately, everyone benefits from every child’s success. My son’s collegiate experience will be enriched in meaningful ways by his classmates whose backgrounds differ significantly from his own. Every city’s economic base will grow if we maximize the human capital of all of our youth, not just the ones who knew from pre-school that they were college bound. And our country will come together and be that amazing United States once again, where each new generation of citizens is engaged with each other, educated well, and contributive not just to economic growth but to the common good, as well.

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