But Why Not…

“Okay, #SAchat. I have something to admit: I feel like I’ve let you down. I feel cynical and uninspired, and I’m uncertain how to change it.”

I sent out the above tweet earlier today. I sent it out right in the middle of a weekly #SAchat happening, but it wasn’t directly related nor triggered by the conversation. In fact, it wasn’t even related nor tied to particular #SAchat threads. No, it’s something I’ve been sitting on for quite some time, and I can’t even pinpoint how long ago that I started to feel this way.

Since making the move from being a student affairs graduate student to being a full-time professional, I’ve seemingly disengaged, and I’ve done so much, much more than I expected. As a #SAgrad, I was thirsty for knowledge, to learn, to immerse myself in the information about student affairs and higher education. I was ready to be the catalyst that sparked students’ “a-ha!” moments. And in many ways, today–I am. Sometimes those moments are difficult, like when I have to gently explain that the major for which I advise is not a viable option. And other times, those moments are wonderful, like when I can help a student reframe what it is about their current major that will help them in the long-run, especially when they can’t quite connect the dots between the “now” and the “yet to come.”

I have made new connections. I have strengthened many existing connections. I’ve lost several connections, too, though, and I was saddened to see how far removed I had become from several specific contacts. They used to be major drivers behind why I was pursuing my degree, and they believed that I would go out and do great things in the field. And to see that they’re just now on the peripheral of my professional life makes me step back and wonder if I’ve slipped into mediocrity. I feel like a promising college quarterback who went on to the NFL and just did… alright. Not bad, not outstanding, but just… okay. “Meh.”

I like to think that I do a good job. In my recent six-month review, I was pleased to see that I could identify where and how I’d fulfilled my job description and many of the goals I set out for myself. I presented at a national conference. I’m gearing up to present at another conference next week. My students wave and smile when they see me (hey! They know me! They like me!).

But even then, I feel like I’m sitting on my own potential. You’ve probably all seen how rabidly obsessed I became with CrossFit. Why does this hobby, activity, sport, lifestyle get to me like nothing else really has? Why am I writing about my fitness non-stop but not the profession that I spent more than two years writing about non-stop?! For starters, I can point to the team aspect and the part where I’m getting in the best shape of my life.

Beyond that, CrossFit is something that is truly difficult for me. CrossFit is actually something that I’m bad at, despite all my posts and affection for it. I suck at CrossFit. I was worse when I began, and I’m better now, but I have a very long road ahead of me. In other words, it challenges me like nothing ever has before. But I see what I’m learning, I can apply what I’m learning to many other aspects of my life, and this silly sport might be just what I need to kick my own butt into high gear.

I’m talking beyond fitness. The thing about what I do professionally is that I like it, I feel like I do make a difference, and I feel like I am constantly applying theory into practice. But it just doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t mean that I don’t have enough to do; I have many projects to balance, and I enjoy the variety of things that I do in my capacity as an adviser and “curriculum support specialist” (we never settled on an official “ampersand” part of my Academic Adviser title, but this gets at it).

What I mean is, if my dad were still alive, he would probably lecture me on not challenging myself enough. He would be telling me to write more. He would be telling me to travel more. He would be telling me to go out there, ask questions, and use my noggin. What I’m basically getting at is, I would continue the good work I do now but take it a step further. He would back me all the way if I said, “Then I suppose I need to pursue my doctorate.” I want to feel the same drive about my career that I do about my fitness. Staying hungry. Wanting more.

I am beginning to think that “research” is when I thrive. I say “when” because I mean the act of formulating a question, seeking out the information, crafting the information, writing the information, sharing the information, and then repeating the process… actually, I just got really into what I just said there. That’s… that’s where I’m supposed to fit in.

