Admissions, First Generation Students

How to Stand Out on a College Application as a First-Generation Student

No Comments 14 September 2017

As a first-generation college student, going up against thousands of other college applicants might seem intimidating. Here are some tips for how you can stand out on your application.

Determine if you have first-generation status at this school. Colleges have different definitions of first-generation. Some consider students whose parents who never attended any post-secondary institution as first-generation students. Others will consider students whose parents attended a two-year institution to be first-generation. Colleges also consider you to be a first-generation student if your parents didn’t attend college, but your siblings did.

Be authentic. When you are answering questions on the application, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Keep the writing clear and precise. There’s no need to break out a thesaurus. Use simple language when you are explaining your academic/career goals and why you want to attend this specific college.

Let your experiences shine in your application essay. Your college application essay is the best place for you to share your experiences. If you are able to select your own topic, write about a personal experience that highlights the struggles you have overcome as a first-generation student. If you are unable to pick the essay topic, just make sure you find a way to tie back the essay to your life. Admissions officers want a well-rounded student body. Show them why you are unique.

Have your mentor check over your application. Your mentor has been through the college application process. He or she will know what a college admissions officer is looking for. This person also should know you. Your mentor should be able to give you tips as to what personality traits and life experiences you should highlight in your college application.

First Generation Students

Campus Resources for First-Generation Students

No Comments 29 August 2017

Adjusting to college can be tough, especially if you are a first-generation college student. Here are some campus resources to help you ease your transition.

Financial Aid Office – Form a relationship with the financial aid office. As a first-generation student, you might need help dealing with your finances. A financial aid officer can inform of you of various loans, grants and scholarships. Financial aid officers are equipped to answer any question about college finances that may arise for you.

Your RA – Your resident assistant (RA) is there to be a resource for you. College is rough to navigate on your own, so you can ask your RA questions. They can connect you with other first-generation students who know what you are going through.

A Diversity Center – Many colleges have diversity centers. These centers are designed to be a place for students to go to for an inclusive and open environment. Students from underrepresented communities can partake in programs with peers from similar backgrounds.

Counseling Center – The transition to college can be tough. It might be more challenging as a first-generation student because no one in your family is able to give you advice from their past experiences. There’s no shame in asking for help. You can reach out to a counselor if you need a little extra help in working through this transition.

The great news is that these services are all available to you free of cost. Don’t be afraid to continue to utilize them throughout your time in college.

Diversity, First Generation Students

Taking a College Tour as a First-Generation Student

No Comments 14 April 2017

As a first-generation college student, a campus visit is a vital part of the college process. This will be your first opportunity to get a taste of what life is like on that campus. Make sure you ask the right questions so you are truly informed. Here are some topics to hit on during your college admissions tour.

Prepare Ahead of Time

As a first-generation student, you might fall in a minority of incoming college students. That means that the campus visit might not be tailored to someone like you. Make a list of questions ahead of time so that you can find out about information that is important to you. Your tour guide is a current student on the campus and they will be a great resource for any questions you may have,

On-Campus Resources

Being the first in your family to attend college can be overwhelming, so it would be a good idea to find support services geared toward students like you. Statistics show that first-generation students often need more support because most do not have parental support. Ask your tour guide to put you in touch with an admissions counselor so you can ask about programs, guides or other resources for first-generation students.

Financial Aid

The price of college can be shocking to first-generation students. You need to make sure you can afford the college you want to attend. Try to tailor your campus visit so it is focused more on financial aid and not just admissions. Find time to meet with a financial aid counselor who can explain every fee that goes into the cost of attendance and any financial aid options that might be available to you.

Seek Out the True Freshman Year Experience

As a first-generation student, you won’t have the wisdom of you parents to share what the first year of college is really like. Admissions tours typically cover new and state-of-the-art buildings on campus, which freshmen typically do not spend time in. Ask your tour guide to show you building where you will actually have classes. If it’s possible, ask in advance to sit in on a freshman class to get the true experience.

