AO Advice: Applying as a First-Gen College Student
Navigating college admissions as a soon-to-be first-generation college student can be overwhelming. But, you don’t have to do it alone! Join CollegeAdvisor Admissions Expert and Former Admissions Officer Shannon Kennedy in a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session as she gives her tips and tricks on how to approach the college application process as a first-generation student.
2022-03-14 AO Advice: Applying as a First-Gen College Student
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on AO Advice: applying as a first gen college student. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start up with a live presentation, uh, then answer your questions in the live Q and A. On the sidebar, you can download your slides and you can start so many of your questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists.
Hi everyone. My name is Shannon Kennedy. I’m really excited to be here tonight. I’m substituting for my colleague, Amber Lewis, who ran into some major technical issues today. So, um, I’m really happy that I could be here though, to talk to you. Um, as a first-generation college student, myself, um, I always enjoy.
W talking on this topic and answering questions, um, for students in that same position. So [00:01:00] I’m looking forward to the conversation. Um, I grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Penn state university for my undergrad. Um, and then went on to get my master’s degree at Northwestern university, um, in Evanston, Illinois, which is where I live now, just outside of Chicago, um, where I was also an admissions officer for about seven years.
I’ve worked at a couple of other institutions in the Chicago area as well as in a high school. So, um, hopefully I’ll be able to answer a lot of your questions based on all that, uh, prior experience. And McKenzie will help me out a bit too, um, with some current student perspective. So we’re looking forward to chatting about this further.
Um, so I’ll turn it back to Mackenzie. Yes. And real quick, we’re just going to do a quick poll. So what grade are you currently in? Eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, or other. And other can be if you’re a parent on call transfer student, or if you’re taking a gap year right now, and while we wait [00:02:00] for those, um, uh, answers to roll in, um, Shannon, can you tell us a bit about one of your biggest fears or concerns when you were applying as a first gen student?
Gosh, I’m kind of so far from it now. It’s hard to think all the way back there. Um, I think, you know, back then I didn’t have as many resources and, um, wasn’t thinking about going. Far. Um, so I was really looking at staying in state close to home. Um, cause I thought that’s what I should do or had to do. Um, and I think that’s maybe, uh, like a common misconception and we’ll get into that a little bit later about how it could be, um, just as affordable to, to go away or they maybe, you know, great opportunities further afield for you.
So that’s something I think that, um, that I think back on like, oh, well I probably could have. [00:03:00] Looked bigger, further, but I’m, I don’t regret my experience at all. I, I loved Penn state. Um, so yeah, just a little thought on there on being a first gen students. That’s great. Uh, it’s looking like we have 5%, eighth graders, 5%, ninth graders, 17%, 10th graders, 61% 11th graders making up the majority, another 5% 12th graders and 7% other, and you can control the slides now.
Okay, great. Yeah, I think we’ll have a little bit, uh, for everybody it’s not too soon to start thinking about these things as an eighth grader. Um, definitely if you’re going to be the first, you know, learning the terminology, the lingo, um, and then all the way through, I think we’ll have some things that will help out, um, 12th graders.
That’ll be starting this process sooner than later. So we’re going to cover lots of different things and I’m glad that we have a big range of people. Um, so first of all, just [00:04:00] to start out, you know, what does it mean to be first gen and who counts as first gen? Um, so when you’re thinking about applying to different types of programs, um, whether that’s like support systems within your high school or your community, or to, you know, special scholarships or college programs, there may actually be a variety of definitions for this.
Um, so you might need to read a little bit of details depending on, you know, kind of what purpose you’re looking, you know, for the definition of first gen, um, as you’re kind of going through a process. Uh, but, um, typically we’re talking about being the first person in your family to graduate from a four year university.
Um, so. You know, if you’re a family and someone of your family has taken like a few courses, maybe you completed an associates degree, um, that may disqualify you by some definitions, but the widest definition would [00:05:00] be that, um, somebody, uh, who has not had a family member graduate from a four-year degree, that would be a first gen student.
Um, there could also be a first-generation citizen, which is an entirely different conversation. And, uh, not what we’re talking about tonight. Um, we’re talking about first in your family to go to college. Uh, sometimes people are both, I would say like a double first gen uh, situation. Uh, but we’re going to be focusing on just being the first in your family to go to college, kind of as our working definition tonight, but just do pay attention, um, to the qualifications for different things.
You know, that you’re looking at participating. Um, you may think that you’re at a disadvantage being the first in your family going to college. Um, there definitely will be some challenges, but there are a lot of advantages advantages as well. Right. Um, when [00:06:00] colleges are looking at applications, uh, they’re really looking to build a diverse class of students.