CrossFit, for example, fascinates me. The premise of it is basic enough: high-intensity, constantly varied, etc. and so forth. In terms of what it does to my body physically, I’m not super-interested in that. What I’m interested in, though, are ideas of:

Why do I, personally, keep going back for more? The workouts are high-intensity, and I routinely think, “I hate this. What am I doing?” What’s at work, psychologically?

Who are the people that keep going back for more? Do we share common themes (e.g., extrovert/introvert; team-sport background; social interaction needs, wants, ideals; motivation)?

Who are the people that aren’t participating? Who doesn’t the model work for, in terms of who starts and then subsequently stops (e.g., personality type; athletic background; motivation)? Who is not starting and what are the barriers (e.g., socioeconomic status [Is CrossFit a grittier substitute for the country club?]; cultural norms)–and this question in particular then also feeds into deeply-rooted sociological issues that aren’t necessarily going to be changed by CrossFit or the athletes… but they are things I think of.

Pair this with my interest in holistic wellness and spiritual well-being, stemming from graduate school. If learning happens outside the classroom, then learning also happens outside the walls of institutions. What can I do with this? What are the burning questions I’m trying to get at here?

Well, I’ve got a few questions I’m developing. Now… I guess it’s a matter of starting the research. Slowly, with Google Scholar and whatnot.

When I came out of graduate school, I had a very clear of idea of where I wanted to begin my journey: academic advising. However, I had no clue where I wanted that path to go next. Framed just in terms of administration, I couldn’t pinpoint very many things. I thought I wanted to avoid the hard work of more advanced education, as well. I thought I wanted to avoid pigeon-holing myself into scare tenure-track faculty roles. I thought I wanted to avoid further student debt.

But then I got to thinking about all the people who believe in me (and those that would, if they were still here). And they would believe wholeheartedly that by going after the scary things, the impossible things, that beyond the odds, I would find my place.

So… just a few final thoughts to wrap up my long-drawn-out story of why I’ve been so “blah” lately and why my #SApro and #SAchat friends may have been worried that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, never to emerge again. I’m not jaded; I’m hungry for more knowledge. I’m not depressed; I’m not pushing myself like I should be. I’m not discontent with where I’ve landed; in fact, it’s given me the clarity and the setting I needed to start to conceptualize my potential. And this will all take time and planning and the occasional swift kick from friends and family.

I’ll leave you with this tonight, just to chew on it:

Successful people pursue hard things. Unsuccessful people avoid them.” – Greg Glassman (via way of a friend)

“‘…why not you?'” – Russell Wilson




Still Here

I had a whole something ready to type out, and it was going to be a really great follow-up to my post about being happy, and it was probably also going to be my thoughts on the How I Met Your Mother finale (because the internet *really* needs more opinion posts on that episode, am I right?).

However, life’s continuing to do its “lifey” thing, and I’m in the middle of several projects. I have a presentation this Sunday at the university, discussing medical school applications. I’m following that up with a quick trip to San Francisco for another presentation at the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education conference, which will cover mixed-race/multiracial identity development and the power of story-telling. And somewhere in there, I have to manage to move all my stuff out of one house, and shove it all into another house just a few miles away.

I am also…

…I clicked away from my update page and forgot what I was going to say.

I promise I’ll have a great reflective piece on this year’s CrossFit Games Open. (As soon as I tally up the Fantasy Open scores and report back to the winners.) I don’t currently have any great “single in the city” stories, so sorry on that front. I’ve been too obsessed (for lack of better words) with my technique and progress in CrossFit, as well as just generally enjoying my time back here in Seattle. Budgets are boring, so you don’t want to hear about that, but I’m thinking of traveling to the UK for a few days immediately after Christmas so I can celebrate New Year’s Eve with some good friends in Edinburgh.

Basically, life is happening, and April is shaping up to be super-duper busy, and I’ll try to be better at updating and just writing in general, although that probably won’t happen until my conferences and the move are all over.

Until then, keep being mindful, stay curious, and don’t second-guess yourself. (Pro tip: these are also words of advice for myself.)

