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College Application Tips for First-Generation Students

No Comments 01 February 2017

Resources for first-generation college students are abundant — you just need to know where to look. Here are a few tips to help you get started on the college-application process.

Attend Fly-In Programs and College Fairs

It’s vital to know about a college before you apply. Seeing a campus in person is drastically different than experiencing it behind a computer screen.

Traveling to a college for a campus visit can get expensive, so some colleges offer fly-in programs to curb costs for prospective students. These programs cover transportation and allow you to see the school for yourself.

If a fly-in program is out of the question, attending a local college fair is a great alternative. Although you won’t be able to experience a college in-person, this gives you the opportunity to talk to a representative from that institution.


If you have questions related to the college-application process, don’t be afraid to Google. Look up any terms on an application that you are unfamiliar with.

If you need further assistance, email or call an admission counselor. They can break down application requirements and financial aid into easy-to-follow steps. Once you have narrowed down your college list, search for “first-generation students” on a college’s website to see what resources are available.

Sign Up for a Summer Program

A summer program is the best way to learn about a college’s culture and curriculum. First-generation students can feel out of place at college. Attending a summer program can ease the transition to college and ensure students are up for the challenge of college courses. Not every summer program provides financial aid to its participants, so take a look at this list of programs that do.

Ask For Help

Although your parents may not be able to guide you through this process, you don’t have to go through it alone. Share your goals with your family. They can offer emotional support and assist you in finding another family member, friend or organization that can to provide you with financial support or answer questions. Organizations like I’m First guide first-generation college students through this process.

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Common Application Mistakes for First Generation Students

No Comments 31 January 2017

First-generation students are college applicants who are the first in their families to attend college. These students often go through the college application process by themselves.

Here are some mistakes first-generation students should avoid:

Going Through the College Application Process Without Any Guidance

You need a mentor. Find someone you trust and look up to. It can be a teacher, guidance counselor or club organizer with experience in the college application process. Ask your mentor any questions you might have, whether it’s about financial-related matters or editing your application essay.

Skipping Optional Application Sections

The Common Application has an additional information section that first-generation students could utilize to write an essay sharing their situation. This essay can demonstrate what college means to you, given your background. If you skip this essay, you could miss an opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants.

Applying to One College

First-generation students often make the mistake of applying to a single college to save on application fees. In order to find the best fit and explore all your options, you need to apply to multiple colleges. Don’t be afraid to request a fee waiver — colleges typically waive application fees for low-income students.

If you have already taken the SAT, you will be eligible to receive four free college application waivers. You can contact a college to see if you qualify for a waiver.

Greenlight Scholarships Application

The Greenlight Scholars Application is a great option for applying to college. It is a free and streamlined application that allows you to apply to multiple colleges at once. This application was designed with first-generation and low-income students in mind. It allows students to share a more complete picture of their academic record, skills and experiences.

The Greenlight Scholars Application levels the playing field for students who are at a disadvantage during the college application process.

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Resources for Low-Income Students Applying to College

No Comments 26 January 2017

For low-income students, the cost of higher education could stop their journey to college before it begins. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to widen college accessibility for low-income students.

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant does not need to be repaid and is free money for college. You apply for the Pell Grant by filling out the FAFSA. The financial need listed on your FAFSA dictates how much money you will receive through the Pell Grant. Keep in mind, there is a maximum Pell Grant amount, and it can vary from year to year.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs allow students to earn cash at part-time jobs on or off campus. All you need to do to apply is check a box on the FAFSA. About 3,400 colleges participate in work-study programs. Talk to the financial aid offices at the colleges you’re applying to and check if they participate.

Net-Price Calculator

Sticker shock is a common problem for low-income students applying to college. Instead of being scared away from college, use a net-price calculator to make a more informed decision.

The net price is determined by estimating the total cost of college — including tuition, books, room and board — and subtracting the average amount of student aid. Colleges are required to post a net-price calculator on their website. Utilize this tool when deciding where to apply.


Take a look at College Greenlight and fill out a profile to create a scholarship match list. Be sure to provide lots of information so you can be matched with as many scholarships as possible.  There is no limit to how many you can apply for as long as you meet eligibility requirements.

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Class of 2017 Back To School Checklist

No Comments 18 August 2016

If you’re like most seniors, you’ve been given back to school checklists since kindergarten.  Usually, they’d be lists of supplies to buy, books you were supposed to read over summer, and any assignments that will be due in your first week.  If you’re in this year’s graduating high school class, however, there is another to-do list you’ll need to complete as you return to classes: the one that helps you get to college next fall.

We’ve developed this checklist to help you as you prepare to enter your senior year. Whether you are working with a counselor or on your own, use it as a guide to keep you on track in your college search and application process and get you on campus next year.

Organize Your Back to School Calendar

Senior year can be an extremely busy time with college and scholarship applications due, taking your final rounds of the SAT or ACT,  conducting your final college visit, and even trying to have fun with friends in your last year of high school.  It may seem overwhelming, but a key to easing your mind and staying organized is to develop your calendar ahead of time.

