Over the past several years, Jacki and I have noticed an alarming trend: Latino students who, by virtue of their excellent academic standing, could be applying to and be accepted by selective universities, or universities that accept only the top candidates. These very same students though end up applying to and attending non-selective universities in a phenomenon that is known as “under-matching”. The root cause may be any number of issues including the hype surrounding sky high private college tuition, a lack of confidence on the part of the student, a need to stay “close to home” or a perception that selective schools may not be diverse or inclusive in some way. The reality is that this lack of understanding of selective universities is costing Latino students a great deal more than they bargained for.

When a Latino student opts for a non-selective university, they may find that it simply does not have the student support services, expanded financial aid opportunities, ethnic and cultural departments on campus and undergraduate research opportunities that are conducive to Latino student success. This lack of support has translated into lower graduation rates for Latino students from non-selective universities than from selective universities that have such opportunities in place. In other words, Latino students need to aim high and the very things they need are already in place on these selective campuses for them to succeed!

By funding the “From Selectivity to Success: Latinos at Selective Institutions” study through Excelencia in Education, we believe we are shedding light on the important issue of under-matching and hopefully inspiring Latino students to go after the selective universities during their college research and application processes. Through our work with Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera and our partner programs there, we hope to dispel the myths that keep students reaching for the low-hanging fruit and foster an understanding of the advantages, both long and short term, of a selective university education.