During the fall of 2010, I applied to eighteen colleges and universities across the United States. As a first-generation, working-class, Latina applicant, college counselors prompted me to highlight my diversity in my college essays.
“You are different,” they would say. “Use that to your advantage,” their smiles would imply. Essay upon essay, I would highlight characteristics about my family, my school, and my community that seemed trivial and unimportant to my identity. Yes, my blood runs with 100% Mexican heritage. Yes, my mom raised my four sisters and me on her own under a housekeeper’s salary. Yes, I grew up living in the ghetto streets of communities like Watts and Compton. Yes, unemployment and food security were at the forefront of many family discussions. I would be praised by my mentors and counselors, who urged, add more details here, a little more pity there, and girl, you have yourself an award-winning essay. [Read more…]