The next step

Chin students face challenges in applying for college


Thian Awi

El sayama Amy Peddie in tlawngta Hla Lai Thang tlawng tteh hnu ah a bawm. Hivek in ah iPass khan pawl ah mi a bawm ve.

Paul Muan, a recent Southport graduate, started as a freshman at Taylor University in 2019. Going into college, he expected that academically it would be tougher than high school. However, he didn’t expect “crazy and creative” school traditions. After the time he has spent in higher education, he feels that his time in college, although hard, will be wonderful.

Although Muan is going to college with scholarships and funds, at first he had no idea on how to get to college when he started going to high school.

“As a student who started as a freshman in high school (in America), I didn’t have many clues about college yet,” Muan said, “I gained my understanding from (SHS staff), and the Burmese American Community Institute.” 

Like Muan as a freshman, there are still students in the Southport community who are not sure about how to put themselves in a position to go to college. This is especially true for Chin and EL students who are unfamiliar with the process and the resources necessary to apply for college. 

Sophomore Run Tha Par is an SHS student that fits this profile. She has an interest in furthering her education but is not very sure about where to start. 

“I want to go to college to have a good job and provide for my family,” Par said. “However, I don’t really know a lot about how to get there since I’m not experienced so I need help.” 

For Chin and EL students, it’s especially hard because they don’t have the support system that American students have.

“Most American students have their parents to help them through the process…,”  EL department chair Amy Peddie said. “(Chin and EL students) don’t have that support system because a lot of their parents haven’t been to college and even if they have, they may not understand the American system and might not speak English.”

In addition, Peddie says being able to write college essays, understanding the prompts and know the language of the college application might be hard for Chin students. 

“I’ve tried to teach that in my classes,” Peddie said, “We always do a personal narrative and give the option for students to practice their college essay. Also, understanding the language of the application is hard. Applications have a language of their own that we don’t really teach, and you kind of have to figure it out as you go.”

Peddie has been helping out the seniors who are going through the college application process in her iPass. She makes powerpoints to teach them about the process. She starts out a little at a time, starting with a timeline of when things are due. Then, she goes through her powerpoint to teach them how to write an academic resume, how to write an essay and how to choose a college.

Aside from the difficulties that Chin and EL students must face concerning the completion of applications, there are many important aspects of applying and being accepted to college. Some things college admissions executives take into consideration include community involvement, GPA and getting involved in school activities or clubs.

“One of the top aspects is obviously the grades (because) colleges look heavily into those numbers,” guidance counselor Tricia Bender said. “However, it’s not just about your GPA anymore. It’s your involvement, leadership, and sense of community. All of those factors play into getting into the college of your choice.”

Peddie also advises EL students to not panic about their SAT scores. While it’s important to take the exam, investing in other aspects is also just as important since colleges are now looking into other criteria. 

Peddie encourages students to be aware of the high school requirements to graduate and the type of diploma they want to get. The first step toward higher education is finishing high school.

Other challenges that Chin and EL students might face are grades and keeping up with schoolwork. Students can overcome this struggle by asking their teachers or peers for help.

“If you’re struggling with schoolwork, ask and speak up,” Bender said. “A lot of the times it might be a matter of organization, miscommunication or not understanding what the teacher is teaching. So, asking to further explain or explain things in a different way sometimes makes it click, and it’s a lot easier.”

Bender also advises students to attend school and to not make it a habit to skip school. 

“The students who are struggling are the students who don’t come to school,” Bender said, “They get so behind in their schoolwork and get overwhelmed because they have to make up from the days they were absent and the current work they’re doing. So attending school makes a huge difference.”

Students also have to consider a way to pay for college when thinking about furthering their education. Fortunately, there are ways that students can pay for college without being in debt and working too frequently.

“The first and easiest way, if you have a green card, you’re a citizen, or you have permission to be in the United States, is to apply for the FAFSA,” Peddie said. “FAFSA is help from the government, and they give grants, which are money that you don’t have to pay back.”

Another way to pay for college is through student loans and scholarships. Student loans are money students can get to pay for their college and they have to pay back. Scholarships are a type of grant students can get from organizations or the government, and they do not have to pay it back.

“Scholarships are mostly applied during senior year, however, it’s always a good idea to get started on what I call, ‘the big four,’” Peddie said.

According to Peddie,  “the big four” are questions that colleges frequently ask: What are your future plans and goals? What challenges have you faced and what did you do to overcome them? What kind of community service has been meaningful to you? How do you plan to give back to your community in the future?”

The last tip Peddie has for students is to not do anything last minute because usually, the last minute means that it’s not done as well. 

Par, although still not very sure on how to get to college, is receiving help and guidance from people who’ve gone to college and teachers. She also believes that with the help that she’s receiving, it wouldn’t be harder to get into college.

“With the help I’m receiving right now, I don’t think that it’s going to be really hard,” Par said, “I’m receiving help from people who went to college, and I have a mentor.”