Parent and Family Guide for Hispanic and Latino/a Students

Applying for college can be a challenging and confusing experience. Read more about resources available to help Hispanic and Latino/a families navigate this process.

portrait of Debbi Johnson-Rais, Ed.D.
by Debbi Johnson-Rais, Ed.D.

Updated September 23, 2022

Reviewed by Laila Abdalla, Ph.D.

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Parent and Family Guide for Hispanic and Latino/a Students
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Hispanic and Latino/a student college enrollment has seen a slight decline in the past two years. These students have been attending college in steadily increasing numbers in the past two decades, but the demographics are now changing.

There is an increase in the number of Hispanic and Latino/a students either not attending college or leaving after a year or two. This is mostly likely due to increased family responsibilities during these difficult pandemic times, as well as financial struggles in the current economy.

The importance of family in student decision-making regarding college choice can not be overstated. A survey administered to Hispanic students by Texas Public Radio found that 85% of students indicated their parents strongly encouraged them to attend college. The students identified college as a family expectation even when the parents did not attend themselves.

How Families Support their College Students

Hispanic and Latino/a students who are first in their family to attend college benefit greatly from getting the appropriate support both at home and in college. Family can be a source of strength and family support is an important predictor of success for Hispanic and Latino/a students. This support provides a foundation for dealing with the daily struggles of academic life.

Aside from typical stressors that all college students experience, Hispanic and Latino/a students may face additional challenges. These include a lack of representation in staff and faculty on campus, and a lack of support through the admissions and financial aid processes. Until campuses take the necessary steps and generate the right policies to increase Hispanic and Latino/a faculty and academic support staff, familial support can help to mitigate some of these stressors for current students.

Considering All Criteria

Choosing a college that is right for you is a process. Families can help students align priorities. Consider geographic location, cost, majors, school size, student and faculty demographics, and support. It is important for families to explore all appropriate options.

Understand the Requirements

Meeting college admission requirements starts early. Families can begin to review the requirements for colleges of interest from the first year of high school. This helps the student make sure they are able to receive the help needed to meet the requirements as they progress.

Visit Campuses Where Possible

It can be hard to know if a college is a good fit without checking it out in person. When you visit a campus, look into housing options, campus dining services, classrooms and relaxation spaces. You can get a sense of the campus climate by taking a walking tour and asking questions.

Consider Online Options

Online programs are a great option for students looking for flexibility. These programs can allow you to study while remaining close to home. Additionally, these programs are often more affordable and will allow students to remain close to their support system while working toward their degree.

Encourage and Support Through the Process

The college application process can be a stressful time for students. Understanding the stressors students can face and how overwhelming they may be to students is an important role of the family. Meeting requirements, planning finances and receiving less than positive responses can be overwhelming. This is a good time for families to be present and encouraging, calmly helping their students rise to the challenges ahead.

Important Factors to Consider when Choosing a College

There are many factors that go into choosing the right college for students. These variables require careful consideration in order to find the best fit for your student. The cost of attendance at an institution is a critical component. Careful planning and finding a school with access to financial assistance is a good place to start.

Support resources are also an important factor in choosing a college. Look into colleges that have a track record in supporting Hispanic and Latino/a students. Support programs can include mentoring, counseling, and cultural organizations that create a welcoming community for students.

As with all students, academic quality is another factor to consider when making college choices. Consider academic programs of interest and how those colleges rank in order to make an informed decision. Look into academic activities that interest you, such as research or academic clubs.

U.S. Colleges With the Highest Hispanic and Latino/a Student Population

Hispanic and Lation/a students can succeed anywhere, but going to schools that have a track record of serving them may be one way of removing some campus stressors. Review our map of colleges with the highest Hispanic and Latino/a student populations below. You can compare the percentage of Hispanic and Latino/a students to the total population and explore their websites for more information.

U.S. Colleges With the Highest Hispanic and Latino/a Student Population
College Name Private or Public Location Total Population Hispanic or Latino/a Population
Florida International University Public Miami, Florida 58,836 68%
California State University-Northridge Public Northridge, California 40,381 52.70%
The University of Texas at San Antonio Public San Antonio, Texas 34,742 59.10%
University of New Mexico Public Albuquerque, New Mexico 22,311 50%
University of Nevada - Las Vegas Public Las Vegas, Nevada 31,142 32.20%
University of Illinois Chicago Public Chicago, Illinois 33,518 34.40%
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice Public New York, New York 15,766 51%
Metropolitan State University of Denver Public Denver, Colorado 19,086 32%

Additional Resources for Hispanic and Latino/a Students

This organization provides resources to leverage partnerships that ensure Hispanic and Latino/a student success. It also provides students with leadership opportunities and access to research that informs educational policy.

This Latino/a civil rights organization provides a starting point for support in areas of education, civil rights concerns, health, and housing.

This website will help you find ways to pay for college. This website has a section that covers grants, scholarships and loans available to Hispanic and Latino/a students.

Being a student comes with challenges that can lead to mental health difficulties such as depression. NAMI provides information useful to all students as well as specific resources for those students from the Hispanic and Latino/a community who may need support related to mental health. The organization provides connections to community organizations and therapy options.

These programs provide the connections students need to cultural organizations, social networking, advocacy and various special interests. Programs are tailored for first-generation students, of which many are Hispanic and Latino/a students.

Go to BestColleges Hispanic Heritage Month hub to find more stories and resources.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents and Families of Hispanic and Latino/a Students

What population of Hispanic students are also first-generation?

The term "first-generation student" is used to describe students who come from families without a strong college-going tradition. As of 2020, 25% of Hispanic and Latino/a students attending college were considered first-generation students, according to the Center for First-Generation Student Success.

First-generation students often require additional support when applying and attending college, as they are the first in their families to do so. Processes surrounding college attendance can be complex and lengthy. For these reasons, seeking out a college with specialized support for first-generation students is critical.

Which university has the highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino/a students?

Currently, Florida International University (FIU) is the school with the highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino/a students. FIU is a public, four-year institution located in Miami, Florida. The total enrollment at FIU is 56,664, 68% of whom are Hispanic and Latino/a.

The next highest Hispanic and Latino/a student populations can be found at California State University, Northridge, University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of New Mexico. All of these are public, four-year institutions with at least 50% of their population identifying as Hispanic and Latino/a.

What should parents and families expect on college move-in day?

Move-in day can be both an exciting and stressful day for students and their families. Some planning before the big day can help the process run more smoothly for everyone involved.

Most important is to plan early — it is crucial to set aside important documents and make a list of essential items. Think about what things you can buy on-site, and pack for the current season, bringing everything in multi-purpose storage bins you can use throughout the year.

Check in with your roommate(s) to coordinate who will bring items everyone can use. It also helps coordinate move-in times to ensure move-in doesn't get over-crowded.

What scholarships are available to Hispanic students?

Paying for college is a major concern for parents and families, but there are scholarships for Hispanic and Latino/a students.

Some of these scholarships can be found through the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Dream.US program. These organizations have varying deadlines and requirements, so it is important to review their websites early.

There are also more specific scholarships for sub-populations such as Chicana women, first-generation Hispanic and Latino/a students, and migrant workers. Apply early and seek help from the respective college financial aid offices, who should be happy to help you.