Overcoming Barriers to Achieve the College Dream


     Graduation is over, what now? Feeling unprepared for college, SAT scores not that great, High School grades just average, or worried about getting into college?  If this you, do not fret, consider the story about the mother, the baby and the two villages in the Andes. In a remote area of the Andes, there were two warring tribes, one that lived in the lowlands and the other high in the mountaintop. One day the Mountain people invaded the Lowlanders/Valley people, and as part of their plundering, they kidnapped a baby from one of the Valley families and took the infant with them into the mountaintop.  Now, the Valley people were not good at climbing mountains. They did not know any of the high mountain trails, did not know which mountain areas the Mountaintop people abode, and did not know how to track the Mountain people in their steep terrain.  Nonetheless, the people of the Vale sent out their best party of fighting men to climb the mountain and bring the baby home.


First, the men of the Vale tried one method of climbing and then another. They tried one trail and then another. After several days of effort, they had only managed to climb several hundred feet.  Feeling hopeless and helpless, the Valley men decided that the cause was lost, and began preparing for the return to their village below.  As they were packing their gear for the descent, they saw the baby's mother walking toward them. They realized that she was coming down the mountain which they had not figured out how to climb.  Furthermore, upon closer examination they saw that she had the baby strapped to her back.  How could that be – they asked one another.  Seeking an answer, one warrior greeted the mother and said, "We couldn't climb this mountain. How did you do this when we, the strongest and most able men in the village, could not do it?"


She shrugged her shoulders and said, "It wasn't your baby." 


The moral of the story is; when something is important to you, you will find a way to move mountains to achieve your goal, just as the determined mother did in the story above.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared, "I've been to the Mountaintop," but many disillusioned high school students give up their dreams of achieving a college degree before their quest begins in earnest.  You see the men of the Valley ended their search for the kidnapped baby when they could not locate a clear path to the Mountain Top.  However, unlike the men of the Valley Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the determined mother found a different route to complete their objective, in essence they took an unconventional route and created path for their success.  Thus, I say to you, do not dwell in the valley of depression, instead take action, and if you fail - try something different.  If your goal is to go to college and it is important to you, you must be like the determined mother whom would not stop until she succeeded.


Speaking of mountains, Valleys, and the wide divide between the two, President Barak Obama has acknowledged the disportionality of education being received by many American school students when it comes to readiness for college rigors; a gap which seems impossible for some of these students to cross.  With this in mind our Commandeer and Chief has proposed the use of community colleges to bridge the gap which many rural and urban underprivileged students face, as they seek to fulfill their American Dream of obtaining a college degree.  Thus, if you feel your dream is in jeopardy due to lack of preparation, follow the direction of our Nation's Leader and enroll in a community college.  In addition make good use of your free time: volunteer at a shelter, food bank/pantry, etc.  Treat your spare time like a gap-year student does - enhancing overall college-readiness and social consciousness.  After all, all servicemen go thru boot camp to be prepared for the battle ahead; unless they demonstrated proficiency in ROTC or at a military academy such as West Point or the Naval Academy.


Transcript fails to match demonstrated potential – Rejected Because of Inconsistent Grades: Now for the student whom possess all the basics skills needed to be successful in college, but has been rejected due to inconsistent grades, my advice to you is rehabilitate your image.  You know who you are, you are the one whom possess the personality of the Rabbit in the fable about the Rabbit and the Turtle; you know the Rabbit whom was so busy enjoying the moment he lost focus on the race. In addition, I suggest you boost your community service hours, and take a summer college course at a local Community College which is transferable to a 4 year college; you can also ask a local college to allow you to audit a class.  In essence young Rabbit, colleges will want to see if you are serious about education.  They want to make sure you are not just looking for another playground, club, or party spot.


Proactive Interference – Environmental Impact: Note.  Inconsistent grades from one high school year to another, from one marking period to another may have nothing to do with characteristics of the Rabbit.  Often children in homes torn apart by homelessness, parental loss, immense loss of income, illness, and divorce have inconsistent grades; which is reflective of the turbulent atmosphere of their home environment.  In my daily occupation as a social worker, I can graph a family's struggles by the inconsistent grades of a gifted but inconsistent student; we refer to such a correlation as proactive interference. 


Often the best situation for a hopeful college student impacted by proactive interference of trauma is to become a full time college residential student (on campus), where he/she receives a meal ticket, access to a college infirmary and stable campus housing.  Hence, if you are a college hopeful in this category, it is imperative that you disclose your situation in a discreet, but confidential manner to a College Admissions Officer. This may require writing a letter to the college or better yet seeking an interview with a college dean.  You can also enlist the help of a local political advocate in your district and garner their assistance in expressing your particular situation.  After all the Admissions Officer has no way of knowing if you are a Rabbit or survivor; unless you share your circumstances.  Admissions Officers recognize that resiliency and perseverance are two of the most important indicators for a person's success in life.  In fact, it is a better indicator for determining college success than a high SAT or grade point average.  Note.  In my 30 years as a Social Worker, I have advised and aided many college hopefuls with inconsistent GPA's and average SAT scores gain entrance into colleges of their choice; Dickerson, Penn State, Lincoln University, and Temple.  Thus, I implore you to tell your story, but first write it; in doing such you will find it therapeutic and helpful in coming to terms with your past and serve as road map to where you want to be in the future.


