Immigrant students tackle college applications by seeking out resources



Seniors Isabella Moros Camargo and Konah Brownell diligently complete school work. Both have concerns about applying to college as an immigrant.

Muriel Statman, Opinions Editor

It’s common knowledge among high school students that the college application process is extremely stressful. What is not always considered, however, is how this process might feel for those who are not only new to the application process but to the United States as well.

Students who are new to the country face many additional obstacles but are ultimately able to survive the process by utilizing the support that the high school provides.

The high school presents students and families with seminars and information throughout junior and senior year. College counselor Lenny Libenzon said that there are seminars for all students, individual seminars with guidance counselors and two parents’ nights. However, Libenzon sees areas the school can improve upon.

“It’s complicated because we have such a large school, so we have multiple deadlines, and students start the processes at different times,” Libenzon said. “The majority of the time I work one-on-one with immigrant students, and it’s the most helpful.”

Libenzon also said that it is important to put the process into perspective and to refrain from becoming too stressed by talking to someone.

“The process is really not that overwhelming,” Libenzon said. “My advice is to go talk to your guidance counselors and ask what steps they need to take.”

Senior Isabella Moros Camargo moved to the United States from Venezuela in the 7th grade, although she had also attended 2nd grade in New York. Her parents went to college in the United States, but since they were coming from Venezuelan high schools, the process was completely different.

Camargo said that one of the hardest things for her this past year had been explaining the process to her parents.

“It’s weird because I’m telling them about essays and about SATs, and they just don’t get it,” Camargo said. “For college selection, they don’t really know about what colleges are good, so they don’t understand all the college tours.”

Camargo has used her teachers and guidance counselors to her advantage, but she also believes that the parents’ night was not specific enough for her parents to follow.

“My parents got a bullet list, and they expect the parents to know what each bullet is. Most parents know what it is, so it’s wasting time for some parents, while for others it is important for them to go more in-depth,” Camargo said.

Senior Konah Brownell had a similar experience. Brownell moved here from Liberia in December, 2016. Her dad works a full-time job, and her mom is a stay-at-home-mom.

In Liberia, she and her family spoke Liberian English, a dialect with a different accent and mechanics than American English. Brownell said that even though they speak English, many people do not understand her parents. This language barrier has proven to be limiting, even with the resources that the high school offers.

“The last time I had a meeting with my guidance counselor, my dad didn’t know what most of the stuff meant,” she said. “I had to explain stuff like Early Decision. It’s totally overwhelming.”

Brownell said that she sometimes wishes that she were given more attention from staff to help her through the process. She also acknowledges, however, that the resources are there.

“The resources are available, but they’re only useful if people take advantage of them,” Brownell said. “I have to be the one going out to ask all of these questions. Having to do this all on my own in my head, doing my school work along the way, is too much sometimes.”

Both Camargo and Brownell said that the process can be managed.

“I had to learn the hard way to just advocate for myself and go out there,” Brownell said. “I feel very lucky to go to a high school like this with all the different resources available and there’s always someone to talk to, but you have to get out and go for it.”