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In recent years, HOLA has been building a college success program geared towards high school students who become the first in their family to attend college. We’ve built a mentoring program focused on college applications and essay writing, college-ready workshops, and a college tour road trip.

This semester, sixteen PAT High School seniors hit the road for a four day trip, visiting nine college campuses in Northern California. The group (which included four staff members) bonded during hours of van time, miles of gorgeous scenery, and inspiring outings with HOLA alumni at their campuses.

That our students were so positively impacted by this trip is cause for reflection. Do you remember your first college tour? Did you feel butterflies? Were you with a friend or parent? How did that experience influence your college perspective?

While college tours aren’t considered as important as SAT’s, college applications and financial aid, we believe they are a missing piece in the college prep for first generation students puzzle.

Unless one has older siblings, relatives or friends who attend college and host visits, “college campus” is a vague concept. For some, it takes a few different trips to varying schools to even think that college may be right for them. There is also the chance that their dream school is out of state or on the other side of the country. Maybe getting into that college or finding the funds is not an option, but it can be the driving force leading a student to pursue higher education. However, without the means, some high school students may never know all the possibilities.

While a road trip is often viewed as a cost-efficient method of travel, it is still a trip that costs money. You need a reliable car, gas at $2.65 per gallon, money for eating out, and maybe a hotel. You need a parent who might not be able to take an unpaid day off work. When you add up all the expenses, a college road trip can be a luxury that not everyone can afford — and one that might be viewed as frivolous.

Additionally, for parents who are non-native English speakers or didn’t attend college, the cultural experience can be daunting. If you’ve gone through the college search process, inquiring about details regarding campus safety, study hours, class sizes, career services, counseling, and grants and financial aid may seem like a no-brainer. But this is not innate knowledge, and while high school seniors can be incredibly motivated and wise about their decisions, they still need guidance.

For HOLA students, guides can be found in their predecessors. At every school they visited, there was at least one HOLA alumni representative happy to greet the high school seniors and show them around campus.
Our alumni were instrumental to the tour’s success. Deeply entrenched in midterm cram sessions, these dedicated undergrads made time for our seniors, serving as mentor-peers who could relate, encourage, advise and ultimately motivate. Schools included UC Merced, Sacramento State, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, CSU East Bay, Sonoma State, San Francisco State, UC Santa Cruz and CSU Monterey Bay.

Upon the return home, one of our students stated in a survey, “What I enjoyed most about the trip was visiting the different campuses and envisioning myself there.”

That moment may have been the one thing she needed to inspire her to write a profound essay, find the financial opportunities, and do everything she can to get to the college campus where she can now envision herself.

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  1. Marlen Turcios says:

    Woow! Even I feel inspired and want to go on that road trip! ^.^
    Anyhow, how can I get my daughter to sign up for this amazing once in a lifetime road trip?
    Someone from HOLA please reply!

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