Bar Chart Races: Changing Demographics in K–12 Public School Enrollment

This was crossposted from the NCES blog.

Bar chart races are a useful tool to visualize long-term trend changes. The visuals below, which use data from an array of sources, depict the changes in U.S. public elementary and secondary school enrollment from 1995 to 2029 by race/ethnicity.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education,” 1995–96 through 2017–18; and National Elementary and Secondary Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity Projection Model, 1972 through 2029.

Total enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools has grown since 1995, but it has not grown across all racial/ethnic groups. As such, racial/ethnic distributions of public school students across the country have shifted.

One major change in public school enrollment has been in the number of Hispanic students enrolled. Enrollment of Hispanic students has grown from 6.0 million in 1995 to 13.6 million in fall 2017 (the last year of data available). During that time period, Hispanic students went from making up 13.5 percent of public school enrollment to 26.8 percent of public school enrollment. NCES projects that Hispanic enrollment will continue to grow, reaching 14.0 million and 27.5 percent of public school enrollment by fall 2029.

While the number of Hispanic public school students has grown, the number of White public school students schools has steadily declined from 29.0 million in 1995 to 24.1 million in fall 2017. NCES projects that enrollment of White public school students will continue to decline, reaching 22.4 million by 2029. The percentage of public school students who were White was 64.8 percent in 1995, and this percentage dropped below 50 percent in 2014 (to 49.5 percent). NCES projects that in 2029, White students will make up 43.8 percent of public school enrollment.

The percentage of public school students who were Black decreased from 16.8 percent in 1995 to 15.2 percent in 2017 and is projected to remain at 15.2 percent in 2029. The number of Black public school students increased from 7.6 million in 1995 to a peak of 8.4 million in 2005 but is projected to decrease to 7.7 million by 2029. Between fall 2017 and fall 2029, the percentage of public school students who were Asian/Pacific Islander is projected to continue increasing (from 5.6 to 6.9 percent), as is the percentage who were of Two or more races (from 3.9 to 5.8 percent). American Indian/Alaska Native students account for about 1 percent of public elementary and secondary enrollment in all years.

For more information about this topic, see The Condition of Education indicator Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Public Schools.

By Ke Wang and Rachel Dinkes, AIR

Apprenticeships Are Opportunities

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog.

An apprentice and a mentor work at a computer station.

As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, America’s job seekers are living in a time of historic opportunity.

More than 6 million jobs have been added to the economy since January 2017. The unemployment rate has remained at or below 4% for 20 months in a row, and there are 1.3 million more job openings than job seekers. Today, more than 7 million jobs remain unfilled due to the growing skills gap that exists in the workforce. Many of these vacancies remain unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the right skills.

To bridge the skills gap, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order in 2017 outlining tasks and requirements to help modernize America’s education systems and workforce development programs by expanding apprenticeships opportunities for America’s workers.

Apprenticeships offer a way for workers to earn a living while gaining the expertise needed to advance in a career. After the completion of an apprenticeship, the average starting wage is $70,000, and 94% of apprentices will remain employed nine months afterward. The apprenticeship model provides a viable career pathway to high-paying jobs allowing young Americans to avoid the burden of student loans and immediately start earning a salary during their training.

Research shows incredible potential for growing apprenticeships in the United States. A recent study of apprenticeships in 10 states found that participants had significantly higher employment rates and earnings compared to those who did not complete an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are a proven pathway to middle- and high-skilled jobs. Yet apprentices comprise only 0.3% of the U.S. labor force, which is substantially less than in European countries. Consider for example that in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, 55-70% of young people begin their career with an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships can also help job creators make sound investments in the future of their businesses. Providing flexible training options creates a more diversified and dynamic workforce that can result in better productivity.

Apprenticeships benefit both job creators and job seekers, and this Administration is working to make high-quality apprenticeships as accessible as possible.

The Department recently awarded more than $183 million in grants to grow apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, information technology, and health care. The grants will support greater access to apprenticeships for all Americans, including veterans, military spouses, women, people of color, and individuals transitioning from the justice system. These grants represent commitments to more than 85,000 future apprentices in new or expanded programs.

In addition, the Department has received public feedback on the proposed regulation establishing the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program. Under the proposal, a diverse array of entities — including trade, industry, and employer groups or associations, educational institutions, state and local government entities, nonprofit organizations, unions, or a consortium or partnership of these entities — could recognize high-quality apprenticeship programs in industries or occupations relevant to their work or areas of interest.