Discerning, Risk Taker – Knowing what you want and holding out for your choice:  There are plenty of students whom are rejected or turned down by their first, second and even third college of choice whom obtain a college degree; some from the varied colleges that previously rejected them initially.  Most of those students had consistent grades, and possess strong academic skills which they demonstrated in high school.  However, they were flexible.  There is a saying, “there is a match for every woman they just have to find the right guy.”  However, there are some individuals so infatuated with a particular love interest that they hold out for the one person to their own detriment.  They pass up other good opportunities that others would give their all for; I call them the Risk Taker.  Thus, if you are not an inconsistent student, Rabbit, or unprepared, but a student who does not want to take out loans, and cannot get enough money to attend the college of your dreams at the present, I strongly advise you to consider this statistic; only 20% of students whom postpone college enrollment to acquire needed money, graduate with a Bachelors Degree.  Those are not prettying numbers, but are numbers just the same.  For the risk taker, I implore you to limit your risks and improve your odds of fulfilling your dream.  How so, well, I love the Amazing Race, it is a show about getting to a destination, without being eliminated. 


On the way participants have challenges called speed bumps which consist of two tasks of which you must complete one, before continuing to the finish line. It does not matter which challenge you choose as long as you complete the challenge.  For the cash strapped college student, the goal is acquiring a diploma with school of your choices name on it.  Thus, for you it appears that the most important aspect of attending college is not how, but where you finish.  With this being the case, instead of not attending college at all or delaying your dreams of becoming a collegiate graduate, consider attending a two year community college, then transfer your credits and enrollment to the college of your dream.  The good news for you is the fact that you defray your overall tuition cost significantly while acquiring the name on your diploma you so desire. Nevertheless, after you acquire your acceptance letter, exhaust all funding sources, I would suggest that you meet with the Admissions Officer and discuss your plans and get them to outline course selections from an indentified Community College which can be transferred to the college of your dreams.


Poor Test Taker, but Good Student: Finally if you are a good student, but a poor test taker, I strongly advise you to give special consideration to the schools which recognise that a student’s standardize test score from the SAT or ACT is not a true measurement of a student's academic potential. This is especially true for minority, underclass, and children of single household parents whom were not afforded the rich extra-curricular activities such as college prep courses, travel abroad, memberships to museums and educational summer camps.  Below are collegiate institutions which acknowledge that test score are not true indicators of collegiate success and are keenly aware of the disproportionality in test scores between individuals whom abode in various demographics.  In fact SAT and ACT test scores paint a alarming picture of the education experience being provided to students attending underfunded cash depleted schools in poor urban and rural areas in comparison to those of their middle and upper class peers.  However, on the bright side, statistics show that students from rural and urban areas when given a chance and admitted to top tier or mid level universities have the uncanny ability to adjust to their environments and meets the demands of the rigorous educational material they are challenged (nacacnet.org).  In other words, educationally deprive students rise to the challenge as their middle and upper class peers when presented the same opportunities; albeit they may have to practice harder.  In recognition of this fact 210 of the nation's top colleges/universities now de-emphasize SAT and ACT scores in their admissions process, choosing instead to look at the complete student rather than a segment of a student's academic demonstrated knowledge rather than relying on the results from a test often administered in a foreign sterile environment.  Thus, we encourage students with poor or average SAT and ACT scores not to be discouraged about finding a college which meets their academic needs, but instead learn from the donkey in the story of The Farmer and the Donkey.


One day a farmer's donkey fell into a well. The farmer frantically thought what to do as the stricken animal cried out to be rescued. With no obvious solution, the farmer regretfully concluded that as the donkey was old, and as the well needed to be filled in anyway, he should give up the idea of rescuing the beast, and simply fill in the well. Hopefully the poor animal would not suffer too much, he tried to persuade himself.


The farmer asked his neighbors help, and before long they all began to shovel earth quickly into the well. When the donkey realized what was happening he wailed and struggled, but then, to everyone's relief, the noise stopped.


After a while the farmer looked down into the well and was astonished by what he saw. The donkey was still alive, and progressing towards the top of the well. The donkey had discovered that by shaking off the dirt instead of letting it cover him, he could keep stepping on top of the earth as the level rose. Soon the donkey was able to step up over the edge of the well, and he happily trotted off.  So remember, when Life shovels dirt on top of you shake it off, keep on stepping and you will step-up, out and over your problems and adversaries.  Thus, I say to all you students feeling unprepared, unworthy and rejected - Step-up, Step-out, But Whatever You do, keep on Stepping!


Important Links


Building American Skills Through Community Colleges: President Barak Obama Initiative

America's College Promise: A Progress Report on Free Community College

U.S.News College: Find the best college for you

PrepScholar     Offers advise on volunteering to enhance College application, recommends online prep programs for SAT, tips on how to improve essay, recommendation letters, and SAT & ACT test dates for 2016/17.

210 “Top Tier” Schools which de-emphasize the ACT/SAT in Admissions Decisions
List of accredited Community Colleges in U.S.

SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips & High GPA but Low SAT Score: What Do You Do?

Applying to College

What should yo do about a poor SAT or ACT score?

Philadelphia Community College

The 50 Best Community Colleges in the United States​​

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Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Inc.  ~  Building a Better Tomorrow  ~  One Young Man at a Time