Applying to college can be overwhelming. And if you’re the first person in your family to attend college, you might feel in over your head at times. Unlike your peers who have college-educated parents or siblings, you don’t have someone at home who can answer your questions for you.
But just because you’re less familiar with the process doesn’t mean your college search shouldn’t go as smoothly as anyone else’s. That is College Greenlight’s purpose. We want your college search and selection to be as comfortable and exciting as possible. After all, unlike your peers who already have family who has been to college, you are truly taking the first step for future generations! Here is some helpful advice to help you on your ground-breaking journey.
Meet with your high school guidance counselor
If you aren’t super comfortable with the college search process, don’t worry: your high school guidance counselor can help! An expert in all aspects of the college search process, your guidance counselor can help you along the way and make sure you hit important milestones and deadlines such as taking the SAT or ACT and applying for financial aid.
Try to make it to campus visits
Unlike students who may have visited the colleges their parents or siblings attended, you might not have spent time on a college campus. And while college brochures and websites can gave a somewhat accurate picture of what a school is like, nothing is better than visiting a campus. Many students say a visit to campus is the moment they chose their college. Make sure you visit a variety of campuses to get an idea of what feels right to you big or small, public or private, far from home or local.
It’s a family affair
Even if they don’t know any more about getting into college than you do, your family is still an important part of the college search process. And once you arrive on campus, they’ll be an important source of support as you adjust to the challenges of college life. So ask your family to get involved in your college search, whether it’s visiting campuses with you, helping fill out financial aid paperwork or giving your application one last proofreading. The more involved they are, the more they’ll feel a part of your decision and the more supportive they’ll be in the long run.
Find free money
Many colleges and states offer merit aid programs for first generation students. You could get thousands of dollars in financial aid just by being a first generation student. So don’t think that any college is out of reach. To get financial aid you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid. For info on that form, visit www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Every freshman is a new student
One of the most important things you can keep in mind as a first-generation student is that college is a brand new experience for every freshman. Once arriving on campus, everyone is in the same boat as they adjust to a new environment, new schedule, new friends and a new way of life. And really, that’s what the college experience is all about.
Image via Nathan Gibbs