Admissions materials go bilingual

The admissions office’s efforts to reach out to Spanish speakers might soon have some singing, “Por eso escogí Yale!”

In addition to providing subtitles for the hit admissions video, “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” in several languages including Spanish, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ new Web site, set to launch this summer, will include both English and Spanish versions of key pages and possibly downloadable documents of admissions materials in Spanish. These efforts are part of a national trend among colleges and universities to provide admissions information to prospective Latino students whose parents are not fluent in English.

Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel noted that prospective students must be proficient enough in English to understand admissions material without translation; these new efforts are instead aimed at parents, he said.

“We also recognize that a growing number of first-generation college candidates come from Spanish-speaking families,” he said in an e-mail.

Indeed, on top of the pressure of filling out applications, writing essays and attending interviews, some Latino students said they have the added task of explaining the college admissions process to their parents who are not fluent in English.

Alma Zepeda ’12 said many Latino families she knows back home in Los Angeles have concerns about sending their children to distant universities without the means to understand what exactly those schools are like.

“Coming to the opposite coast was extremely difficult, especially to a school [my parents] hadn’t heard of,” she said. “They didn’t know where I was going, what I was studying or where I was living.”

Zepeda said having admissions material that Spanish-speaking parents could better understand will help future admitted students to navigate their college decisions more easily.

Nelson Mendoza ’13, who is from Houston, said an admitted student Web site featuring information in Spanish would help parents. Still, he said when he applied to college, other schools, such as MIT, did a better job of reaching out by providing information sessions at community centers rather than in far-off suburbs.

To address some of these concerns, Yale has student recruiters and admissions officers who can speak to parents in several languages, including Spanish. The admissions office also plans to launch a series of videos on its admitted students Web site in which first generation college students at Yale speak in their native languages.

Brenzel noted that La Casa Cultural sent out letters last year to parents of admitted students who indicated on their applications that Spanish was spoken in their homes. Hannah Peck DIV ’11, a graduate student assistant at La Casa, said the organization will continue with this initiative this spring.

This month the Associated Press reported that a number of East Coast colleges and universities are taking similar initiatives to appeal to Hispanic families. The University of Pennsylvania set up Spanish recruiting seminars last fall in Los Angeles and Miami and translated the school’s financial aid brochure into Spanish last year. Bryn Mawr College this year launched a Spanish version of its Web site, translated by a native-speaker student intern, and complete with application instructions and student profiles, said Naté Hall, the senior assistant director of admissions at Bryn Mawr.

Yale also uses Spanish-speaking alumni to answer questions at host receptions in several cities, Brenzel said.

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