Apprenticeships mean more opportunities for Americans. Whether you are looking for your first job, changing career paths, or reentering the workforce, apprenticeships can create a bright future. As the American job market continues this period of unprecedented growth, the U.S. Department of Labor will keep working to ensure that all Americans have access to the job training they need to further their careers.

Learn more about apprenticeship on, the one-stop source for all things apprenticeship sponsored by the Department of Labor.

John Pallasch is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training.

Top 8 Reasons Why and How We Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

This was crossposted from the Smithsonian Learning Lab blog.

Every year across America communities gather together to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed September 15 to October 15. Starting in July, Smithsonian educators receive phone calls and emails inquiring about resources that will help showcase these communities and their contributions to American society.  So this year, we decided to answer those burning questions about why and how we should celebrate this month. And we decided to do it, in a top 8 listicle, because learning should be fun!

1) Why do we celebrate the Hispanic community in the United States?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 56.6 million Hispanics in the United States or 17.6 percent of the country’s population as of July 2015. Hispanics or Latinos have contributed to American life since the American Revolution, fighting in every war since then. Latinos today continue to advance communities across the country as small business owners, veterans, teachers, and public servants, among many other professions. Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to recognize their achievements and contributions to our national story.

2) What were the beginnings of Hispanic Heritage Month?

Originally, Hispanic Heritage Month was Hispanic Heritage Week, started in 1968 under President Johnson. In 1988, President Reagan enacted a public law to celebrate a 30-day Hispanic Heritage Month, starting on September 15, the independence day of five Central American countries. Within the month, other Latin American countries celebrate their independence as well.

3) Have you heard the common quote “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us”?

Because of the Mexican-American and Spanish-American wars, two treaties were put in place (The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Treaty of Paris, respectively) that gave the United States territories in the Southwest and Puerto Rico, incorporating the peoples of this area into the United States. Learn more here:

4) Did you know that in America today, one in four children is Hispanic?

Sandra Cisneros writes about a young girl, Esperanza, in her classic coming-of- age story, The House on Mango Street. Used in classrooms across America, the novel is about growing up Latina in Chicago and the importance of family and traditions.

5) Did you know that food is a common language and brings us together?

Ezequiel Moreno started a Mexican bakery and restaurant out of his home in 1918, moving to La Plaza in the heart of Los Angeles in 1920. He named his bakery La Esperanza, meaning hope. Until the 1970s, their bread, coffee, Mexican dishes, and “American-style” lunches brought all kinds of people together, from Mexican immigrants, to downtown employees, to even Hollywood movie stars.

Bakeries today continue this tradition of community with El Bolillo Bakery in Houston, baking an estimated 4,400 pounds of flour into Mexican bread to help those in need after Hurricane Harvey.

6) Did you know that baseball played a role in Latino community building?

Latino community baseball leagues across the United States provided a place for people to build relationships, organize, and engage with younger community members. At the Major League level, Roberto Clemente, player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a Hispanic civil rights activist and a close collaborator with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Learn more here:

7) Did you know that Latin Jazz is a combination of African-American and Latin rhythms first mixed together in the 1940s?

Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo first collaborated to create Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz. New York’s Palladium Ballroom became the hub of Latin jazz with greats such as Tito Puente, Machito and his Afro-Cubans, and Tito Rodriguez, among others. Learn more here:

8) Did you know that contrary to popular belief, Day of the Dead is not Halloween?

Celebrated on November 1 and 2, Day of the Dead remembers family and community members that have passed. Originally from Meso-America but now celebrated in Latino communities across the United States, the commemoration combines indigenous and Catholic rituals.

SLC Day of the Dead Bilingual Curriculum-Based Resources

Your friends at the Smithsonian/ Sus amigos en el Smithsonian

This was written by Emily Key, Education Programs Manager, and Adrián Aldaba, Associate to the Director and Programs, Smithsonian Latino Center.

Trust the Process and Be Proactive

Back in summer of 2011, I remember attending my first-year orientation of my undergraduate journey at the University of Arizona.  I specifically remember the session where I had the chance to declare a major before building my schedule for the fall semester. For some inexplicable reason, I was really drawn to the family studies and human development major but ended up declaring a major in nutrition. I made this decision because at the time I was convinced that I was going to become a pediatrician and needed a major that would put me on the track to be prepared for medical school.

