Marie and I uncovered 30 ways that you can increase your participation in equity and justice in the world of college admissions and beyond. Whether you’re a parent, student, counselor, or admissions rep, you will find tips in here for you. Let’s begin.
Consider not using the word “ally.” Just do the work.
Learn the difference between diversity and equity. Too many are stuck in “diversity”, which is about counting numbers, vs. “equity”, which is about changing culture.
Make sure you’re registered to vote.
Become an effective and supportive bystander by reading this bystander training doc.
Subscribe to The Hechinger Report, which covers inequality and innovation in education with in-depth journalism that uses research, data and stories from classrooms and campuses to show the public how education can be improved and why it matters
And Teen Vogue. Some of the best, most timely, and most sophisticated reporting about inequity in our world.
And the NYT Race/Related newsletter. Aggregates all of the NYT’s coverage about race and identity for a week while also providing thought-provoking commentary about the week’s events.
And Blavity.com. Great insight into the thoughts and experiences of Black millennials. The writing is smart, funny, and insightful.
Don’t decenter what’s actually happening to marginalized people for the sake of an intellectual exercise. The devil doesn’t need an advocate. Example: “That’s awful that R. Kelly abused those women, but to play devil’s advocate, why aren’t we blaming the parents of those women?”
Read three pieces from the Racial Equity Institute bibliography.
If you’re planning a panel or discussion group (say for a professional conference or community meeting), make sure at least half of the participants are women and/or people of color. If you’re in one of those communities, insist that you aren’t the “only” representative on that panel.
Stand up for others, even when — or especially when — it’s most uncomfortable. Gently correcting your misguided roommate/auntie/date/friend when they make biased comments is extremely effective. These conversations are far more meaningful when those engaging know each other. Resources here, here, and here.
When something bad happens in the world, reach out to your friends, colleagues, family members who identify with the community that was harmed. Check in and ask if they are okay; acknowledge that they may be feeling impacted in a way that you don’t realize. Resource: How to Be a Better White Woman to Your Black Friend
For secondary school folks:
Every time a college requests to visit your school, offer a list–with contact info–of other schools and programs that the college should also visit, with a specific focus on those that might not be on the college’s radar. Read more here.
Make sure that all students have access to honors, AP, and IB classes; pay attention to who populates what classes and ask WHY? Read more here.
Learn about all the post-secondary education opportunities in your region including 2-year colleges, trade colleges, HBCUs, Tribal Colleges, and minority-serving institutions. Make a goal of researching at least one college that falls into one of these categories a week. Visit, if you can!
Make sure that your parent/guardian meetings are accessible to all. Provide translators, including ASL interpreters, if necessary. Make sure the time and location are welcoming for all. Provide child-care for parents who have younger students. Is public transportation easily available for your location?
Assume that all families will have questions about paying for college. Don’t marginalize those who need aid by making “financial aid” a separate program; incorporate info about paying for college in all of your programs and communications.
For post-secondary school folks
Host evening/weekend information sessions at libraries or community centers, rather than at private schools or hotels. Make sure that public transportation is readily available, too. Resource: Colleges Recruit at Richer, Whiter High Schools
When visiting a high school, learn about the school’s culture for students of color and other marginalized communities. Some ideas: Ask the students you meet what the school culture is like for students in the minority. Ask who is in student leadership positions. Did you see many students of color at your visit? If not, ask the counselor how you could get in touch with those students.
Do an assessment of the images in your work spaces, public and private. If you are a person of color, go with a white person and vice versa. Walk around and assess the visual images you see. How long did it take to see someone like yourself? How long did it take your partner to do the same?
If your application requires a fee, are fee waivers easy to get? What are other fees that may be a barrier for applicants, like deposits for orientation?
Ask your admissions leaders to accept student-reported test scores during the application process. Resource: More Colleges Let Applicants Self-Report Test Scores
Is your tour guide/admissions ambassador/student host program representative of all voices and experiences? If your tour guides aren’t reflective of your campus community, why not? What are the barriers to participation? For example, at my alma mater, being a tour guide was a volunteer position and required a fair amount of time. Being a tour guide would have cut into my work-study time, so I couldn’t participate.
For college applicants and caregivers
Make sure you’re aware of absentee voter laws in your home state and voter registration for college students if attending outside of their home state. Resource link here.
When visiting a college, ask questions about the college’s culture for students of color. Ask, for example, How and where do students of different backgrounds socialize? Is the Greek system here integrated? Who joins? Who tends to get involved with student leadership? Ask students beyond your tour guide–ask the admissions reps too.
If you hire a test prep tutor, independent college counselor, or even an essay specialist, ask if they provide these services — at no fee — to under-resourced students and schools in your area.
Once you learn about the college search and admissions process, share that info with others! Donate any test prep materials or college guidebooks to a local library or community center. Once in college, consider volunteering as a “near peer” mentor through programs like this one.
Hold your institutions accountable when bias or hate incidents happen, even if the targeted group is not your community. Read this.
Marie Bigham is the founder of ACCEPT: Admissions Community Cultivating Equity and Peace Today, a social media-based action group for the admissions profession, which received the Excellence in Education Award from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling AND was honored by Facebook at the 2017 Facebook Community Summit
With over 20 years in the profession, Marie has served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC); as Vice Chair of the Board for Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS); and on the Board of Directors of Texas Association of College Admissions Counseling (TACAC).