Posts Tagged ‘college’

What they don’t teach in college

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

mariela-at-working-mother-conference

I just finished writing a short essay for an Anthology of Latinas in Higher Education. It was an interesting piece to write as it made me focus on my college years and the fact that often times I feel as if I had forgotten lots of what I learned. I relive this feeling every weekend when I participate in a Spanish book club in Manhattan and I realize that my peers freely quote from all sorts of novels and poems and even though I have read most of them, I can’t.

I used to think that I suffered from some kind of memory loss. It was worrying and also a bit embarrassing to be one of a small handful of writers in the group and to keep quiet at critical parts of the discussion.

Writing the essay forced me to think about what I learned in college during those six years while I worked on my Masters in Philosophy and Literature. (In Argentina, you enter college and graduate with a Masters degree.) Yes, I read more novels than I can count, and I took four years of Latin and ancient Greek; yes I took Linguistics, Semiotics, History of Philosophy, and all those interesting courses you’re supposed to take when you work on a Liberal Arts degree. But if you ask me to sit down and explain the basics of Parmenides theory, I’d be hard press to come up with the answer.

And yet I know that it was during those formative years that I learned how to structure my own thinking and writing and to create layers of meaning. It was thanks to the hundreds of books that I read and the hours spent interpreting them that I developed the ability to translate complex thoughts and topics into simple ideas for large audiences. These are things you don’t go to college for, when in reality they are the main reason why you do. They are almost a side effect of doing all the hard work in school. The Vitamin D you get from being in the sun when the only thing you were after was a good sun tan.

The experience of spending those years exploring my interests was not only critical to shaping my thinking and worldview, my inner voice and reasoning skills; but in addition, it was instrumental in building my confidence. Those years shaped me, they gave legitimacy to my talents, and they opened up a world of opportunities only available to those who are able to express their ideas clearly.

Would I sound smarter during our book club discussions if I remembered my literary periods better? Probably. Would that make me more effective in my chosen career? Very unlikely.

So I made my peace with the fact that, even though on the surface it seems as though I should be good at something I’ve gone to college for (such as literary analysis, for instance), different people learn very different lessons from the same teachers.

The fact that I have some strong memory loss when it comes to remembering the characteristics of a particular literary movement doesn’t mean that I’ve wasted my education. It means that I selectively remember skills I learned which were not even in the syllabus and that to me are far more aligned with my goals and passion.

How to write a scholarship essay

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

As one of the judges for the RMHC/HACER national scholarship I have the opportunity to read a lot of student essays. Considering that we are talking about 4 scholarships of a $100,000 each, you would expect students to put their best efforts into writing a fantastic essay. Well, unfortunately this is not always the case and students who would be perfect to win this huge award miss out on the opportunity.

I’m not going to focus here on what you need to do during high school to actually qualify for a scholarship, (I’ve written plenty about that in other posts) but on how to write your essay once you have what it takes.

  • Consider each scholarship application separately from others so you can understand what the goal of the scholarship is. Does it focus on a specific area of study? Does it focus on leadership skills? Or on community involvement? Once you identify what aspect the scholarship donors wish to reward, you’ll be better able to choose the topic and focus of your essay.
  • Think about a topic that corresponds to what the scholarship is interested in. In the RMHC/HACER case, the emphasis is on community involvement, so in your essay you should talk about how you have been involved in your community and how you plan to continue having an impact in the future.
  • Write the essay and re-write it until it sounds good to you. It should be a compelling story about you that lets readers know what kind of person you are, where you want to go in life, what kind of impact others had on you, what kind of leader you will be, how you have overcame adversity, etc. Judges don’t want to read “a list” of things you’ve accomplished but how those things define you as a person; they don’t want to read a sad story but how that sad story has made you stronger or has helped you make a certain decision for the future. They don’t want to read your ramblings about your heritage but how that heritage has helped you commit to do something for your community in the future.
  • Ask your English teacher, or an English speaker who is a professional to review your essay and give you feedback. Ask them to help you with your grammar and spelling. It is inadmissible that having time to have someone review an essay that could help you get money for college, you don’t so.
  • Re-write your essay until is perfect. Make sure that if you are using this essay again for another scholarship application, you go through step one again: carefully read the requirements for that award so that you adapt the essay to the program.