One For the Books

Wednesday was the big day.

…no, I didn’t get married.

No. Wednesday was my NACADA presentation. My colleague and I presented on a topic that roughly translated into, “Why new professionals should not be afraid to think about two-year colleges as employment options.”

We got saddled with the 8AM slot on the last day of the conference, which is well-known as one of the most challenging times for these types of conferences. However, my co-presenter and I took it in stride, knowing that this could open the door for good conversation and involvement with attendees. We did end up with a small crowd, albeit a crowd which was larger than our anticipated audience.

We were able to do audience introductions, to be able to discern the backgrounds our attendees brought. We were able to give people at least ten minutes to discuss and develop strategies for recruitment, outreach, and visibility near the end. And it gave us the chance to comfortably share our stories as advisors.

We went over the research we had done, addressed misconceptions about two-year colleges and how typical job gripes may confound the misconceptions. I talked about how my fellow grad students expressed hesitation and even intimidation when thinking about taking on employment within the two-year colleges. My co-presenter talked about how he is finding greater purpose in the two-year, even with some of the unique challenges he faces in his particular geographic area.

During the discussions, we had participants consider which factors they think could benefit grad students and new professionals. We had them come up with ideas, and the most common one was “internships.” And since most were already professionals, that meant getting the message out to the target group and telling them, “We have opportunities. We want you to come check this out. Come shadow. Come intern.”

And at the end, one participant came up to me to say that she really enjoyed the session and wanted to keep in touch to further the idea of grad students actively exploring the two-year option.

Of course, beyond my presentation, I had the opportunity to connect with other advisors/advisers and professionals, as well as attend quality sessions. I heard about the great things people are doing to help students in transition, as well as how to frame difficult conversations in specific contexts (e.g., pre-health advising, which is apparently what I keep finding myself doing). There were presentations that will be helpful as I [hopefully] advance my career, which will help me effectively supervise and take on new roles. And there were presentations which confirmed that I am, as a new professional, doing the right things by continuing to learn, continuing to stay curious, and continuing to improve how I approach my work.

Special thanks to all of you who helped get me to the conference. I know some of you contributed even though you are trying to save up to get to an event of your own, and that means so much to me. You have earned a virtual hug and a virtual high-five, although many of you have received hugs and high-fives in real life since then. Thank you!

Several folks contributed the amount to earn a written thank-you on the blog. So, thank you to:


And there were a few souls who trusted and believed in me enough to earn a video shout-out.

Overall, I am happy with the way it went. It was a presentation that came out of love for the two-years and the realization that not everyone gives the two-years a thought because of misconceptions and because of intimidation. It came together by way of a presenter matching tool and crowd-sourcing the funds to make it to the conference.

In other words… we did it! Thank you again, and what I took away from the conference and will bring back to my current position is so valuable. And what I took away from the crowd-sourcing part of this effort is also valuable, as you all helped me to take this next step, realize a dream, and do something that hopefully will inspire others.

Goodbye. Hello.

Goodbye (for now, but you’re not going to be rid of me), Portland.

Hello, Seattle.

Remember when I said I wanted to put down roots somewhere? Well, I decided maybe it wasn’t quite time for that. I instead decided that my late twenties demanded at least one more uprooting.

Roughly three years after saying goodbye to the Emerald City, I am back. I accepted a job at the University of Washington. I will be continuing my journey as an advisor (although it seems my new title will require me to call myself an “adviser”) with the School of Public Health’s Public Health Major. This all happened quicker than I expected, as I had originally thought about starting a casual hunt for my next position around October or so.

So. Here I am. All I knew is that I needed to be at work at 8AM on September 17th, and everything else was secondary. It all worked out, and I was able to say goodbye to many of my favorite PDX folks, then take two days to move into a new home and unpack for the most part before starting.