Depending on the way you like to organize, your calendar can be a spreadsheet with dates, a monthly calendar, or even a simple list in chronological order–whatever works best for you.  Include as much as you can and for many seniors this will include things like application deadlines, test registration dates as well as the dates of the tests, scholarship application deadlines, and the dates of any colleges visits you have planned.

This is just the beginning! Add anything else that will be helpful as you make progress in your application process. For example, after you’ve asked for letters of recommendation, it can be helpful to put a reminder on your calendar to check back in with your recommenders a few weeks after to make sure you’ll receive your materials on time to submit with your application.

Search for Scholarships

In the fall, spending time finding and applying to as many scholarships as you are eligible for can make a huge impact on your financial picture when you get to college and can even impact the amount of student loans you’ll have.

Sign up for a College Greenlight account, and if you don’t already have one or sign in to your existing account.  Here, you’ll be matched with hundreds of scholarships based on the information you’ve provided in your profile.  The more complete your profile is, the better your matches will be. Apply to any open scholarships and keep track of them using your calendar and your scholarship list on College Greenlight.

Prepare for and Complete the FAFSA

As of 2016, there are new rules and changes to the FAFSA, and its important to understand them and how they will affect the way you complete this incredibly important application.   The FAFSA determines how much federal aid (grants, loans, and more) you’ll receive and how much aid you’ll receive from an institution.  The FAFSA opens October 1st.

Tip: it’s been proven that students who apply to the FAFSA earlier get more aid.  Apply as soon as possible!

Ask for Letters of Recommendation

There are a few important aspects of asking for a letter of recommendation that are just polite and in some cases, are a teacher or recommender’s policy.  One of the biggest offenses is asking for a letter last minute.  Once you’ve organized your deadlines for colleges and scholarships, ask your recommenders for a letter well ahead of the deadline.   The general rule for this is to give 2 weeks between requesting the L.O.R. and having it sent in, but make sure to ask even earlier than the due dates for the materials; your recommenders could get busy, have further questions or issues, or there may be technical problems if they’re sent in on line.  Your best bet is to leave enough wiggle room to have time to address anything that comes up before the deadline.

Apply to College

The most important step is to actually apply! Regardless of whether you’re applying to a two-year or four-year college, applying early decision or action or to the regular deadline, submitting your completed application is the way to get you to college.  Double check that you’ve answered all required questions, proofread those essays one last time, make sure you’ve got your supplemental materials included and submit!

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4 Things To Do While Writing Your College Application Resume

No Comments 16 October 2015

A college application resume is an opportunity to not only brag about obvious big accomplishments, but to also let admissions officers get a better idea of your strengths outside of your academics and learn more about you. How can your resume best represent the many hobbies, activities, and other circumstances that tell a college that you are the student they should accept?

As you are writing your resume, here are 4 things you can do to write the most effective college application resume:

Brainstorm a list of all that you do and have done in high school–and try not to leave anything out.  You should include your awards, extracurricular activities and grades, and don’t forget to also include any jobs you’ve had, activities you do in your community or with your family, and other interests and responsibilities you pursue outside of school.  These can help set you apart from other students by sharing any unique skills, talents, and instances of leadership that can make your resume stronger.

Carefully choose what to include.  After you have a few ideas and are ready to start compiling your resume, include information that you think best paints a picture of who you are.  Think of your interests, strengths, skills, and other circumstances you may have encountered.  Did you have a job?  Did you help take care of your siblings or a relative after school?  Did you participate in activities with your church or other local clubs and organizations? Just because something you didn’t take place at your school doesn’t mean they aren’t things colleges will consider when deciding whether or not they think you’ll succeed on their campus.  On the other hand, make sure you aren’t including everything you’ve ever done—just what you are most proud of and that portray you in the best light. Additionally, avoid including information from middle school; most colleges won’t consider this important.

“Spin” your experiences the right way. Your activities and experiences have helped to shape you and as a result you’ve acquired new skills and knowledge.  On a resume, the trick is “spinning” these experiences so they make you look best and show qualities important to colleges.  For example, if you worked at an ice cream shop during high school, you may have learned a lot about what goes in a perfect sundae, but this isn’t important to an admissions representative.  Instead, you should mention that the job taught you responsibility because you were on time every shift, or that you learned teamwork from your coworkers.

Make your resume easy to read.  Use a standard font (like Times New Roman or Calibri) and font size (12 pt).  Organize your resume using clear headers for each section like “School”, “Work”, “Activities”, and “Leadership Highlights.”  The easier it is for an admissions office to read your resume and the better organized it is, the more likely they are to find the information you want them to see quickly.  Think about it: they might have thousands of resumes to look at, and if you create extra work for them they maybe miss something important you want them to know.  When you’re finished, make sure you proofread —spelling errors or typos can show that you are lazy or don’t care attending the college.


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