What is a First-Generation College Student?

Planning for college can feel overwhelming; not only is everything about your child’s academic life about the change, but perhaps they’re the first of your family to apply. There’s no denying that this may be a challenging time, but the amount of knowledge and skills that they will gain from higher-education will pay off for years to come. If your child is unsure of the college process, there’s no need to be concerned. In fact, anyone can go to college, but your child must first be willing to commit and start planning as soon as possible.

Tips for First-Generation College Students and Families

Who are first-generation college students?

First-generation students are the first member of their family to enroll in college. Oftentimes, this is because the student’s parents joined the workforce directly after graduating from high school in order to support themselves and their families.

What does this mean for a first generation college-bound student? Often it means that they’re not as aware of the steps needed to apply to schools, what is involved, assessed, or even required financially. Along with any other underlying circumstance (language barriers, fear of change, lack of information), misinformation can often directly impact a new student’s college decisions. Fortunately there are resources available to help you and your child started:

Create a road map for college planning

Planning for college marks an imperative turning point in your child’s academic career. When the two of you start exploring their options, it’s important to also do a self-discovery and encourage your child to ask themselves a couple of initial questions, such as:

  • What are they interested in?
  • What type of college interests them: a two or four year program?
  • What type of learning environment do they perform best in?
  • What do they hope to accomplish in the long-term?

Once you considers these questions, schedule an appointment with their high school school counselor to determine what is needed to stay on track and complete what is required of colleges they’re applying to. The school counselor will have insight on what your child needs in order to apply, such as standardized test scores or an academic background in foreign language – as well as how your child can continue to prepare and stay on track in and outside of the classroom.

Now that you have determined your child’s readiness for college, you can effectively create a plan for your child. Start planning everything from touring college campuses to practicing for the college admissions interview. The initial planning phase is also a great time to determine where your child will need assistance, such as travel arrangements for visiting out of state colleges.

When in the midst of planning for college, be sure that your child maintains a balance in your schedule. If your child is already managing a challenging course load, help them to create a schedule so they can put enough time towards their studies and exploring options for higher-education.

Financing your child’s college education

A college education is one of the most rewarding investments that you can make. If the cost of college seems unattainable, consider the financial aid and scholarships that may offset some of the costs; it’s often more affordable than you may think. In fact, according to experts at Big Future CollegeBoard, “most students pay less than a college’s sticker price thanks to financial aid.”

If you’re wondering where to begin, consider using a resource like your child’s school counselor – counselors can offer resources and tips for finding low-interest loans, scholarships and more. Want to get started today? One of the first things they will likely recommend is for you and your child to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Keep in mind that first time applicants who demonstrate financial need and academic merit may be eligible and considered for other options for aid, such as grants, scholarships, etc.

When it comes to preparing your child for their college journey, earlier is better. With access to the right resources and a little bit of guidance from the right people, your child will feel confident and ready for college!