I was so lucky to start out with Clark College, and my love for the two-year college system and public education helped me learn and grow as a professional. I have solid connections at the two-year level, and I intend to continue being an advocate for our students, especially transfer students I may see.

I’ll miss my colleagues, my CrossFit HEL (please don’t get me started because I will cry), my quirky Portland house, the easy-going attitude that Portland embraces, and the “it’s ten degrees hotter today than in Seattle” summer days. I will strangely miss not pumping my own gas.

A few of my friends have already noted that I will likely spend many weekends and days off in Portland, and they’re right. That said, I am excited to be located in my core network’s city again; I am also happy to be in a place where the distance to my hometown is the same as the distance to Portland.

I am the type of person who now believes in a different kind of open door policy, one in which I will leave a place I treasure with the fully-intact option to someday return. I believe in the infinite strangeness of the universe, and to that extent, I believe I end up exactly where I need to be.

Here’s to the next step. Here’s to new adventures. And here’s to never forgetting that I am constantly becoming, that I am writing my own story.


The other day, I was buying coffee at the bookstore on my campus. A student was next to me, checking out the refrigerated lunches. He turned and saw me, then said, “Ardith? Hey! You’re my advisor!” I recognized him, and asked him how he was doing. He responded, “I’m doing well, but my time at Clark is done. I just got accepted to Eastern Washington.”

To which I simply raised my hand, and we high-fived.

Yeah, I like what I do.

All of This

I am almost a month into “Hashtag Best Summer Ever,” and I have stored enough Vitamin D to get me through the winter, I think. I spent another lovely weekend in Seattle, visiting friends, visiting familiar haunts, and trying new places out. (Might I recommend The Commons out in Woodinville to you all? Try the boozy milkshake.)

Currently, I am taking several days off from CrossFit to regroup and recoup. Not just physically, but to take some mental renewal. For instance, I am spending some time thinking about what I am striving for with my career and chosen industry. I want to be intentional in setting goals for myself so that I have measurable outcomes. The biggest goal currently is to raise the necessary funds to present at NACADA in October. Again, you can help out by chipping in as little as $5; follow the GoFundMe link to the right for more information.

But other than presenting at a national conference, what else am I looking for? What comes next for an academic advisor who has found the most enjoyable conversations have come out of academic dismissal meetings? These students are given one quarter where they cannot enroll in classes at the college, and the majority of them come to the meeting with articulated reasons for why they did not succeed in previous terms. We get to talk about their goals and aspirations, and then we whittle it down to why they think our college fits into their plans, and then finally the logistics of registering for a class. It is an opportunity for us to explore the bigger picture together, and then get into the details and tactics of how to complete that bigger picture.

I like facilitating intentional thinking for others because it’s been such an important part of my own life. I want to find myself in a role where I can inspire students to change the world around them, one tiny ripple at a time. I want to see those “ah-ha!” moments come into fruition. I do not have the answers to what comes next; it is a process that is just beginning.

Besides my career, I am also taking this summer to really reflect on what I want in a partner. I have had so many failures to launch and near-misses and train-wrecks, that it is time to step back. A few weeks ago I brought up the fact that this is my first summer unattached and single in a very, very long time. It has been quite interesting to do the activities that I always thought were better with another person and instead just have so much fun just focusing on myself and my friendships.

Here is what I am starting to consider, in terms of this hypothetical connection I want.

We (“We” being “future Mr. Partner Man” and myself) have to be so okay with the idea of discarding “normal plans.” We also have to be okay with the idea of reworking “normal plans” to fit who we are–not to fit any one idea of what a couple should be doing milestone-wise. He should be okay knowing that I might shift my idea of what my career will look like and pursue the Ph.D. track with the sole intention of becoming Communication faculty, but he should also be okay with the fact that I might strive for a Dean of Students position. Or I might back off and go part-time and pursue writing and the whiskey bar I’ve been secretly wanting to be a part of. I fully expect this partner to have the same kind of aspirations, but the idea remains the same: moving forward towards fulfillment, towards purpose, towards happiness, and towards the next greatest adventure.

