Getting There: A Visual Essay


College is a goal for many students across America, however, getting there is the part of the process that leaves many stranded without  hope. This "wicked problem" is one, as with the many others that exist, that can't truly be provided with a sole solution. Making college education valued among individuals with no direct relation to it's importance and more accessible to those in low income areas is a difficult task within itself. Lowering the barriers that are in place and promoting the beneficial aspects of higher education may provide aid with those facing this "wicked problem." 

For many students in the upper and middle class sects of America, getting into college has been viewed as a somewhat simplistic task. The problem of transitioning from high school to an institute of higher education hasn't been one that fully encompasses these individuals. However, for lower class individuals located in more rural, poor pockets of the United States, this problem is one that is all too familiar to many.  


Getting to college is a task of many twists and turns. It exists at the end of a long journey where barriers many pop up and inhibit that individual from their end goal of receiving the chance to pursue higher education. Unlike those who are legacy students, or have family members who have attended college in the past, there are many students that go through high school without the proper education of the benefits college has to offer. Their lack of familiarization deduces their chances of making use of these opportunities and, in turn, may have long-lasting effects on their lives.

 Many barriers usually exist for students who are from low-income families where college education isn't prioritized. These include, but aren't limited to: psychological, resource, financial, educational, and physical barriers. More often than not, having a stable job and earning a paycheck becomes the priority that detracts from a student's likelihood to excel in  high school and pursue higher education afterwards.

Many of the problematic instances that exist for students attempting to transition to higher level education stem out of the major barriers and class divides that can be seen throughout the United States. The article provides evidence of the importance of educating youth on the benefits and positive outcomes that higher education offers to individuals versus those with only a high school diploma. By intervening at these barriers, through campaigns, more forced importance placed on higher education, and attempting to equalize the field by displacing the value put on academic success, we could possibly view an increase in enrollment in Universities. This wicked problem, as with all others, takes a shift in many factors to potentially cause any noticeable improvement towards a solution.

Organizations are already in place that help to educate individuals in low-income areas of the strides that need to be taken in order for college education to be more achievable. Wider dispersal of such programs could easily be a key in equalizing these opportunities for education and advancement to become a reality. 

Ms. Hadley is part of a nonprofit organization, and a movement, trying to break down the social, economic and psychological barriers that keep low-income rural students from having a shot at the elite range of the American dream.

Most low-income students rely on their parents for college advice, and many of them end up going to colleges that are less rigorous than they can handle, the research shows.
— Anemona Hartocollis, The New York Times,-even-when-they-ve-been-accepted,-even-when-they-ve-been-accepted

For young people with college-educated parents, the path to higher education may be stressful, but there is a road map. If their standardized test scores are too low, they can pay for a prep course; if their essay is lackluster, they can hire a writing coach. No one will be the wiser. If they can’t decide which college is the “best fit,” they can visit. When they are tempted to give up, their parents will push them on.

But for many working-class students...there is no money for test prep or essay help.
— Anemona Hartocollis, The New York Times

With such a large emphasis on standardized testing and grades, it becomes even more difficult for these students to attend places of higher education. Knocking down these barriers, and allowing for more education to take place on the processes and requirements of becoming enrolled should allow for improvement within this wicked problem.

There are many barriers that exist for students who don't have the luxuries and resources that students with college-educated parents may have. The odds are against these students and the journey from high school to college becomes exponentially more difficult. This wicked problem has many negative implications that could most likely be provided with a solution if we improved education of the benefits of higher education and instated outreach programs to help students reach their potential with college. By breaking down some of these barriers, higher education would not only become more accessible to students in low income, rural pockets of the world (as well as first-generation students), it would become more of an aspiration for these groups. Society need education in order for growth to occur, and everyone has a right to these opportunities.

Personal Reflection 

Throughout this assignment, and by viewing the lectures, my problem based, critical thinking skills have changed immensely. I grew to realize the importance of empathy and how one should go about understanding the many perspectives that are intertwined at the heart of a problem. I used breadth to more fully understand the scope of the problem at hand, to take a step back and consider the other points of views that were necessary to this task, and to attempt to never fall into a singular, biased perspective. Once I started to feel more comfortable with the stance and approach that I was taking, it became important to consider another side and never get too comfortable.  By understanding the different branches of this complex problem, it became easier to assess the beneficial and negative aspects of the approach that I was attempting to take.