    These simple steps should substantially increase your chances of getting lots of money for school!

  • Student leaders at Yale University

    Saturday, February 28th, 2009

    I was up at Yale University in New Haven today, presenting to a group of students members of the National Hispanic Business Association (NHBA).

    The focus of my keynote presentation was leadership so I went over some things students can do while in college to develop their leadership edge. My first recommendation to them was that they should identify their passion and talents and what skills and knowledge they are acquiring in school. Combining all these aspects is what will help them achieve success in whatever it is they decide to do.

    It was fascinating to see how interested students were in getting involved with professional and other non profit organizations and in giving back to the community, two great ways to hone their leadership skills. Although many of them were already engaged in several extra curricular activities, they were interested in getting more information about a program that I have developed for McDonald’s to provide workshops for parents of high school students that help them understand how to support their kids’ path to college.

    It’s an ideal situation for college students to present to parents as they are an inspiration and a role model for their children. They can share their own personal stories as they conduct the workshop. And the truth is, this is a service oriented generation, looking for ways to make a difference. So, it would be a shame to waste all that energy, talent and willingness to help!

    So, here’s the website where you too can download my workshop program for free: www.meencanta.com. Go to the “Becas” section and you will see the Facilitator’s guide and the Videos. They are both available in Spanish and English. Study the program, follow the directions and then contact your local high school to set up a workshop day.

    In this difficult economy, schools can use a hand!

    Obama’s education promise

    Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

    If you missed this part of the president’s speech on February 24th, here it is! I’m excited that the campaign I just launched Latinos in College: Preparing Emerging Leaders for the Workforce is perfectly aligned with his view and where the efforts in education will be made! Let’s all be a part of this historical movement.

    Getting inspired

    Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

    ana-escobedo-cabral.jpgYesterday, I met Anna Escobedo Cabral at HPNG’s Latino Leadership Conference www.hpng.net.

      In case you didn’t know, she’s the Treasurer of the United States, meaning, her signature is in every one dollar bill.

        She gave a very inspiring presentation at a fabulous event that brought together around one hundred Latino professionals from all fields and industries to the Yale Club in NYC. Mrs. Escobedo Cabral spoke about her humble beginnings as the daughter of farmworkers and about the mentor who made sure she filled out her college applications when all she wanted was to get a job as soon as she finished high school.

        She spoke of the days in which she would pick up scrap metal on her way back from school so that her father could sell it, and there could be food on the table. She told us about changing elementary schools over twenty times.

        And still, she persevered. Not only did she graduate with a major in Political Science from the University of California, Davis, but she later earned her Master’s degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Now don’t think for a moment that grad school was easy for her. She already had four children and, on occasion, she attended classes with the youngest one, who, at three, asked questions of the professors. As Mrs. Escobedo Cabral shared that her son has now graduated from MIT as a Nuclear Engineer, I can’t help thinking that some of that early exposure to education paid off.

      Her presentation was an inspiration to all of us at the conference. A reminder that Latinos can get as high as they want regardless of their beginnings.

      What parents can do to help students get to college

      Thursday, March 27th, 2008

      This short video in Spanish gives parents a few tips on what they can do to help their students get on the path to college.

      My New Book

      Friday, February 22nd, 2008

      signing-books-harvard-5.jpg

      I’m working on my new book and I need to interview people across the country about their college experience. 

      I want to hear from recent graduates and from people who have graduated a long time ago about your challenges and successes, your advice for college students, how having a college degree has impacted your career, etc.  

      If you or someone you know is interested in participating in my new book, which is scheduled to be published in Fall 2008, please send me a note with your e-mail address and I will send you the interview via e-mail.  

      You can also watch a video I made for You Tube on my page:  www.youtube.com/cdabbah

      I hope to hear from you!