Oct. 18, 2007 — As one effort to demystify the college admissions process for Hispanic/Latino students and their families, the University of Virginia will conduct informational sessions in Spanish at four Northern Virginia high schools this month.
Julie Roa, a 2005 U.Va. graduate and a counselor in the University's admissions office, will lead the sessions at Manassas Park High School (Oct. 22), JEB Stuart High School in Fairfax (Oct. 23), Dominion High School in Loudon (Oct. 24), and Yorktown High School in Arlington (Oct. 25). The events are all free and begin at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to Roa, a panel of U.Va. Hispanic and Latino alumni will share their experiences at the University.
Roa coordinates the innovative Access UVA financial aid program for the admissions office. She brings personal experience to these sessions, recalling her own challenges in explaining to her Spanish-speaking parents everything that she was doing to complete her college application
"Since I came from the kind of situation that faces many students whose parents are not fluent in English, I can understand the difficulties that these parents often have in dealing with a process that is very different and can be very complex," Roa said.
Conducting the session in Spanish, Roa said, will give the parents the advantage of not having to bridge a language gap at the same time that they are being presented with concepts that are apt to be entirely new to them.
"In my own case, I remember that my parents didn’t really understand the very concept of financial aid," said Roa. "The possibility that the University would actually provide money for me to attend was hard for them to grasp. I want to be sure that we make our financial aid opportunities clear.
“Ours is a very different admissions system than most of these parents have encountered. The idea of applying, writing an essay, and then waiting to hear the decision — these are not always familiar to these families, so we want to give them the information in a way that they can better understand the issues that the sons and daughters will be confronting."
After Roa makes her initial presentation, the panels of U.Va. alumni will address questions that the families have about college.
"We are working very hard to increase the number of Hispanic and Latino students, especially as this population continues to increase in Virginia. In particular, we want to introduce them to the Access UVA financial aid program," said John A. Blackburn, U.Va. dean of admission. "By running these community-based programs in Spanish, I think we can break through some of the barriers that we have faced in communicating about both college admissions and financial aid, and also about the very basic but critical issues of sending a child away to college."
In the first-year class that entered U.Va. this fall, 4.8 percent of the students identified themselves as Hispanic-American compared with 4.2 percent in 2006. Overall, the percentage of Hispanic-American undergraduate students is 4.4 percent this fall compared with 3.9 percent a year ago.