What defines a first generation college student? For some universities, it is as simple as recruiting a student whose parents never went to college, whereas other schools may define a first generation college student as someone who knows very little people in their life that have navigated through and graduated from college, regardless if one of their parents did attend college.
If you happen to fall into either of these categories, then consider yourself a first generation college student
– and just prepare yourself ahead of time that the college search process will be a little different for you than it is for your friends who have experience and parental influence with the college selection process.
First off, it’s not a “bad thing” or a “strike against” you if you are a first generation college student. In fact, it’s an honor. You will not only be striving toward your own goal of graduating college but your entire family’s vision to see you as a successful college graduate as well. No pressure, right? Also, colleges believe that first generation students add diversity to the student body, making them attractive candidates to admissions officers. It’s paramount that you walk into the experience knowing that colleges really want you.
With that, how can you prepare for college success in high school as a first generation college student?
1. Challenge yourself academically.
While straight A’s are impressive, admissions
officers would rather see an academic record that shows you’re willing to work hard. That means they prefer AP/IB and honors courses, in which you may score a B-, to an easy class that would guarantee you an A.
2. Get involved in extracurricular activities.
Colleges are looking for students that are well-rounded, which means they’re active both inside and outside of the classroom. Find your niche – are you athletic? Musically inclined? Desiring to serve others? High schools boast a multitude of teams, organizations and groups to get involved with; and if your school doesn’t have what you’re looking for, start your own club!
3. Attend a summer college program.
Many colleges host summer programs for high school students that allow them to explore a specific topic or field of study. It’s also the perfect opportunity for you to get to know what college life may be like, and it looks great on college applications. And much like college, scholarships
are available for summer college programs.
4. Set goals.
As a first generation college student, it’s vital that you sit down, think and even write out your goals for college. Start small – write out every day as well as weekly goals. Then think bigger. Make a one-year, five-year or even a ten-year plan.
5. Ask for help.
This is perhaps the most important step for you as a first generation college student. Share your goals with your parents, talk to your guidance counselors about the college search and application process and work with your teachers on essays and letters of recommendation. You have an entire community at your fingertips that will advocate for you – so use them!
Check out Finding Success in College as a First Generation College Student