Flash forward to the end of my first semester of college, and I realized that the nutrition major was not going to be for me. Just in that semester, I had taken two science labs and lectures, which were challenging. Looking through the course plan for the next three years, I saw that the science courses only continued to stack up! I stopped myself for moment and made an appointment with the academic adviser for family studies and human development major. I met with her and decided that this major fit my interests better.

While I enjoyed the classes in my new major, I now had to rethink my long-term plan given that my interests and long-term plans did not align. I debated the route I would take after college. I contemplated various graduate school plans such as working towards a master’s in social work, a law degree, or a master’s in marriage and family therapy. All I was sure of was that I wanted to give back to the Hispanic community and work with families.

My junior year rolled around and a random e-mail popped into my inbox about a paid summer experience. I applied to the program not knowing how much it would change my life and lead me right to where I needed to be. The program I had applied for was the McNair Scholars Program, which supports underrepresented students in the pursuit of a Ph.D.

Before the program, I didn’t know what a Ph.D. was or that I could make a career out of research. Through this program, I learned about conducting research, but most importantly, I learned how I could support the Hispanic community through research endeavors. The program supported me through the doctoral program application process and helped me build my confidence in my future! I applied to 10 doctoral programs, from which I was accepted to seven. I am thankful to the amazing McNair Scholars director who helped me through the complicated decision process for choosing a doctoral program. I choose to pursue my Ph.D. in human development and family studies at the Pennsylvania State University.

I always knew which area of research I wanted to pursue. Now, I am less than one year away from completing my Ph.D. in human development and family studies and now I’m looking to pursue a career in policy and research. My advice to those who may be just starting their higher education journey is to always trust yourself in your decisions because only you know yourself best. Also, it’s okay to not have your full plan figured out right away. At the same time, make sure you use the resources (professors, advisers, programs, friends, community center, etc.) around you to help you through the process. Sometimes, it is the experiences and times of confusion that lead us straight to the career we have always envisioned. Even as doctoral student, I changed my career plans. The world is full of opportunities, go get them, be proactive and trust yourself!

Lorena Aceves is a doctoral student at the Pennsylvania State University and a summer 2019 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Data Tools for College Professors and Students

This was crossposted from the National Center on Education Statistics blog

Ever wonder what parts of the country produce the most English majors? Want to know which school districts have the most guidance counselors? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has all the tools you need to dig into these and lots of other data!

Whether you’re a student embarking on a research project or a college professor looking for a large data set to use for an assignment, NCES has you covered. Below, check out the tools you can use to conduct searches, download datasets, and generate your own statistical tables and analyses.

Conduct Publication Searches

Two search tools help researchers identify potential data sources for their study and explore prior research conducted with NCES data. The Publications & Products Search Tool can be used to search for NCES publications and data products. The Bibliography Search Tool, which is updated continually, allows users to search for individual citations from journal articles that have been published using data from most surveys conducted by NCES.

Key reference publications include the Digest of Education Statistics, which is a comprehensive library of statistical tabulations, and The Condition of Education, which highlights up-to-date trends in education through statistical indicators.

Learn with Instructional Modules

The Distance Learning Dataset Training System (DLDT) is an interactive online tool that allows users to learn about NCES data across the education spectrum. DLDT’s computer-based training introduces users to many NCES datasets, explains their designs, and offers technical considerations to facilitate successful analyses. Please see the NCES blog Learning to Use the Data: Online Dataset Training Modules for more details about the DLDT tool.

Download and Access Raw Data Files

Users have several options for conducting statistical analyses and producing data tables. Many NCES surveys release public-use raw data files that professors and students can download and analyze using statistical software packages like SAS, STATA, and SPSS. Some data files and syntax files can also be downloaded using NCES data tools:

  • Education Data Analysis Tool (EDAT) and the Online Codebook allow users to download several survey datasets in various statistical software formats. Users can subset a dataset by selecting a survey, a population, and variables relevant to their analysis.
  • Many data files can be accessed directly from the Surveys & Programs page by clicking on the specific survey and then clicking on the “Data Products” link on the survey website.

Generate Analyses and Tables

NCES provides several online analysis tools that do not require a statistical software package:

  • DataLab is a tool for making tables and regressions that features more than 30 federal education datasets. It includes three powerful analytic tools:
    • QuickStats—for creating simple tables and charts.
    • PowerStats—for creating complex tables and logistic and linear regressions.
    • TrendStats—for creating complex tables spanning multiple data collection years. This tool also contains the Tables Library, which houses more than 5,000 published analysis tables by topic, publication, and source.

