I remember the first time I saw a computer—or at least what I thought was a computer. I was living in El Salvador. My father had gone to work for several days to San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital. This was very unusual. My father was a country man. We lived in the countryside. He never went to work far away, let alone for several days. I remember him coming home. He seemed happy. He had made decent money and he had a gift for me. He handed me a big box. I was excited. I opened the box; I saw a computer. I was 12 years old. 2002. I tried to make the thing work, but it did not do anything when I pushed its only button. It took me several weeks to come to a sad realization; what my dad had brought home was not a computer—it was a monitor.
I left El Salvador in 2005; I arrived to Los Angeles California. I started high school in October, 2005. I remember how excited I was when I entered my 6th period class, a computer class. There were lots of computers, but only a few of them worked. Some of my peers were allowed to work on other assignments if they did not have access to a computer. I felt silly when I thought about the computer my dad had brought home. As I went through high school, I realized that most of the time, that the only thing that worked in our computer labs were monitors. I graduated from high school without owning a computer.
Several years later, I find myself working in college access. I visit multiple college centers throughout the year. As I work with different students on their college applications, computers become a critical tool in completing these applications. However, computers are only available for short periods of times.
In a lot of ways, students in many schools I have visited, have little more than what I had—an unplugged monitor. I still see computers that do not work, and if they work, they are old. Also, internet access is somewhat slow in the different high schools I visit. In other words, just because computers exist within the high school, it does mean that students have access to them. This is troublesome, especially when all the process of applying to college and financial aid is now done online; luckily students are versatile in working around this issue.
With all the different problems in accessing computers during high school, students are using their smartphones a lot more during the process of applying and enrolling to college. I cannot count how many times students have shown me a financial aid package through their phone. These students remind me of when I thought that having a monitor was the equivalent of having access to a computer and its benefits. Yet, a monitor, cellphone screen, is making a huge impact as they keep up with the college application process.