New Podcast “The College Lowdown” Explores Issues for Low-Income Students

This
past October, Pomona College QuestBridge Scholar Della Anjeh PO ’16 gathered a group of students to discuss privilege and the difficult college application process for low-income students on a podcast entitled “The College Lowdown.” Four episodes later, the podcast has reached almost 1,000 hits and has prompted discussion at the colleges. Pomona Quest Scholars Anjeh, Sergio
Rodriguez PO ’16, Ashley Land PO ’16, and Daniel Gonzalez PO ’16 sat
down with TSL to discuss the progress of their show.

TSL: What initially
brought your group together to do these podcasts?

Della Anjeh: Over the summer I
messaged a lot of people in our Quest chapter that are on the [QuestBridge] board, plus some
other people that I wanted to know about it. I was like, “I think a podcast
would be good. Can we start one?” And then I asked if we could get money. Some
people were like, “Well, that’s a good idea, let’s try it out.” From there,
those people plus a few more became aware of it near the start of school, but
nothing really happened until October.

TSL: Is it directly
associated with QuestBridge?

Sergio Rodriguez: It’s kind of
funded by QuestBridge. But we are trying to advocate for both QuestBridge and
non-QuestBridge students.

Ashley Land: We are all part of
the Quest Scholars chapter at Pomona. We all identify with struggles of
low-income college students. Well, basically we all wanted to … well, Della, this
is all Della’s creative mind. She wanted to get this podcast together and
basically be a resource for low-income high school students.

TSL: So what are the
goals of your program? What do you hope to get out there through it and what
kind of impact do you want to make?

DA: To have
resources for all kinds of people who want to go to college. When I was in
high school and was trying to find out what it is like in college, all I could
find online about college students was being aware, or news stories about
sports and stuff. Nothing had to do with simple living or just being low-income
at school. That just wasn’t addressed. People were like, “Oh, just apply for
scholarships,” but nothing else beyond that. We want to make that resource
available for people.

SR: What works for
us is the fact that we go out to schools and present. That’s one of the things
we do with Quest. The thing is it limits us, because how far can you really go? I guess the podcast helps because we can reach larger audiences in different
parts of the world and different parts of the nation as well.

AL: For
low-income students, a lot of us are first-generation college students, so we
didn’t have those people who already went through the college process. A lot of
us had to research on our own. This is just a great way to give those students
who don’t have the resources an array of resources. Because it’s really raw and
it’s from our own experiences, so we basically lay it all out there.

TSL: So, what do you
believe is your target audience? Do you believe you are actually reaching out
to high school students applying or do you feel like mostly your friends are
listening?

DA: I think right now
it’s a lot of friends, but there are also some high schoolers. I mean, I post in
the QuestBridge finalist page, which has all high school seniors plus people
who are like me who are like, “Go you guys!”

AL: So far in the
podcast, we’ve been talking about the application process and now I think we’re
starting to get to what it’s like being on college campuses. So, I think it
fluctuates between high school students and our friends and family. We
basically just want people to listen.

DA: Part of it stems
from us not being able to advertise at high schools easily.

Daniel Gonzales: And I don’t
think the audience is directly everybody in the college community. I had a
friend who said she only heard the first five minutes of it because it didn’t
quite relate to her. I don’t think everybody is going to be able to relate on
the same level.

TSL: So what inspires
your topics for every podcast? Do they come from current events or things
going on around campus, or are they more specified on college applications?

DA: Well, we base our
topics off of questions we get. So at the start of our show, we just talked
about random things that come to mind, and then if we have questions, we will
answer them just based off what people ask. So one of our episodes centered a
lot around the application process because someone sent in a question asking,
“What’s it like applying to college as a low-income student?” So the
conversation just went into that and it expanded to become the topic of the
show. So far we actually haven’t had a show without questions, but if that were
to happen we would go with the flow and establish, “Okay, let’s talk about this.” Because I do want the listeners to get something out of every episode.

TSL: So how has the
response been? Have friends or student listeners reached out to you at all?

DA: Random people have
said it’s a really good idea. People like it.

AL: A lot of people
appreciate it.

SR: There have
also been a lot of QuestBridge finalists who have said, “This is what I need in
my life.” So it’s a blessing for a lot of people.

DA: Honestly, I don’t
hear a lot of talk because all we have is our server site and our Facebook
page. Right now there is no way for people to have a dialogue online that I can
access. I feel like a lot of people just talk about it among themselves, and if
I happen to see them they tell me.

DG: I also have a
lot of friends at QuestBridge-affiliated schools who are like, “I wish we had
something like this since it’s such a cool medium, and we really support you.”

TSL: Do you have any
other future plans for the show at the moment?

DA: The most immediate
plan is once we have about seven to 10 episodes I want to make it fully searchable
on iTunes. Right now you can get it downloaded from the website, but it’s not
the same as formally being on iTunes. So hopefully that will have a blog format
so you can send messages between shows to explain certain things and provide
links for things we talk about, and people will be able to respond.

TSL: Have you received
any negative responses to the show?

DA: We addressed
that, actually, in our fourth episode. Just how some people felt a bit put off by
the dialogue or, I guess, a bit victimized. Of course, we did not intend for that
to happen. It’s a very sensitive topic, discussing people’s privilege in a way that
sort of confronts low-income issues. So we addressed it and we know you don’t
have to agree with everything. We don’t expect you to.

SR: I felt like
our podcast was supposed to be doing more good than anything. It’s not supposed
to be doing any bad. We got different responses with this criticism. For us, it
was hard to put into context what a privileged student would think about this
because none of us are privileged. So it’s hard for us to say things that won’t
offend anyone. At the same time, I don’t feel like we were being offensive
because, like, we’re not flaunting their wealth or saying they are bad people
because of their wealth.

AL: I think we’re just [here] to give our perspective. Because definitely at these colleges, it’s not a
perspective that’s talked about a lot, and people need to hear this perspective to realize the privilege they have. It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong for
having this privilege or anything like that. We are just telling our story, and
basically we are trying to help the people who will go through this and let
them know they will be okay and have resources.

You can find “The College Lowdown” podcast at thecollegelowdown.castmate.fm

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