  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Data Explorer can be used to generate tables, charts, and maps of detailed results from national and state assessments. Users can identify the subject area, grade level, and years of interest and then select variables from the student, teacher, and school questionnaires for analysis.
  • International Data Explorer (IDE) is an interactive tool with data from international assessments and surveys, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The IDE can be used to explore student and adult performance on assessments, create a variety of data visualizations, and run statistical tests and regression analyses.
  • Elementary/Secondary Information System (ElSi) allows users to quickly view public and private school data and create custom tables and charts using data from the Common Core of Data (CCD) and Private School Universe Survey (PSS).
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Use the Data provides researcher-focused access to IPEDS data and tools that contain comprehensive data on postsecondary institutions. Users can view video tutorials or use data through one of the many functions within the portal, including the following:
    • Data Trends—Provides trends over time for high-interest topics, including enrollment, graduation rates, and financial aid.
    • Look Up an Institution—Allows for quick access to an institution’s comprehensive profile. Shows data similar to College Navigator but contains additional IPEDS metrics.
    • Statistical Tables—Equips power users to quickly get data and statistics for specific measures, such as average graduation rates by state.

Back to School by the Numbers: 2019–20 School Year

This was crossposted from the National Center for Education Statistics blog

Across the country, hallways and classrooms are full of activity as students return for the 2019–20 school year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles back-to-school facts and figures that give a snapshot of our schools and colleges for the coming year. You can see the full report on the NCES website, but here are a few “by-the-numbers” highlights. You can also click on the hyperlinks throughout the blog to see additional data on these topics.

The staff of NCES and of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) hopes our nation’s students, teachers, administrators, school staffs, and families have an outstanding school year!

56.6 million

The number of students expected to attend public and private elementary and secondary schools this year—slightly more than in the 2018–19­ school year (56.5 million).

Overall, 50.8 million students are expected to attend public schools this year. The racial and ethnic profile of public school students includes 23.7 million White students, 13.9 million Hispanic students, 7.7 million Black students, 2.7 million Asian students, 2.1 million students of Two or more races, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 0.2 million Pacific Islander students.

About 5.8 million students are expected to attend private schools this year.


The projected per student expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools in 2019–20. Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools are projected to be $680 billion for the 2019–20 school year.

3.7 million

The number of teachers in fall 2019. There will be 3.2 million teachers in public schools and 0.5 million teachers in private schools.

3.7 million

The number of students expected to graduate from high school this school year, including 3.3 million from public schools and nearly 0.4 million from private schools.

19.9 million

The number of students expected to attend American colleges and universities this fall—lower than the peak of 21.0 million in 2010. About 13.9 million students will attend four-year institutions and 6.0 million will attend two-year institutions.


The projected percentage of female postsecondary students in fall 2019, for a total of 11.3 million female students, compared with 8.6 million male students.

By Sidney Wilkinson-Flicker

Your Burning Questions about Dual Enrollment, Answered.

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

girl in robotics class research electronic device

Imagine graduating from high school with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. You may think it sounds too good to be true, but dual enrollment programs can make this a reality for many high school students.

Because there are no universal federal guidelines that exist to determine how dual enrollment programs are structured, there tends to be a great deal of variation between programs. So what exactly is dual enrollment?

In short, dual enrollment allows students to access college classes and achieve college credit before they graduate high school.

How exactly does dual enrollment work?  Here are some answers to the top five most frequently asked questions:

What is the difference between dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment?

Dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment are both program options that allow students to earn college credit while they are still in high school. In some states the difference between dual and concurrent enrollment lies in where a course is taught and who teaches it. For example, in Wyoming, dual enrollment courses are taught by college instructors at the college, outreach center, or online, while concurrent enrollment courses are taught at the high school by a college-approved high school teacher.

What is the difference between AP courses and dual enrollment?

Dual enrollment courses allow students to get early access to college content in college courses. AP courses are different because they only result in college credit if a student earns a particular score on an AP exam at the end of the course and if the college that the student enrolls in accepts AP scores for course credit. This means students who complete a dual enrollment program have a college transcript at the end of their experience and can enroll directly in the college where they started or transfer these courses if they move to another college or university. AP courses on the other hand result in an AP score that can be submitted to a college and the college has their own matrix to decide if the score will amount to any college credit.

How does dual enrollment relate to career pathways?

