People who say that the hardest part about college is getting in could not be telling a bigger truth, especially when you don’t even know where to start. My name is Cristian Dubon Solis and I’m a junior in high school getting ready to apply to college.
The college experience is full of adventure, craziness and laughter as I’ve read from countless articles on the web. However, some people—like myself— may not know how to get into college. I will soon be a first generation college student, which means I’ve never had a sibling or relative attend college before me.
One cold winter night during my freshman year, I startlingly awoke and couldn’t get college out of my mind. There were so many questions rushing through my head that I felt dizzy. What is college? Where do I go to for help? What’s financial aid and how do I get it? I was a total mess. Now that I’m in my junior year, I have the tools to answer some of the most pressing questions about college my fellow first-gens may have.
College looks so confusing. How am I supposed to know how to get there when I don’t even know where to begin? I tried reading articles online, but every website I checked started in a different place. I’m worried that if I can’t figure this out, I may have trouble later down the road. I’m lost, confused and frustrated that I can’t figure this out. It would be a big help if you can give me some direction.
Jessie from Jersey
The confusion, frustration and bewilderment are all a part of the process for first generation college students. As to where you should start, there are many places where you can lay your groundwork. A good place to start, no matter where you are in the college process, is to write a broad personal statement. Most colleges ask that you submit a personal statement answering a particular prompt. By writing a broad personal statement, you can later modify the statement to suit the requirements of different colleges. I would start this process by drawing a web about yourself. Draw a circle, put yourself in the middle, and start brainstorming ideas about the different aspects of your life. Make sure to put specific experiences next to your branches with extra details to better describe why you are who you are today. This personal statement is all about you, so you calls the shots!
If this isn’t something you’re interested in doing at the moment, I would start taking a deeper look at the schools you may be interested in. There’s a website and app called the Common App which gives you tons of information on various schools and the different courses and activities they offer. It is an amazing resource to look up and compare different colleges and universities. I would make sure to research one or two colleges every week so that you’re knowledgeable on all the options out there.
If these starting points aren’t your cup of tea, I recommend going to a guidance counselor to see what recommendations they may have. Hope this helps!
Til next time,
Fellow first generation college student in dire need of your help! So, I vaguely know the application process—filling out applications, updating my resume, applying for financial aid—but who do I go to for support? I don’t really know who to go to other than my guidance counselors. Is that it? I want know who you would go to for help when you need it.
Your good friend,
Becky From Boston
I had the exact question when I first started thinking about college! It’s true that your guidance counselors are a key part to the college process. They help you keep track of applications, financial aid applications, due dates, college visits, etc. However, this is not to say this is your only source of support. There are plenty of programs in Boston that help with college readiness including Bottom Line, Minds Matter, Summer Search and so on.
I, for example, am a mentee at Minds Matter Boston and the help I have received is so valuable. They’ve taught me to be a go-getter, brag a little, keep up with due dates, and so much more. I know the help I receive from them is priceless, so I would highly recommend Minds Matter or a similar program. It’s all up to you.
Other than counselors or programs, there are still some supports systems which you may not see. Ask people who have attended college as first gens, ask friends if they have relatives who attend college, or ask your teacher what it was like to go to college. All these resources are at your disposal, you just have to make use of them!
Applying to colleges seems like a bigger climb than Mount Everest! It’s no wonder that first generation college students don’t have a clue where to start, who to go to for help, or the opportunities available. I hope I answered some of your questions to help your journey up the mountain a little more bearable. Til next time, fellow first-gens!