College culture is encompassed by many factors. It’s not just buying college books and filling out your FAFSA application; it’s more than that.
From choosing the right college to the way you pay off your schooling, it is not congruent with everyone’s situation. Here’s the thing: Choosing the right college is not usually an eenie-miney-mo scenario.
Many people want to ensure they choose the right campus and college programs. That’s where college visits come into play; it seems like the ideal next step. Yet, it can incur some heavy costs.
According to U.S. News and World Report, visiting colleges and universities can cost $2,000. And that’s for just one trip. Factor in lodging, food, and anything else to make the trip comfortable, and the expenses will increase.
For many U.S.-based Latinos taking the next step into their future, the option to tour a college before sending their applications is not always viable. Remember that more than 4 in 10 (44 percent) Latino students are the first in their family to attend college, which means they count on limited guidance as they embark on their journey in higher education.
Creating equitable access to education
This is another example of inequitable access to education. Thankfully, it’s being combatted by people using media and technology to give others virtual tours of college campuses.
For instance, The College Tour empowers high school students to virtually travel across America for an inside look at colleges and universities.
“Our show is inclusive to everybody. Every episode features diverse student voices, all sharing their own unique experiences in higher education,” show host and co-creator Alex Boylan told BELatina News in an interview.
“The show has a heart and the show has a purpose, and in each episode, there are important stories to tell.”
The College Tour, which is executive produced by Emmy-nominated producers Alex Boylan, Lisa Hennessy, and Burton Roberts, is available on Amazon Prime’s free streaming service and its website. In order to give aspiring students the full picture, each episode of The College Tour showcases the college or university through the eyes of current students, where they talk about academics, sports, extracurricular activities, and more. This gives the interested students at home a different perspective aside from what the college or university advertises. Currently, shooting its seventh season, the series has filmed in over 75 colleges, including the University of Illinois and Tulane University, to small town colleges such as Fort Lewis College.
To appeal to a diverse audience, The College Tour recently aired its first Spanish-language episode, where they visited ten Maricopa Community Colleges in Phoenix, Arizona. They featured 20 Latino/a students who come from different walks of life. The host for this episode, Lorena Segura, heard from adult learners, first-generation, DACA and high school dual enrollment students.
“You see that there are people with different skill levels, people that are honor students, people that school is a little bit harder for, but the common theme is they’re all doing it and they’re so proud that they have the courage to get out there and achieve their dreams,” Boylan said.
Participant Daniel Castaneda Martinez, who gave us a tour of Gateway Community College, a Maricopa Community College, shared his college experience.
Majoring in computer science and Information Technology, he took us through his journey in getting into Gateway.
“I came to Gateway through referrals. Luckily, I was able to find the Information Technology program, which I’m currently enrolled in, [and it] is very affordable,” Castaneda Martinez said during his segment in Spanish.
“I am very grateful that my advisor had the patience to explain the program to me, after much effort and with the support of my family.”
He does not take his college degree lightly. He understands how impactful it will be to the students coming from working-class households.
“I definitely know that I am in the right place, and I will dedicate my achievements to those who build, who clean houses, and mow the garden with a smile on their faces; I do it for them knowing how hard it is to earn the daily bread.”
The rest of the participants gave us insights into their journeys, which was inspirational.
Behind the inception of ‘The College Tour’
In a recent interview with Alex Boylan, the Co-founder, Executive Producer, and main host of The College Tour, he told us what inspired him to create a series that is sure to help many families.
“I’ve dedicated my life to telling stories and have been fortunate to film in over 60 countries around the world,” he told BELatina News.
“It gives me great pride to now travel throughout America to tell the story of higher education through the lens of real students.”
Find out more about him and The College Tour below. (The interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
Do you remember when you conceptualized this project? How has it changed since then?
I can 100 percent remember when I conceptualized The College Tour. A couple of years ago, my niece was given one trip to look at college campuses. She decided to come out and stay with me in Los Angeles, where we spent a week exploring all the colleges around the city. During that week, I heard her ask her mom (my sister) if she could go to New York, Florida, and Texas to look at some other colleges. It pained me to watch my older sister explain that they did not have the finances to travel the country looking at campuses and that this would be her sole trip. From here, I started helping my niece navigate the college search online. I hate to say this, but it was a big challenge. Where do you start? How do you figure out the vibe and culture of a campus? There is so much information out there, and each college tells its story in a different format. It was here where the lightbulb went off. Higher education needs its own TV series. I wanted young people, like my niece, to be free to explore colleges across the country from the comfort of their homes or classroom without the financial burden of jumping on a plane.
Has ‘The College Tour’ changed since you first created it?
The College Tour hasn’t changed much since day one. Of course, our team is a lot bigger now, and we have fine-tuned our production processes, but I am proud of the story we told in episode one, just as I am with episode 76 that we are filming right now.
What has been one of your favorite moments of ‘The College Tour?’
My favorite moment of The College Tour is being on campus filming with the students. Everyone puts in so much work to make each episode awesome and authentic to that institution. And watching these incredible students be so brave to open up and tell their personal stories to the world is something that never gets old.
What’s been the most challenging part of filming ‘The College Tour?’
Every ounce of The College Tour has been a blessing. Of course, nothing is built without challenges, but that’s all just part of the process. If I had to pick one thing, it would be the building of our production process. We work hand in hand with each college to build their authentic story. So, coming up with the production system where we stay true to the featured institution while keeping in line with our format has taken a lot of work and brain power from many people.
Did the team face any different challenges while filming the first Spanish-language episode?
All ‘firsts’ are challenging because it’s the first time you will run into things you may not have expected. Fortunately, we have people part of our team who are native Spanish speakers – so that was great. Overall, this episode went very smoothly, thanks to everyone coming together from our production team and the college. We are so proud of the episode, as we feature many first-generation college students and immigrants. So many students said they were intimidated by the college process, but all of them are now at college and thriving. Seeing them soar is beautiful, and we hope it inspires more people in the Latino community to feel connected to the concept of pursuing higher education.
Anything, in particular, you’d like to share with the BELatina News audience?
First off, thank you for watching! We work to serve the next generation of students. We hope this series helps inspire you to further your education, learn about different majors, and find your passion and purpose to go on to live the life you aspire to have. We want everyone to realize that college is accessible, and dreams are accessible as well.