Dual enrollment programs can serve as a fast track for students toward a career pathway that aligns with college courses and curriculum. For example, a student interested in a nursing program at a community college might complete all their nursing prerequisite courses in a dual enrollment program in high school. This way, after high school graduation they are ready to immediately enroll in the nursing curriculum at the community college.

How could Education Freedom Scholarships expand access to dual enrollment?

Education Freedom Scholarships could have significant positive impacts on dual enrollment programs and the students enrolled in these courses. Education Freedom Scholarships would allow students to leverage dual enrollment opportunities that may not be available in their area or district. Additionally, Education Freedom Scholarships can assist in covering allowable educational expenses such as transportation, tools, personal protective equipment, and more.

How does dual enrollment benefit students?

Research on dual enrollment suggests that students who enroll in these courses in high school are more academically successful when they transfer schools, have an easier transition from high school to college, are less likely to need remediation, and save both time and money in earning their degrees.

Visit to learn more about dual enrollment.

The Challenge of College

For me, I knew that every part of the K-12 educational journey was meant to prepare me to get accepted into a great college. The application process was challenging and competitive, yet I managed to be accepted to a great state school. However, what happened after I got in was a foreign concept to me, and I was unaware of what was to come. So much focus had been placed on getting into college, but no one ever told me how to succeed once there. For instance, my freshman classes averaged two hundred students and were filled with classmates who had graduated at the top of their class from prestigious high schools. The thought of raising my hand and asking for help while hundreds of pairs of eyes stared at me was horrifying. Therefore, I attempted to do it on my own and pretended that I knew what was happening in class.

The reality was that I could not keep up with the material, especially in my biological calculus course. The class was more advanced than what I had learned in high school, and I did not have strong studying and organizational habits. As hard as I tried, I scored poorly on my exams, and my confidence started to break down. I felt alone as I watched my classmates earn higher grades and answer questions without hesitation. I felt like I could not tell my parents because they had so much to worry about back home and were already having a hard time with me being away. If I dropped the class, then I would no longer be a full-time student. This meant that I would lose some of my financial aid, which I could not afford to do. The idea of failing this class continued to cross my mind, and it dawned on me what a failure I was. I couldn’t help but think of my family members, teachers and scholarship donors who had believed in me. I am not sure whether it was fear, pride or a bit of both that led me to remain silent and not ask for help.

I was home over winter break when I received my grade, and I couldn’t keep this away from my parents any longer. I had earned a D in biological calculus. I thought that they would be disappointed. I worried that they would feel as if all the sacrifices they had made for my future would go down the drain because of this mark on my transcript. However, my mom’s reaction could not have been more graceful and understanding. Instead, she wiped away my tears and asked about my struggles through the class.

I had allowed for my struggles to eat me up inside for so long. However, I came to realize that this one grade did not have to define me, my parents’ sacrifices, or the community I represent. I did not need to burden myself with thoughts of being a disappointment or another hopeless statistic. What would truly define this moment in my college career would be my next steps. That winter break I searched through all the resources on my school’s website, re-read my new student handbook, and found ways to improve my time management and study habits. I began the semester by meeting with my advisor and older college friends, making appointments at the academic success center, and attending the tutoring sessions. I learned the importance of shining light on my weaknesses and advocating for myself.

Each university has a wide variety of resources, whether you are struggling with academics, living situations, mental health, or finances. There are people who can offer guidance and support. However, no one can help you if you don’t admit that you need it and ask for it. Since then, my GPA has improved each semester, and I am not afraid to raise my hand in class when I am lost. I have encouraged younger students to self-advocate. I remind them that hardships will come, but they can decide how they respond. Most importantly, I have continued to rely on the unconditional love and support from my parents by sharing all parts of my college experience, even the most challenging ones.

Valentina Tovar is a graduate of Texas A&M University and a Summer 2018 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Follow the Rainbow of Happiness

As a first-generation student, I felt intimidated by the idea of college. I knew I wanted to attend college but had no idea what college entailed other than  anecdotal experiences I had heard from my teachers. I was accepted and offered a substantive financial aid package from the University of California, Merced (UC Merced). My high school A.V.I.D. teacher, Mr. Beale, emphasized the importance of moving, “as far away as possible to reach [my] full potential.” I chose to attend UC Merced with high academic expectations. I grew up in San Diego, CA, only ten minutes away from the border in a busy city full of diversity. Moving to UC Merced put me nine hours away from my family and in a rural area that I never had experienced. The geographic and ethnic demographic of UC Merced was something that impacted me in a way I had never experienced. For instance, I had never even seen a sky so vividly dark with little light pollution.