Somewhere in there, a home of our own and a family of our own will organically come forward. Dogs, kids, a yard? Maybe. A rabbit, one kid way down the road, and an urban loft? That could very well be, too. Something that isn’t even a blip on the radar? More than likely. The thing about me is, I am in a constant state of evolving and becoming; that’s how a relationship should unfold with me. That’s why I am not forcing anything or pursuing anything. I am not waiting nor on pause. I am here. And I am trusting in the infinite goodness (and weirdness) of the universe. (Do you hear me, Universe?)

I want this summer to be a summer of healing for myself, too. For too long, summer has been a season that I love because of the weather and the way it lends itself to spontaneity and adventure, but it has also been a season of heartache, historically. I want to show myself that I can be happy in the summertime by being a little bit selfish and treating myself the best way possible.

I heard a great quote last night on my drive home, and it really resonates with me because of the way I feel and experience this journey called life:

“I don’t think you can appreciate the glory of life unless you also know the dark side of life.” – Bessel van der Kolk, On Being interview

How true. Some may think I have too many feelings, but I cannot imagine a life in which I do not appreciate the full spectrum of my human emotion. This summer, I commit to spontaneity and intentionality, socializing and reflecting, growing and knowing when to take a moment for myself because all of this matters.

It matters more than I even know.



I Didn’t See You There

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I’m working on a piece that’s been rolling around this head of mine for some time. Between working and working out and spending the weekend getting sun and BBQ’ing, I haven’t had time to share thoughts on education or working out or LIFE lately.

One cool thing that I do want to share, however, is that my GoFundMe project is live. For those that do not know, I was accepted to present at the national NACADA (National ACademic ADvising Association) conference in October. Based on budgetary restrictions at my Washington state institution, however, I am not being funded by the school to attend and present. But, because this is my very first national presentation, I’m going to find a way to get there. What I’m attempting right now is to crowd-source the funding to cover my registration fee, flight, and accommodations. The goal is $950, with a current amount of $110 raised.

I’ll be posting here about why I’m presenting, why this is important, and other cool things. So, if you are keen to learn more (and hopefully to chip in a bit for this amazing opportunity!), click on the GoFundMe link on the right. There are reward and thank-you levels for different dollar amounts, but you can donate what works for you.

(Also, if I see you in real life, I also have the ability to collect donations less than $5. The site only allows for $5+.)

Thank you so, so, so much in advance. You really have no idea what the support means!

Putting Up Numbers

“Coach, this time last year, I thought CrossFit was an eating disorder.”

True story.

What a difference time makes.

Now, here I am, grumbling about how my assisted pull-ups disintegrate after about ten reps and how thrusters are miserable and wall balls are clearly unfair to us short people.

We did the HEL5 last week, and I PR’d four out of the five lifts. I’m most proud of my deadlift attempt: 200lbs.! I’ve been working through 195lbs. since I competed in April, and it finally happened. I didn’t PR my shoulder press during the HEL5, but I had bested 65lbs. the week prior; I attempted 75lbs. during my second attempt in the HEL5, but did not succeed. So, I have a new goal. Thank goodness.

Here’s the evidence:

6/20/13 HEL5 results

6/20/13 HEL5 results

In order:
Back squat – 160lbs.
Strict press – 65lbs.
Deadlift – 200lbs.
Bench press – 100lbs.
Overhead squat – 95lbs.

We have also been doing quite a few benchmark WODs. This Tuesday was Fran, and I scaled the weight tonight to stay within the 5-10 minute time domain (it took me 11+ minutes at 65lbs. two months ago). My pull-ups absolutely collapsed near the end; I was not happy with myself. I know what I’ll be hitting hard (along with wall balls) for the next few weeks.

Anyway, things are going in the world of CrossFit. I have two skills left in the Basic test along with a sub-15 Christine. I want all of this.

