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Maybe Only Rich White People Should Attend Rich White Colleges

The defense for not race small white liberal colleges.

Graduation day, 1991. I'm with my best friend Tab, and my beloved aunt.

When I told my parents I wanted to go to a small school in Vermont, I wish they would have stopped me.

I wish they would have staged an intervention, shoved a bunch of community college brochures in my face.

What I recall is having what I will call a "college bucolic" fantasy about going to a small arty school to erase the stank of inner city high school (albeit a specialized one) offa me.

The reality of my college experience as a Korean American teenager in a mostly white institution was in stark contrast to my city rat fantasies of making friends and being happy all the time in a small Vermont town. Disillusion came on fast with the reality of isolation and its sidekick othering.

Findings indicating that students of color are more likely to perceive predominantly White institutions of higher learning as hostile, uncomfortable, and unwelcoming have shown that campus climate may have a negative effect on students of color when considered as a social determinant of health. –– Rankin and Reason, 2005

There is no denying that I was still a child when I started college at seventeen, and doubly no denying that despite having been raised in a particularly inner city part of New York City, I was super naive. But I do not blame myself for my innocence. I do wish I had been able to hold onto it for a bit longer though.

I remember a high school admin being impressed that I had been accepted to this school, but really how hard was that anyways? They didn't even ask for SAT scores. But, yes, at the time I thought it would be a good pick considering my sucky test score. I also remember my interview with an alum. I went to her apartment with big windows on a high floor and happy because it seemed to go well. But again, big whoop, it's not like she was asking me to explain concepts behind tesseracts.

This would have been a good time for my dad to say, "Just go to NYU." Well, he wanted me to go to Columbia, and though I may have been a touch romantic and swoony as a teenager, I was not completely delusional.

The social aspects of a poor, non-white student at a small arty college will not always be awful. I had the good along with the bad and the ugly experiences throughout my matriculation. However, I am not sure that my self-identity and emotional well-being thrived in this setting. I have a feeling that I could have had a healthier socio-emotional experience in a college with more black, latina/o, asian, native american students. And with wore peers in my economic strata.

If diversity is good for flora and fauna, then it is good for schools too.


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