I had also never lived on my own without my family and at the age of seventeen, everything felt new, exciting, and intimidating. While I created a strong support system at UC Merced, I still had severe issues with self-efficacy. I felt insecure as if I wasn’t at the same academic rigor as my peers. This comparison was self-deteriorating. It affected the way I saw myself, how I interacted with others, and externally affected my academics. I wasn’t happy where I was at.

I signed up for the Success Mentor Program, an organization that paired me up with a mentor. I was paired with Diana Hernandez. The Success Mentor Program allowed for growth in a way that was fully supported by my mentor. Meetings with my mentor were decided by us and our conversations were not limited. I was supported in every way possible, and Diana always had a resource for any issue that arose. I felt comfortable speaking with her about any topic, which also made me feel confident in any new experience I would have. I had someone who was older, wiser, and successful guiding me over similar obstacles she had experienced. More importantly, Diana fully understood my discomfort about being in an environment where I felt like I did not belong. She explained, “When you feel like that, remember that every single person is in that room with you. No one is better than another; you are all in the same room.This continues to resonate with me.

Although one person could not cure my self-efficacy issues, it burst a sense of confidence in the way that I approached college. But, building a sense of confidence was only one step towards the ladder of achievement. I was placed on academic probation during my first year of college and was forced to re-evaluate my focus and happiness. I was a bio-engineering major at that time and was more interested in writing than any other course work. I changed majors to Management and Business Economics with a minor in Professional Writing. I felt like I had failed myself in that point of time. However, this decision changed my perception. I had the opportunity to pursue activities that I enjoyed. Previously, I consistently felt drained studying material that I did not find as interesting as writing. This was the first time I was able to turn a hobby into something professional. I often wrote for fun but didn’t think I could make tangible change through my writing. I joined The Prodigy News, The UC Merced school newspaper, and was able to witness the impact that writing had and its potential for stirring up change when utilized properly. This thirst for change led me to join the Associated Students of University of California, Merced.

This change of mindset created a ripple effect on my of happiness. Even when college got increasingly more difficult and I felt like quitting, I didn’t because what I was doing made me feel happy and fulfilled. I sincerely encourage others to follow their rainbow of happiness. Go apply for jobs, join organizations, and enroll in classes that create a sense of inner fulfillment. If you do things that make you happy, you will always want to move forward.

Katherine Cervantes is a graduate of the University of California, Merced and a Fall 2017 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Falling Into Place

“Congratulations! You have been accepted into the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.” When I read that line, I was clearly excited, but then wondered, what now? So many thoughts rushed into my mind. Will I make friends? Will I enjoy college? What will be my major? I had numerous things to contemplate. While there were social concerns, I wanted to focus on my academic concerns because these were things that I had control over. So, I spent hours researching in front of the computer, brainstorming different degree plans, comparing how they connected for my future aspirations, and eating tons of sweets to keep my stress tolerable. At this point of my life, I only knew two things: one, I was going to college; and two, I wanted to become an attorney. In fact, my dream career was to become an immigration lawyer. However, what was my major in college going to be?

I knew what subjects I liked and what I didn’t like. I knew that physical science was not my passion; English was interesting. History intrigued me. But would I be happy for four years in those majors? Probably not. What was left? The only one I thought of was government. That is what I craved. When I was checking the list of majors along with their degree plans, I kept my goal of becoming an attorney at the back of my mind. I knew that all majors were accepted by law schools, so no major was more desirable than another. It was my choice on what field of study I wanted to spend the next four years. I asked myself a few questions. What was I most interested in? What will best prepare me for law school? What if I do not want to become a lawyer anymore? What will be my backup plan? After all this thinking, I solidified my decision to major in political science.

With my goal of becoming an attorney, I knew that studying government would be beneficial. Majoring in political science interested me because I felt that it would give me a foundation of what would be the beginning of my future career. I knew that this major was perfect for me when I took the course Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties. This class was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, but it expanded my knowledge on every level—political, social, and personal. Despite its difficulty, I knew in my gut that I made the right choice.

Today, I can truthfully say that I made the right decision. Studying political science in college made a positive impact on my goal to be an attorney. Without making this decision, I would have never been able to intern for a federal agency, study and prepare for the LSAT, and start applications for law school. So, I would like to say, trust your instinct and be informed as you follow your dreams.

Crystal Guerva is a graduate of The University of Texas of the Permian Basin and she was a Fall 2017 U.S. Department of Education intern.