A Back to School Message from our President



As we head into those last days of summer that many of us associate with returning “back to school”, we at APIA Scholars have been preparing for this time since spring and it is truly one of our favorite times of the year! Our mission is to ensure that all our Scholars are prepared and successful in their college years and we do this through intentional and holistic student supports including mentorship, internships, exposure to career choice and industries, mental health and wellness programming and support, and financial literacy and scholarships.  We work closely with colleges and universities across the country, especially with federally designed AANHPI serving institutions such as Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) to lift up and support their incredible students with a focus on our community. 

My message today is directly to our Scholars, it is for those of you beginning your college careers and the many of you who are continuing your educational journeys!  Here are a few words I’d like to impart to you! 

Know that you have made a good choice.  For many APIA Scholars, the decision to pursue a college education is monumental for your immediate and external family and community- especially when you are the first in your family to attend college.  You may be nervous about leaving home or feeling guilty, but your decision to pursue a college education is an important investment that will serve you for the rest of your life.    

A 2011 study “The College Payoff” out of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that the difference in earnings over a lifetime between an individual with a high school degree and a college degree is almost a million dollars.  This represents a significant difference in earning power and one’s ability to contribute to one’s community and society as a whole.  This study has consistently been updated over the past decade by Dr. Anthony Carnvale, who has found differences in earnings based on degree of study, institution, and other factors, however the difference in earnings over a lifetime remains steady. 

Beyond earnings, we know from other social science researchers (Chickering, Astin, Pascarella & Terenzini) that one’s identity formation is significantly developed during “traditional” college age years (18-25) and that while identity development is an ongoing and lifelong endeavor, environmental factors including exposure to difference, institutional supports, and opportunities for exploration and challenges are key to an individual’s healthy identity development (Chickering 1992). 

You belong.  College is a time for exploration and growth that may feel uncomfortable at times, especially in the beginning.  You may feel unsure, unsteady, and a bit lost during different stages in your college career.  I am here to assure you there is much research out there (social science, psychology, college student development) to confirm that this is normal!  The college experience is meant to stretch and grow you; it is in developing the skills of flexibility and resilience that you are able to discover who you are.  Because everyone is there to go on this journey, each and every one of you belong there- doing the work of exploring, growing and becoming your true and authentic self.   

You are not alone.  Being in a sea of thousands or even hundreds of strangers may feel – at first- like the loneliest experience of your life.  Navigating the campus, your residence call, new and old friendships, classes, and opportunities may feel overwhelming and daunting.  First, give yourself breathing room, nothing has to be done immediately, but don’t wait too long either, set reasonable and achievable goals for yourself (Examples:  Talk to my Residence Assistant (RA) about resources on campus, talk to one new person a week, visit the AANAPISI office on campus, and schedule a meeting with my professor in the first month of class).  Go at a pace that you are comfortable with but set the bar high for yourself!  Remember, your campus is FULL of resources designed specifically to assist you throughout the many different stages of college.   

Finally, APIA Scholars is here for you.  We offer diverse and hybrid resources for you (including a mentorship program, online Brown Bag lunches to meet AANHPI student around the country who are attending college) and mental health and wellness resources for you.  We are a staff made up of caring, passionate, and experienced professionals, many of whom have walked in similar shoes to you, and our doors (literally and figuratively) are always open!  So please reach out
info@apiascholars.org and I commit that someone from our organization will respond to you. 

We love interacting and supporting you on social media, and we’d love to hear from you about the ways we currently support you and the things you’d love for us to consider doing in the future. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@APIA_Scholars), Instagram (@apiascholars), Facebook (@APIA Scholars), and LinkedIn (@APIA Scholars). 

APIA Scholars is so proud of every one of you.   We are here and excited to join you in celebrating this momentous time in your life!  Congratulations and best wishes as you head “back to school”! 

Noël S. Harmon, PhD

President & Executive Director