Peer Advice for First Generation College Applicants

November 02, 2017

Are you the first in your family to apply to college? If so, it’s likely challenging, but you’re not alone.

Take it from Valentina, a student at American University, who shares her advice on applying to college as a first generation student:

As a first generation student, I am proud of my choice to attend college. Regardless of what socio-economic background you come from, education is a right. But, when you’re the first person in your family to pursue a postsecondary education, you often find many barriers in the way. The process seems a bit overwhelming, and you’re on your own.

I get it. You’ve worked hard, but you aren’t sure how to begin your college search, or what is a “good fit”. Your family members want you attend your dream school, but they don’t understand how the college admissions process works or how to help. Truth to be told that’s how everyone’s feels. Even for students who have parents that attended prestigious universities find the entire process a bit tedious.

So, if you’re lost and not sure where to begin, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Find Your Best College Fit

To get started, think about where you can see yourself being happy. What career goals do you have? What do you want to major in? If you’re undecided, break down your interests even further. For example, if you are interested in computers, research computer related majors. For example, the Rochester Institute of Technology offers a Computer Exploration program. The program gives students the opportunity to explore the field of computing before declaring a specific major.

2. Be Realistic

Be realistic when choosing what colleges to apply to. Colleges are looking for well-rounded students who are looking to make an impact on society. Needless to say, some colleges are more competitive than others. Plan your college list wisely: consider at least two safety schools, two target schools, and two reach schools.

3. Understand Your Financial Aid Options

Finances are important, but don’t limit your choices because of a school’s “ticket price.” Some private schools are extremely expensive at first sight, but may offer merit-based scholarships and grants that can reduce costs tremendously. Also keep in mind that if you are applying to any Ivy League universities (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc.), they can meet all of your financial needs if your family makes less than a specific income.

4. Stay Organized

Keep yourself organized. Create a word document or an excel sheet with all of the universities you will apply to. There will be many deadlines you need to abide to. You will have to send transcripts, letters of recommendations, and complete applications. Make sure you give yourself enough time to plan ahead.

5. Ask for Help

There is plenty of help out there! There are plenty of resources you can rely on and people you can reach out to help you throughout your admissions process. There are also plenty of scholarships you can find and apply to online to help pay for college! Talk to a guidance counselor, teacher, parent’s friend, or even email a professional. There are many resources to help you plan ahead. Remember, you’re not alone!

The application process is tough. Your efforts and personality is being judged and evaluated by each university you apply to. So I just want you to remember that even through potential rejection letters you’re worth it. Just because the rest of your family never went to college doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. If you want to pursue a higher education, you have every right to.

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.

Have any other questions? Unlock Valentina’s successful college application file to learn more about her college application journey. Looking for more successful application examples? Upgrade to one of our premium subscriptions to access our searchable database of successful college applications and advice. 

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

Browse Successful Application Files

American ‘18

Accepted to Randolph-Macon, American

I'm Jessie. I'm going into my second year at American University. I'm a trans-racial adoptee with a passion for justice and soup dumplings!
American ‘19

Accepted to American, Brandeis, Skidmore, UVM, Wheaton

I am about to enter my freshman year at American University. I graduated from a private college preparatory school in New York State. I love reading, volunteering, and working with kids!

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