Colleges shouldn’t write off low income schools

Before the fall of my senior year of high school, I had never heard of the University of Southern California. I know it seems like an exaggeration that I could not have heard of this world-renowned school, but growing up thousands of miles away in Chicago didn’t stop me from eventually discovering the Trojan family. Luckily for me, a USC recruiter came to my high school and introduced me to the university’s strong academics and vibrant social life. The rest is history.

Irene Wang | Daily Trojan

Irene Wang | Daily Trojan


Yet several high school seniors around Los Angeles are missing out each year on the experience of regularly meeting with these recruiters. According to the Los Angeles Times, many students attending public high schools in economically disadvantaged areas in and around Los Angeles are not given the opportunity to converse with recruiters from top-tier colleges.

Students in affluent neighborhoods are consistently bombarded with visits from college representatives at their high schools. In the last year, students at La Cañada High School in nearby La Cañada Flintridge received visits from 127 college recruiters, compared to the eight recruiters who came and talked to prospective college students at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles.

The lack of face-to-face interaction between recruiters and these students attending schools in low-income neighborhoods could have adverse effects on their college search. Without recruiters there to introduce students to the possibilities of their particular schools, some students will never be able to learn all of their options. Moreover, students without support from parents who didn’t personally go through the college search makes the financial aid and application process all the more complicated. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, fewer than half of students whose parents did not go to college enroll in college, compared to 85 percent of students whose parents attended college. Because first-generation and low-income students are less likely to attend college, they are the group of students who specifically  need more visits from college recruiters.

The discrepancy is alarming. According to the LA Times, college recruiters are compelled to visit high schools where a large number of students traditionally apply and eventually enroll in their college. Some recruiters also said that the students’ ability to pay tuition without the need for significant financial aid factors into deciding whether to visit a high school or not.

This process seems to deaden the purpose of a college recruiter.

The role of a college recruiter is to identify eligible students and convince them to apply to his or her respective university. No one expects recruiters to hold students’ hands during the process. But college recruiters are vital in showing certain students the possibilities for their college careers. For that very reason, recruiters come to high schools and essentially introduce the school and its information to the students.

Students who attend schools that do not get much foot traffic from college recruiters are not privy to this experience. Furthermore, it is not only advantageous for the prospective students, but the recruiter as well when recruiters visit high school campuses. It is an opportunity for them to sway top students from that school and identify talent for the future, and also gives them the chance to showcase the universities’ highlights and achievements to a new audience.

Though college recruiters have both time and financial restraints to consider when traveling to dozens of schools in such a short period of time, the top priority should be to find those students who have yet to learn about their university.

Interaction between college recruiters and prospective college students is critical. It was crucial to me during my nail-biting senior year, and has been for thousands of students across the country. Particularly with low-income or would-be first-generation college students who do not have many outlets to make contact with college representatives, the free and convenient interaction that is possible through recruiters’ visits should be a primary concern for universities. Plus, it only takes one visit, a PowerPoint and a push of encouragement to introduce someone to his or her future.


Jordyn Holman is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column “Making the Grade” runs Wednesdays.

5 replies
  1. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    Yes and no. “Write off” entirely? No. But the recruiters have limited time and colleges have a limited student recruitment budget. Accordingly, colleges want to spend their resources where there is a reasonable return of qualified students. Sadly, the high schools in the poor neighborhoods yield very few students qualified for the better colleges. And many students who are doubtful or marginal but recruited for diversity reasons soon flunk out. So yes, colleges should make an attempt to find qualified students at poor high schools, but given the yield, this source will never be a valuable place to find top students and will thus never get much college recruiting attention.

    • Christian P
      Christian P says:

      Don Harmon, So the solution is to continue to give up on poor students just because they went to schools that didn’t prepare them? You’re defending a system where the kids who already receive the most are rewarded for having a head start, and those who start behind are continuously punished for being poor. Obviously that’s the status quo, but that doesn’t make it any less messed up.

      You should also get some facts before you spew your self-serving nonsense. “Undermatching”, the process of poor students attending schools below their academic qualification is one of the leading drivers of high dropout rates among low-income students. When these students attend schools like USC they graduate at much higher rates than they would from non-elite schools because institutions like ours have the resources to provide financial aid, counseling, and have graduation rates above 90%.

      Good piece Jordyn.

      • Naw, don't buy it
        Naw, don't buy it says:

        Christian, you are soooo wrong. You’re insinuating that affirmative action is the right thing to do. If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book, “David & Goliath,” he talks about how law schools are the worst when it comes to implementing affirmative action, and that black students admitted through it almost always graduate bottom of their class, at law schools that are at least one tier above what they really should’ve got into. Moreover, Gladwell is half black and isn’t an uncle Tom. Plus, he talks about the “big fish in a small pond” dynamic. Read the book; I’m not gonna expound on it. You need to enlighten yourself, and see both sides of the argument, before you spew your one-sided liberal agenda.

        Succinctly put, you need to drive yourself to where you want to get in life. Government/social intervention hurts more than helps. I stand with Don.

        • Christian P
          Christian P says:

          1. I’ve read the book
          2. Just because one Black person agrees with you doesn’t mean you’re not racist.
          3. I don’t think I’ve ever read a less nuanced post, which is shocking considering this is the internet. Jordyn is defending programs where poor students apply to and attend schools they have the grades to get into. You’re indicting the idea that Black kids should be let into elite schools when they don’t meet the general academic profile of the institution. Its pretty evident that we’re talking about different things. In fact, I am fairly certain that we’re talking about things that are the exact opposite of one another. But even if we weren’t, the folly of putting kids into failing schools, incarcerating their parents, leaving them in food insecure households, and then putting them into universities without providing any kind of support system should be evident. This is clearly an institutional problem, not a “poor black people don’t deserve opportunity problem”
          4. You literally just said “Malcom Gladwell made a really great argument but I”m too inarticulate to explain it”, so I’m just going to make sweeping claims about liberalism without any justification or rational.” Sweet bro.

        • Christian P
          Christian P says:

          Also…pretty sure private universities like USC don’t carry out government intervention. At least it would be very difficult for them do so because they aren’t the government. You’re like those Tea Party Patriots who want the government to keep their hands off of their Medicare.

          You my friend, should read a book…preferably not a Malcom Gladwell one because those obviously aren’t helping you.

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