Research now indicates that preparation for college or university study should begin as early as the sixth grade and focus on meeting yearly goals that will help to prepare students for higher education. But how can students and their parents begin a working plan to keep on track for higher education?
"It's a dilemma," said Minita Ramirez, executive director of enrollment management at Texas A&M International University, "There's a dizzying array of tests, recommended curriculums, summer enrichment programs, financial aid and scholarship searches, essays and interviews that can often unnecessarily intimidate students and their parents. We've found that the earlier we start to address these perceived barriers - some erected as early as sixth grade - the earlier we can begin to get students to picture themselves in higher education."
To that end, Ramirez, working TAMIU's College of Education and The Texas A&M University System Regents Initiative, has piloted a bilingual poster project that offers a step-by-step approach and checklist for students and parents from grades 6-12 preparing them for higher education.
"Our theme was 'Get in the Picture' and what we've done is list what students should be doing within each grade level as they make their move towards higher education. Because family involvement is crucial, we also list what parents can be doing to support their children at the same time. Because Spanish is a primary language in many of students' homes, we've also provided a full Spanish translation on the reverse," she explained.
The four-color poster is part of a pilot project with partner school campuses in the University's Regents Initiative within the United Independent School District. It was developed by the University's Office of Public Affairs and Information Services with support from the UISD Public Information Office. Complete funding for the project was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Future plans include distributing the poster to UISD and LISD campuses, counselors' offices, libraries and to students and their families through Parent Teacher Associations.
Ramirez noted that the Regents Initiative is considering the effort as a possible template for similar efforts it has underway at each of the Texas A&M University System's nine campuses around the state.
While Ramirez and her staff normally work with high school age students, she said that planting seeds for higher education is a special reward in and of itself.
"The reaction to the poster has been very heartening. Counselors are displaying it. Parents are displaying it in their homes and using the checklists. It's something everyone wants to be behind because we all realize that these are tomorrow's college and university students. We all know that efforts like these are going to be crucial to our commitment to meet the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's 'Closing the Gaps' mandate of increasing access and participation in higher education," she said.
For additional information on the TAMUS Regents Initiative poster project at TAMIU, please contact Ramirez at 326.2278,visit offices in the Student Center, room 128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.