My path to university is unconventional, I'm a bit of a unicorn, not many Crown Wards of my age went onto post-secondary education, as there were not the supports needed.
I went to the University of Manitoba, they gave me a good offer, and I believed that as they had access supports available for Crown Wards, it was a wise choice to move out of Hamilton to attend university. (Another motivating factor was seeing first generation students among my non-Crown Ward peers dropping out of university due to being unable to focus on their studies due to friend and family pressures)
Nowhere near an "elite" university.
NPR's The 1A aired an fascinating discussion entitled "What Happens To Low-Income Students In High-Priced Universities?", this is a topic I was planning to explore before I left post secondary education.
A discussion about the social norms and expectations of the educated class was fascinating, what really struck a cord for me was the discussion about the importance of attending professor's office hours to building the networks and associations needed to gain reference letters for graduate studies and other opportunities.
A panelist talked about how many first generation students misinterpreted this to mean a professors time to work in the office, not as an opportunity to meet with professors. It was suggested changing the name to "open hours".
I'd never thought of that.
I didn't understand that professors sought to help students. In my first term, I mistakenly completed the wrong assignment. The one I completed was due in two weeks, and when the professor announced she was collecting the assignment I didn't complete, I accepted my the consequences of my failure, losing 20% of my final mark.
A few months later, I happened to be in the same coffee line as this professor. She asked me what happened, noting that I would've likely been the top student in the course had I not lost that 20%. I told her I completed the wrong assignment. She stated that had I handed in that assignment on that date, she would've granted me a week to complete the other assignment.
Now, I wouldn't have accepted this accommodation. The course outline was clear, it was my error to mix up assignments. It was one of the first conversations I'd had with a professor.
This professor took the time to converse with me, and helped me navigate the university system.
The Crown Ward meeting group I participated in was mostly us Crown Wards discussing our social levels and feeling of being out of place; there wasn't much focus on navigating the system. Still an important support for me in my first year, knowing my experiences were shared.
It's worth noting that McMaster University took a stage towards its new access strategy this week with the hiring of Celeste Licorish as their new Access Strategy Program Manager. I've known Licorish for nearly 20 years in her community work, most recently at the Hamilton Community Foundation. She is a great hire by McMaster, and will implement the programs McMaster will need to succeed in recruiting and retaining under-represented students.