How to Get Into College as a First-Generation Student: 7 Tips

Are you a first-generation student aspiring to get a college education? The path to college may seem daunting due to various barriers, but rest assured that you’re not alone in facing these challenges.

In this article, we will provide you with valuable tips and guidance to help you navigate the college application process with confidence and set yourself up for success.

1. Believe in Your Potential

Applying to college may appear complex and overwhelming, especially if you’re the first in your family to pursue higher education. However, it’s crucial to recognize that you are fully capable of succeeding academically.

Never underestimate your abilities, as doing so may limit your opportunities, including admission to selective institutions. Remember, the rewards of achieving your educational goals are well worth the effort.

2. Embrace the Support System

One of the most significant misconceptions among first-gen students is underestimating the support available to them. It’s important to understand that there are individuals, including admissions officers and guidance counselors, eager to assist you throughout the college application process.

Treat your college application as you would a potential job opportunity and actively seek guidance. Don’t assume that certain colleges are out of reach or unaffordable.

Different institutions provide varying levels of support for students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, so explore all available options and be open to surprises.

3. Seek Help from Familiar Sources

While college admissions counselors are valuable resources, don’t overlook the guidance from those who know you best. Seek advice from mentors who can provide personalized support and encouragement. This could be a guidance counselor, an adult in an organization or church, an extended family member, or even a sibling.

Remember, having someone to help you navigate the process and serve as a source of motivation and vision can be instrumental in your journey.

Once you’re on campus, it’s equally important to find a mentor or advisor who can offer continued guidance and support.

4. Explore College Fairs and Programs

Attending local college fairs or free on-campus programs can give you a taste of the college experience without breaking the bank.

Many colleges offer fly-in programs that provide transportation, meals, and various sessions and activities, offering a firsthand opportunity to evaluate if a particular school is the right fit for you.

Immersing yourself in the college culture, either through on-campus visits or college fairs, can help you make informed decisions about your future educational endeavors.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Don’t let uncertainty hold you back when making such an important life choice as choosing a college. As a first-gen student, it’s crucial to speak up and ask questions. If you come across unfamiliar terms or face confusion in any aspect of the application, admission, or financial aid process, don’t hesitate to seek clarification.

Use online resources to research unfamiliar terms or concepts, and reach out to admission counselors for assistance. They can break down complex steps and explain confusing terminology in an easily understandable manner.

Additionally, your high school’s guidance office can provide you with websites that offer basic questions to help you identify colleges that suit your needs.

6. Connect with Current First-Generation Students

Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from those who have successfully navigated the college application process themselves? Reach out to friends or acquaintances who are currently attending college as first-gen students. Hearing their experiences and stories will provide invaluable insights and guidance.

Additionally, try to connect with students currently enrolled in the college or university you aspire to attend. Your admissions representative might be able to introduce you to a current student who can share their first-gen perspective with you. Hearing firsthand from your peers will help you gain a realistic understanding of what college life entails.

7. Develop a Comprehensive Application Plan

Filling out college applications requires meticulous planning and organization. As a first-gen student, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the application process itself. Many students are unaware of the time and preparation required to complete applications thoroughly. Create a college application plan and timeline that includes at least three colleges: one that is a top choice but may be more challenging to get into, one that is a realistic target, and one where you are almost certain to be accepted.

How to Get Into College as a First-Generation Student: 7 Tips

Your plan should encompass gathering necessary documents such as transcripts, awards certificates, and teacher recommendations. Additionally, create a calendar specifically for each college, highlighting all required deadlines and materials.

Also see: How to Navigate FAFSA as a First-Generation Student: Tips and Tricks


By implementing these tips and approaches, first-generation students can approach the college application process with confidence, ensuring they make informed decisions about their academic futures.

Remember, despite the obstacles you may encounter, your dreams of pursuing higher education are well within reach. Embrace your potential, seek support, and stay proactive throughout your journey. Good luck!

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