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Making a Decision About College Interactive Case: Meet Marisela, high school senior     

“Wow! I got accepted to four of my colleges…but I wonder what Mom is going to say. I mean, I'll have to go away from home. Who's going to look after my younger sisters and brothers? I really wanna be a doctor, but I'm worried about going so far away from my family.”

“I love school and I love science. During my junior year last year, my biology teacher set me up with a volunteer position at the nearby hospital my mom works at. I love going to the hospital and spending time with children there. It's hard to describe the feeling I have when I go to the hospital. I get all excited. And the kids, their faces just light up when I see them. My mom tells me that it's not always happy at the hospital and that there is a lot of pain too, but I know that I could see myself working there, not as an orderly or a nurse, but as a pediatrician!”

Because Claudia, Marisela’s mother, works two jobs, Marisela usually prepares nightly meals and makes sure that her 10-year-old brother and 12- and 7-year-old sisters complete their schoolwork. After washing the dishes and cleaning up after them, Marisela finally has time to devote to her own studies.

“I know that I stay up late to finish my homework, but that's what I have to do to help my mom and my brother and sisters out. Sometimes I wish I had it like some of the other kids at school who don't have to work or take care of their brothers and sisters. They get to hang out, play sports, and do more after school things. It's not easy, but I'm doing the best that I can.”

Despite her busy schedule, Marisela was accepted for premedical studies at University of California (UC) Riverside, Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University. She had applied to each of them with a fee waiver.

“Wow! I got accepted to four of my colleges! I'm kinda bummed that UCLA and Stanford didn't accept me, but that's okay. Johns Hopkins was my dream school and Brown has an accelerated medical program, and they're all giving me a lot of financial aid. I wonder what Mom is going to say. I mean, I'll have to go away from home. Who's going to look after Ana, Miguel, and Rosa? I really wanna be a doctor, but I'm worried about going so far away from my family.”

With the May 1 deadline to reply to the college two weeks away, Marisela didn’t know what to do. So far she has visited UC Riverside, which is about 90 miles away from her home, with her mom. She wasn't convinced that UC Riverside was the right place for her, but she didn't dislike it either. Johns Hopkins University extended the offer to fly her out to their campus for their open house and she happily accepted. Comfortably cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet in a deep, puffy bed of clouds, Marisela was torn, worried about how she could pursue her dreams and at the same time make her mom and family happy.

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Marisela, high school senior
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Marisela's mother Biology teacher Guidance Counselor Supporting data University
Piecing it all together

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project