"UC Berkeley is too hard. Go to a state school instead."
If you've ever been underestimated, the experience leaves you feeling vulnerable and self-conscious. You start reevaluating all your work and achievements.
You lose sight of all the ways you had to fight and accommodate your big dreams and goals into a life that's already HARD.
For people like me, a first-generation low-income immigrant, life was not easy. And, if you wanted more out of life than to meet your basic needs, you were often on your own.
You're looking for and fighting for any opportunity available to you. And when you finally come across a fantastic opportunity, you'll likely meet a gatekeeper. Merriam-Webster defines a "gatekeeper as a person who controls access." They can have a direct relationship to the opportunity or an indirect one.
Gatekeepers Control Access to Opportunity
My first gatekeeper was a high school teacher.
He asked if I planed to go to college. I said, yes, and shared a list of all the schools I applied to and which had accepted me.
I told him I had been admitted to UC Berkeley and Fresno State. He then asked for my SAT score. Then asked me to walk to an SAT poster pasted to his wall and told me my SAT score was too low and that I needed a score closer to 1600.
I had a C in his class when we were having this discussion. He used my low SAT score and my C grade as two solid data points to predict my ability and capability, and recommended I go to Fresno State instead of Berkeley.
He didn't think I could thrive at UC Berkeley. He was a UC Davis graduate and knew UC Berkeley was "harder" than Davis. So, he concluded that Fresno State was a good place for me.
There's nothing wrong with going to Fresno State. I visited the school. It would have been an incredible experience. I would have had access to more Spanish speakers, a larger Latino population, a fun college environment, and hopefully, professors who understood immigrant students' complex lives.
"After the incident, I felt more compelled to worker harder to prove him wrong. But, the challenge when you're a first generation high school student and incoming college student, is that you're already questioning your ability. You are already living life wondering if you're able, capable, and if you are deserving of success."
The Issue at Hand
This video focuses on how this teacher failed me as a high school teacher, and how he successfully played his role as a gatekeeper.
He casually and confidently redirected me from a prestigious public university without thinking about my family situation, financial aid package, and career ambitions.
Luckily, I also had an advocate and an ally who believed in me.
This teacher and I weren't close, but he could have put effort into learning more about me before offering his advice. Two data points are not enough information to assess a person's ability and grit. If he had been more curious about my overall academic and personal life, he would have known who I was and why 90-95 percent of the universities I applied to accepted me.
Curious to know how things unfolded? Watch the video.
Spoiler. I accepted an offer to UC Berkeley twice. I graduated in 2010, with a bachelor's in psychology and sociology, and in 2012 with a master's in social welfare.