On to something somewhat unrelated to fitness but definitely related to growth, I’m starting a GoFundMe fundraiser. I was recently accepted to co-present a workshop session at a national academic advising conference in October 2013. The problem comes down to I don’t have the funds to get myself there, along with two family weddings in the same month, and my institution also doesn’t have the funds to support me in my first ever national presentation. So, I’m figuring out what to do about the family travels, but I’m turning to peers and friends and family to help me out with this amazing professional development opportunity.

Here’s where you can find out more about how to help out: Help Get Ardith to NACADA!

Fun fact: If 190 people donate $5, I”ll reach my goal!


The Calling and the Purpose

A lot has changed in the past few years since starting to pay more attention to this concept of “purpose.” I switched career tracks, switched industries, and signed up for a lifetime of being over-worked, underpaid, and under-appreciated (or so the “common knowledge” says), all in the name of having some sort of impact on this crazy world.

Since identifying higher education as my ideal setting, I’ve been working to further refine that idea. What do I want to be able to do as I progress through this career? “Helping students” is so generic and broad, but I’m starting to get an idea of what it is I want to do.

The two-year college is an environment that I’ve always been drawn to. I was lucky enough to land a job in my first-choice realm*. Now that I’m in, I’ve been realizing that it’s open access that drives a lot of those admirable traits I see in the two-year college.

It’s not a perfect world, though. There are still many policies and procedures throughout this kind of setting that create barriers. There are specific populations who are more affected by these barriers, and I have an inkling that my eventual role will be to analyze and create policy that betters these experiences.

For now, I need to keep brushing up on my technical skills and my soft skills. I need to look further into what I want to know more about, what drives my curiosity.

How about you? Is working a means to an end? Or is work something that takes your interests and talents and churns out something bigger than you imagined?

*In case you’ve been wondering, my top choices for work environment go, in-order: 1. two-year public; 2. four-year public; 3. four-year private Jesuit; 4. four-year private Catholic

The “Better” Shun the Best

This is one of those Monday nights where I thought I had lots of great things to say and share, but then it turns out, I’m just kind of a big happy mess from a week straight of working out/training and getting all hugely re-inspired about what I do for a living.

However, here’s one thing I’ve been pondering all day, but forgive me if this ends up being convoluted–my glasses are in the other room, and it’s just too much of a chore to go get them right now, and I’m a bit tired and rambling.

My good friend over at This is Not Real Life shared her thoughts on this New York Times article. I read her post, and then immediately flooded her poor dashboard with several full-length comments, all in support of her ideas and, naturally, in support of my beloved public institutions.

As a new student affairs professional, I’m still all alight about the role that I have in affecting students’ lives. But I’m not going to analyze what it is that these “elite” institutions need to do to attract the high-achieving poor (I’ll save that for another day). Instead, I’m going to share my story and my ponderings, too, because–as you should know–storytelling is an important aspect in the ongoing development of one’s identity.

There’s no doubt that my parents weren’t rich growing up. We were secure, that’s for sure, but we didn’t live a lavish lifestyle. I got dance lessons and music lessons, and I don’t remember applying for financial assistance for field trips or lunches, but I do remember that my dad questioned me one time as to why I absolutely needed to spend $60 or so on track team sweats.

I also remember that my parents told me not to go to my audition at Cornish, that it would be too expensive if I went there, and I shouldn’t consider it a college choice. While I’m certain a lot of this had to do with the fact that my parents just knew I would change my mind away from music, I’m also fairly certain this also had to do with finances.

Cornish was the only private institution I really considered. It was because, at the time, I wanted to study music; of course, I didn’t even think about the fact that it was a private institution. I just knew it was a music conservatory, and the other schools I was looking at were “just” universities.

