A First Generation Student’s Guide To College Application Season

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In this day and age, a college education can provide excellent opportunities to secure a successful future. However, the application process can be incredibly daunting for those aspiring undergraduates hoping to capitalize on higher education’s innumerable benefits. The challenge is even more significant for students paving the way and proudly claiming the title as the first family member to attend college.

Unlike their peers, first-generation college students can’t rely on family members’ experience for help during the application process. These students also feel overcome with feelings of guilt due to the perception that they are abandoning their family in the interest of advancing their careers. These and other factors add to the ever-present stress of applying for college and cause first-generation students to clear additional emotional and financial hurdles during the admissions process.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the college application season easier for first-generation students. Read on for more insight into how aspiring undergraduates can defy the odds and bridge the graduation gap between first-generation and second-generation college students.

Calculate your odds of acceptance before you apply

Universities make a habit of tracking the number of students they accept and compare these figures to the number of applicants in a given year. These yearly acceptance rates can help you understand which schools are more likely to admit you. For example, the University of Florida acceptance rate is relatively low at 39%, making it a competitive higher-education institution in the eyes of many.

By contrast, Ivy League schools are some of the most selective schools in the nation and have significantly lower acceptance rates, while many public universities advertise much higher acceptance rates. With these acceptance rates in mind, it’s in your best interest to apply to colleges with comparatively low acceptance rates. Remember, shooting for the stars and submitting an application to your reach school may yield less than desirable results. That said,  It’s best to apply to multiple colleges you are interested in that have different acceptance rates. This way, you have a higher likelihood of being admitted to at least one college.

Talk to people with experience in the application process

One difficulty that first-generation students face is that their families don’t have the necessary tricks up their sleeve that set first-year students up for success. This unfortunate reality doesn’t mean that students have to work through the process alone. It’s important to remember that thousands of first-generation students are simply an email or direct message away.

With social media taking the world by storm, try to connect with a first-generation graduate that you can go to for advice throughout your college experience. If you don’t have any fellow first-gen students in your immediate social circle, consult your high school advisors and counselors. These insiders are unbeatable resources that can help you find the light at the end of the application process tunnel. Should all else fail, resources at your prospective college can lend a helping hand during college application season.

Make a plan to complete your applications

It’s easy for application deadlines to sneak up on you. So, it’s a good idea to start preparing as soon as possible. Make a list of the colleges that you want to apply to and write down important dates. You should also try to schedule a time to write and rewrite admissions essays, known to make or break your college application.

Ensure you have all the required materials for an application before the deadline and consider completing any optional essays. Some colleges no longer require that you submit scores for tests such as the ACT or SAT, but check the application requirements to ensure you have the time to take a test if needed.

Additionally, try to schedule a visit to the colleges you’re most interested in attending. Your success in school will partially depend on how comfortable you are at the institution. Visiting a college is the best way to evaluate whether you can flourish on a college campus of this nature. If a personal visit is not an option, some institutions allow students to attend virtual visits to decide if the college in question is right for them.

Don’t be afraid to apply for financial aid

There is no denying that college is a costly investment. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you out. Make sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form can connect you with federal grant options, work-study opportunities, and student loan options.

Along with filling out a FAFSA form, you’ll want to apply for scholarships. Some scholarships apply to a broad audience, while others, such as those for women of color, are more specific. For example, some scholarships exclusively cater to first-generation students. If scholarships and financial aid don’t cover your education costs, consider taking out federal student loans. While many cringe at the thought of incurring debt, federal loans are generally more forgiving than private loans. In Australia, students check if they are eligible for government funded courses, for example.

You can find the college that is right for you

The college application process can be incredibly challenging, especially for first-generation students. However, the chance to earn a degree is quite the incentive for completing the process. Remember that you aren’t alone, and there are many resources at your disposal. With a sturdy support system, your dreams of going to college are well within your grasp.

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