‘After taking that class, your perspective on everything changes’

When asked to reflect on a class that had changed her life, Georgetown student Manuela Castano (B’24) recently recounted how the university’s Mastering the Hidden Curriculum course was instrumental in shifting her mindset as she navigated her first year at Georgetown as a first-generation college student. A 12-week, two-credit course intended for students who self-identify as first-generation and/or low-income, Mastering the Hidden Curriculum demystifies the unspoken rules of college success and connects students with the resources they need to thrive on campus.

Related: Georgetown course helps first-gen students master ‘the hidden curriculum’ >

Castano had immigrated from Colombia three years before coming to Georgetown and worked full-time as a restaurant server while learning English at the Community College of Baltimore County prior to enrolling in Georgetown’s business program as a transfer student. She recalls feeling both excited and overwhelmed when she first arrived on campus as a sophomore.

“[In the business school] you see all these people in fancy suits,” she says. “People that seem like they’re already consulting or in finance. You hear these terms like ‘investment banking,’ ‘private equity,’ ‘venture capital,’ and you’re like, ‘what is this?’ I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know how to sell myself. I don’t even own clothes for an interview!”

A change of perspective

Mastering the Hidden Curriculum is a joint project of the Georgetown Scholars Program, which provides programmatic support to first-generation and low-income undergraduate students and the university’s Designing the Future(s) initiative, which aims to accelerate educational innovation in pursuit of equity and efficacy. Castano says the class helped her and her peers to build community and reflect on the opportunities and challenges they faced as first-generation and low-income students.

“After taking that class, your perspective on everything changes,” says Castano. “This class helped me understand that it was my own path, and I didn’t have to do what everyone else was doing. I was obviously not a traditional student, so I didn’t have to go hard on myself.”

After completing the course, Castano explored a wide range of professional and academic opportunities, including an internship at Morgan Stanley, a class consulting project in Ghana, and a study abroad program in Barcelona. She also joined the board of Georgetown Aspiring Minority Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs and First Generation Investors. In her senior year, Castano became a Mastering the Hidden Curriculum course assistant to support other first-generation, low-income students like herself.

“You don’t need to prove anything to anyone,” Castano said, reflecting on her early weeks at Georgetown. “Just be yourself. Embrace who you are and everything will work out.”

Read more about Mastering the Hidden Curriculum and other pivotal courses.

Topics in this story
, , ,

Next Up

Highly selective colleges focus on financial aid to increase diversity

After the end of race-conscious college admissions, some highly selective colleges and universities are expanding financial aid programs, hoping to boost racial and socioeconomic diversity on campus.