Diversity, First Generation Students, Low Income Students

Spotlight on Chicago Scholars

No Comments 28 March 2017

Chicago Scholars is an organization that supports academically ambitious students who are first-generation college students and/or come from low-income households. This organization provides support to its participants during the three transitional periods that typically are the most difficult for first-generation students: the transition from high school to college, the years spent navigating college and the transition from college to career.

Students come from 88 high schools across the Chicago area and 84 percent of program participants from the class of 2021 are first-generation college students. About 91 percent of participants are students of color, with 96 percent of participants attending Chicago Public School high schools.

The first phase of the Chicago Scholars program, College Access: Launch, takes place the summer before a participant’s senior year of high school. This portion of the program allows students to receive help with the college application process, find a best match-fit college and begin to build leadership skills. Scholars are matched with an experienced college counselor who will mentor them for eight one-on-one sessions and guide them through college access workshops.

In October, students have the opportunity to participate in the Onsite Admissions Forum. Chicago Scholars’ more than 175 partner colleges come to Chicago to meet with Scholars and other qualified students from Chicago community-based organizations. Program attendees have the chance to interview with up to six of their best fit colleges, with many students receiving admissions decisions and merit aid scholarships that day.

Scholars begin the College Persistence: Lift portion of the program during their transition to college. Students are exposed to experiential learning, supportive relationships and leadership development so they will be empowered to be confident and self-efficient individuals in college. Participants can participate in a retreat and connect with a peer mentor to help them get through their first year of college.

The final portion of this program, College to Careers: Lead, provides Scholars with career planning and leadership development training that allows them to successfully move into the workforce. Students can participate in workshops and one-on-one training that allow them to explore career paths, write strong résumés and build interview and networking skills.

College Greenlight is a vital part of Chicago Scholars’ counseling and scholarship search process. Program participants learn about College Greenlight through workshops and they are encouraged to create profiles to assist them in meeting their scholarship application goals.

Chicago Scholars aims to create a supportive community and provide access to college resources that students might not have otherwise. If you are a college admissions representative and want to connect with this organization, email Rachel Accavitti at

Diversity, First Generation Students, Low Income Students, Undocumented Students

Spotlight on North Carolina Scholars’ Latino Initiative

No Comments 02 March 2017

N.C. Sli (Scholars’ Latino Initiative) serves Hispanic students across Chatham, Durham, Lee and Orange counties in North Carolina. Program participants receive a support network, academic enrichment and college and career preparation. The majority of students are first-generation college students and/or first-generation Americans who come from low-income households.

Approximately 20 percent of Sli Scholars are undocumented or have DACA status. Program participants tend to be in the top 25 percent of their class. Most Sli students take advanced classes and go on to enroll in a four-year college or university. Prospective Sli Scholars should be committed to academic achievement and personal growth, aim to serve their local communities and work collaboratively with others.

N.C. Sli provides advising and mentoring to ensure that its students succeed in college. The program selects undergraduate students from University of North Carolina to provide peer mentoring for Sli  Scholars. Many of these mentors identify as Latinx, immigrant and/or first-generation college students.

Program participants receive three years of mentoring, which begins the summer prior to their sophomore year of high school. UNC also will provide scholars the opportunity to take classes on Latinx literature and history. Ultimately, this program allows students to participate in a transformative experience that will allow Sli Scholars to positively change the way they think about themselves and the world.

The parents of Sli Scholars also benefit from this program. N.C. Sli allows students to learn about their child’s high school and college experience through Familias Unidas por la Educación. Parents learn about the high school experience in the U.S., the college application process and financial aid. They also discuss parenting-related issues such as bullying, adolescent development, mental health and a family’s transition when a child goes to college.

College Greenlight allows N.C. Sli to track each scholar’s college application process, from building college lists to weighing different college options. As many students live far from N.C. Sli’s headquarters, College Greenlight has been a resource for communicating with and advising these students. Reach out to Alice Dolbow at to learn more about N.C. Sli.

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