Admissions Interviews as Counterstorytelling

It’s like someone telling me I have to run a marathon tomorrow. Unfamiliar with the process, I scramble to figure out what I’ll need and try to prepare for this marathon.

This marathon isn’t just a race. It’s a competition that’s outcome provide a variety of possibilities and opportunities for my future. In my head I want to win the race, but in reality I don’t even know I can compete.

I mean, up until today I never prepared to do anything like this. I can’t even name one person who has run a marathon. What’s worse, I’m competing with people who have been training for weeks, probably months. I’ll be out there giving it my best, but how confident can I be in my preparation?

What’s crazier is I’ll be running with the only pair of shoes I have. I can’t afford running specific shoes, so I’ll make do. What’s worse, I’ll be competing with people who do have these resources; who’ve hired coaches, bought the latest running gear, and probably even ran a marathon before!

I share this story because it was one that was told to me last week during an admissions interview. It’s one that illustrated how being a first generation college student applying to college is like run a marathon unprepared. It reminded me that first-generation students are running a race and competing with people who have several distinct advantages over you. All things aren’t equal.  And we cannot evaluated students as if they all had equal educational, social, economic, and educational opportunities.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been able to interview students I’ve advocated for during the admissions process. These interviews turned into stories of resilience, triumph over adversity, and success despite major obstacles. Hearing the lived experience of these student and their determination in the pursuit of higher education was motivating.  As an educator striving for access to higher education I am glad we had this interview opportunity. It makes me work even harder for my institution knowing that through these interviews we’ve taken Action to Affirm these students belong on our campus.

At the same time; each interview, each story reminded of critical race counterstories. I began to think how I could turn these interviews into a research opportunity. Creating a story of first generation students experience in the college admissions process through critical race counterstories. Simply put, counterstorytelling is a method of recounting the experience and perspectives of racially and socially marginalized people to challenge the perceptions of mainstream society (Yosso, 2006). Going even further,  I could potential use these method to create stories that challenge the admissions review process. A review process that has been legislated to deny the ongoing significance of race and racism in educational opportunities, achievement, and success.

Yosso, T. J. (2006). Critical race counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano educational pipeline. New York: Routledge.


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