The other “real” private institutions had long been ruled out. So had the out-of-state schools. I don’t specifically remember any conversations my parents and I had, but I think I remember saying something about a California school, and Dad briefly scolding me about the expenses involved–something along the lines of, “No way. That’s too expensive; you’re looking in-state.” The only private institution I was encouraged to think about was Gonzaga, although for the life of me, I really don’t know why. (Any insight, Mom? You know, Seattle University is a Jesuit university, too!)

So, long, long ago, I knew that I was going to go to a public institution without even consciously thinking about it. I wasn’t the most in-tune with my identity as a mixed-race female coming from a middle-class family. We were more towards the “not high end” of the middle-class spectrum, although Mom and Dad had so much in order that I never really considered our socioeconomic status. All I knew was we didn’t make enough money to send me to Stanford or Harvard, even though I was one of the smartest and brightest kids on the block.

I wasn’t going to go to an Ivy League school. End of question. My dad knew how financial aid worked. Maybe he was just trying to save me the disappointment of applying to those “highly selective” private institutions and finding out we’d be several thousand short despite PLUS loans and scholarships. (And I had a heck of a time securing scholarships my senior year, partially because I was lazy in writing the essays, and partially because I couldn’t sell my skills and talents and dreams without coming up short against the tri-sport athletes and virtuosos in my hometown.)

Like my friend (whom I eventually met in college), I chose Western. I chose Western Washington University because it was a good university, and because I was accepted into the music program there, and because my parents approved the price tag. I also got a scholarship! Whee! Granted, I was awarded a lot more free aid at Central Washington University, but I was keen on going west, out of eastern Washington and into the big (rainy) unknown. I never regret that choice because WWU became a driving force in my transformation into a much more conscious participant in society and a much more self-aware person.

After reflecting on all this, though, I still wonder about a few things. What if… I had been given the go-ahead to apply to one or two private institutions? Which institutions would I have chosen? My inclination is that I would have applied to Stanford, Harvard, maybe Notre Dame–those are the names that got people recognized, after all. Would I have worked harder to apply for more scholarships? How would I have reacted in finding out that the price tag on those “dream schools” was too much–or worse yet, still too much? Would I have then felt as if I was giving something up in choosing a public institution? Or would I have fought tooth and claw for the chance to go, no matter the cost?

I’m not sure about any of that. I mean, in my town, getting into University of Washington was a huge deal, and I turned that school down after acceptance.

I also wonder if–had the stars aligned in some strange way–would I have felt welcome at an elite institution? Would I have gone through my experience as “the girl here on scholarship?” What would that have been like for a young woman who had never before questioned her SES and was suddenly thrust into not just college culture, but a culture of social elitists and the privileged? I know that we ask those same questions in student affairs programs, but I wonder what’s being done to really help students that do make it to that final step of sending in their acceptance letter, despite all the barriers to their success.

In the end, it wasn’t a lack of awareness that kept me from the highly selective private institutions*. I was not a first-generation college student; my parents had plenty of experience with higher education. It was the reality that, even with a school’s help, there would be a steep price to pay. And as my friend brings up–am I losing out on opportunities because I couldn’t afford to brand my resume with words like “Harvard” or “Stanford?”

I’m capable of good work. I highly doubt that wealthier students my age were any smarter than me; it wasn’t purely brains that got them that Harvard education. The thing that kept this brilliant mind and many others out of those ivied walls were these ideas–no, realities–that an “elite” education has to mean absurd sacrifice for those of us not living lives of incredible economic privilege, and maybe–just maybe–an idea in the back of my head that, in the end, I just didn’t belong there.

I graduated from public school. Take THAT!

I graduated from public school. Take THAT!

*Also, just because something is “highly selective” doesn’t mean it’s the best. “The best” is going to factor in a lot of things, including cultivating meaningful members of society, providing opportunities for critical thinking and learning, etc. I know that if I have college-bound children, they’re going to be spending a lot of time articulating to me why they’re applying to certain schools and why it speaks to them.