Words Unspoken in My Home

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I recently spent a few days with a friend about to send her eldest son off to college. And as she talked about their plans for the summer and fall, I realized that there were just a lot of things we take for granted as white-collar professionals that many of our students would never experience. In particular, I was struck by some words that would never have been uttered by my parents.

Let’s think about which of these schools would be a good fit for you.

I know the tuition is high, but I’m sure they have financial aid.

I’ll take a week in March and we can go visit some schools.

Let me talk with the registrar and see if I can get this straightened out.

You should see who the faculty are in your department; you might be able to do some research with them.

They have a summer orientation week in July for incoming freshmen; you’ll enjoy that.

We’ll get you a new laptop before you go.

These aren’t surprising words; millions of parents are saying something similar right now. But millions of other parents can’t take a week from work to do campus visits; don’t have the understanding of college structures that would allow them to intervene; wouldn’t know how to evaluate one school or one program against another.

Cultural capital accrues across generations, and lots of our students, as bright and eager as they may be, are starting without much in the account. It’s up to us on the inside to help them start to accumulate their early balance.