Many Hispanic and Latino/a students have a major asset in their lives: their families. There’s often a tight-knit closeness and deep connection that makes la familia the most important thing in their lives.

“Family relationships are at the core of social life among Latinos,” Belinda Campos, an associate professor in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine, told Greater Good Magazine. She said that “familism is indicated by valuing interconnectedness among family members, preferring family members as the first source of social support.”

Families of Hispanic and Latino/a students value higher education, Jacob Fraire, director of policy and strategy at the Diana Natalicio Institute for Hispanic Student Success at the University of Texas at El Paso, told The Texas Tribune. Yet, it’s important that they see how the institution will be an extension of their family.

Juliet García, former president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, told the paper she remembered a Hispanic mother telling her, “Te la estoy entregando” or “I’m putting her in your hands” when she recruited a student chess player. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s right. She thinks that I’m going to know everything that’s going on in the dorm and in the chess team,’” Garcia said. “They assume if they’re bringing their child from Brazil or from Mexico, that you are now taking care of their jobs. So it is a heavy load to embrace.”

The Role of a Student within a Hispanic or Latino/a Family

College is often a group decision within Hispanic and Latino/a families due to the collective nature of their family structure. This cultural context values interdependence and connection to others, with the most important consideration often being how individuals’ desires fit in with the people around them, according to Intercultural Programs USA. 

“Removing a child from the household potentially means removing family income or a caretaker for siblings or other family members,” Chris Nieto, senior vice president for program development and expansion at the National Hispanic Institute, said in Creating a Sense of Community and Belonging for Latinx Students, The Journal of College Admission. “Latinx students need to have continued dialogue with their family about what college will look like in the future for the entire family; this can begin as early as ninth grade so by the time a student enters their senior year, the family is ready and supportive.”

Sources: Intercultural Programs USA,; Creating a Sense of Community and Belonging for Latinx Students, The Journal of College Admission, Fall 2018; Greater Good Magazine, 1/25/22; The Texas Tribune, 8/8/22

Learn more about topics like this and many others within our BRAND NEW Support Hispanic and Latino/a Students: Asset-Based, Culturally-Conscious Approaches to Engage, Support & Retain resource.