Belonging in college

I just read an article from the NY Times called “Who Gets to Graduate?” which discusses ways to help students who struggle with college to believe in themselves and help them finish their degrees. The article says:

Doubts about belonging and doubts about ability often fed on each other, and together they created a sense of helplessness. That helplessness dissuaded students from taking any steps to change things. Why study if I can’t get smarter? Why go out and meet new friends if no one will want to talk to me anyway? Before long, the nagging doubts became self-fulfilling prophecies.

This article really gave me pause. I was a strong student in college. Considering both my parents went to college, my mom has an advanced degree, and I went to a good high school, that’s hardly surprising. When I got to college, I felt like I belonged there and that I would learn well.

I felt like I deserved my college success. I tried hard and spent lots of time studying. I also joined groups to make my massive school feel smaller (which I recommend to anyone going to a big state school). I didn’t think too hard, though, on the privilege I had from feeling like I belonged. 

I’m glad schools are studying what it takes to level that playing field, to help others, who are minorities and/or first generation college students, reach that same level of belonging. Feeling like you’re in the right place helps you get through the rough patches. I think it makes the rough patches then feel like part of the experience instead of like a sign that you’re not meant to be there.

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