Understanding POC Student Experiences at Predominantly White Colleges

Continuing our Voices of iMentor video series, this week's discussion focuses on the experiences of students of color at predominantly white institutions (PWIs). In a conversation, Steven Joseph, associate director of the Regional Office, and Whitney Whiting, national manager of career pathways and design, share how mentors can be more inclusive and more supportive when discussing college options with mentees.

Part of the appeal of PWIs is financial aid, said Whiting, but that should not be the only consideration. Students and mentors should research whether there are communities for Black and Latinx students.

"I encourage our mentors to have these candid conversations," said Whitney. "I’m always stressing to my cohort: Research school newspapers. What are students currently saying about the climate on these campuses? Research what alums are saying.”

"We default to those PWIs because they’re considered more prestigious," said Steven, but, he added, we also know that students of color can face barriers when they seek out support and resources. Entering PWI spaces can be a negative wakeup call for Black and Brown students when they have to navigate those institutions, said Steven.

Whitney encourages mentors to practice active listening. "If your mentee has these multiple reservations about this one particular [college] pathway, you need to be listening as to why," she said.

Check out iMentor’s Mentoring Toolbox for more tips and resources.