Mismatch is threat in elite colleges

It’s heartening to learn that children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college have been accepted at the Ivies (“ ‘Their future is bright:’ Bronx high-schoolers celebrate Ivy League acceptances,” New York Daily News, Dec. 12).  I wish them all the best for their success.

But their ability to flourish there is not assured.  Even if they have been prepared to handle rigorous academic work by their public high schools, they may not be as well prepared socially.  Many students in the Ivies come from tony prep schools where they have been socially interacting for most of their young lives.  As a result, the transition to college is far less daunting than it is for students from low-income families.

I saw that first-hand when I was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1950s.  Although Penn in that era had many students from public schools, they never fit in as well as students from legendary prep schools.  I hope things have changed in that regard, but it remains to be seen if social interaction is less important today than in the past.

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2 Replies to “Mismatch is threat in elite colleges”

  1. It’s possible that the internet has enabled lower-SES high school students to gain cultural exposure and social skills somewhat comparable to those of higher-SES high school students.

    I’d guess that the major obstacles to a socially-integrated college life for many lower-SES students will be the tendency for racial and/or ethnic minorities to self-segregate for college social life purposes. To some extent, this is the result of the majority culture excluding the racial/ethnic minorities but increasingly over the recent decades it is also the result of the racial/ethnic minorities affirmatively self-segregating, sometimes including an affirmative rejection of majority students’ efforts to socially integrate with the minority students.


  2. Labor Lawyer: Even when colleges try to make the transition easier for first-timers, they too often fail. Perhaps future generations will more easily integrate. I hope so.


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