They would like to see people with lots of different experiences and backgrounds. Um, and first gen, uh, is definitely a, um, a type of student, you know, that adds a lot of, um, interesting perspective to a college campus, um, really helps to round out the student body. So definitely something that schools consider in their process of forming like an entire diverse class of students.
So there definitely could be an advantage, um, from that aspect. Um, and. Uh, colleges are really trying to do everything that they can for the most part to help students in that position, that to have access, um, to get past some of the barriers that may be, um, standing in their way. So hopefully you’ll see it more as an [00:07:00] advantage than a disadvantage, um, in the grand scheme of things.
So, um, The question that we might be thinking about is like, how might things be different? What would the application process entail that could be different for a first-generation student? Um, really there shouldn’t be, you know, different qualifications or, you know, actual process that you go through. It may be more about your experience of the process and kind of the support network that you have, or try to activate to help you through it.
Um, you may be doing a lot more, uh, like educating and learning together within your family to get through the process. If you’re the first student, you know, in your family, um, to move on to college. Um, so sometimes that can be a little bit of a challenge, kind of like getting everyone through it together, but it should be, you know, a great learning experience for everyone involved, um, [00:08:00] financially.
Scholarship applications. Um, definitely could be something that will be a lot of work, um, and navigation, um, where you should definitely, you know, look for assistance, whether from school or different programs that are out there. Um, most states do have, um, some sort of support organization in plate place kind of statewide that assist students, uh, through financial aid processes.
So, um, it may be, you know, reaching out to activate some of those other resources that you have available. Um, and it will take, you know, finding a lot of family financial information to kind of navigate through that, um, together with your family.
Um, if we’re just kind of thinking big picture about the application process and going through some of [00:09:00] the basics to get you oriented, um, kind of the foundation for the process, um, are these different application platform. That you will use to actually submit your application. So a common app is the most widely used application platform, um, with thousands of colleges that you can apply to using kind of one profile, you know, log in, um, in portal.
Um, my coalition is another one, um, which was really founded to, uh, help students have more access, um, to institutions. Um, so they actually have a lot of tools, um, within my coalition, uh, to help educate you, to help you understand the process a little bit better to actually, um, store things over time, build up a resume and that kind of thing.
Um, so there could be a lot of things that you would find useful to, um, take a look at in my [00:10:00] coalition. Even very early on. Um, you can also start a common app account, um, early as well. Again, just to get oriented to it. It may take a little bit longer, um, to sort that out, you know, if you’re the first one going through the process.
Um, so give yourself more time to create that account and take a look and play around with it. Um, you can’t start actually doing the application until a little bit later, but you can absolutely create the accounts and get familiar with what’s in there. So you can really hit the ground running when it’s time to apply.
So you will certainly be using some of those big. Platforms as you go through this process. Um, and then in the financial aid process, uh, there’s going to be a lot of, uh, additional deadlines and documents and steps to go through. And we are going to kind of run through some of those documents as well, um, in some upcoming slides.
So those will be kind of the biggest [00:11:00] aspects, um, of the process that you’ll need to plan for. Um, as far as the timeline goes, um, the applications themselves released over the summer, uh, so between 11th and 12th grade is when you actually can start working on those applications. Um, Putting in essays answering the more technical college related questions and things of that nature.
Um, but like I said, you actually can start kind of getting the accounts, getting things organized, uh, at any point before, um, before then you’ll just actually be able to work on them and apply over the summer. Um, then, uh, in the fall is when the FAFSA opens. Um, again, we’ll talk about FAFSA in just a bit.
Um, and, uh, there are certainly a lot of advantages to getting it done sooner than later. Um, so October is just when it opens and you want to [00:12:00] definitely kinda try to get it submitted, um, as soon as possible, basically after it opens. So. Um, although you may get a variety of deadlines from your colleges of when it is due, um, there could be a whole other slew of things, um, state grants, et cetera, that would, um, be on kind of a first come first serve basis.
So the sooner that you can get that FAFSA completed, um, Um, then there will be a whole range of deadlines for the actual applications throughout the fall. Um, there could be some as early as you know, mid-October, um, in, into November for early rounds, whether that’s early decision, uh, or restrictive early action.
And we’ll talk a little bit about those definitions. Um, then, uh, the majority of applications come due in January for regular decision. [00:13:00] Although the timeline can vary a little bit. Um, it’s usually around January 1st. Uh, that’s the biggest deadline for students. Um, then it can extend the kind of throughout March, even, uh, where some.
Colleges will still be accepting applications. Again, sometimes that’s on sort of a first come first serve or rolling basis. Um, so just because you see March as the deadline doesn’t mean you want to have a plate wait, uh, to apply until then. Uh, but, um, It’s possible to still be applying all the way throughout March.
Um, most, uh, colleges will let you know by April 1st, um, what the admission decision is. So we’re actually just getting into the big season now where, um, we’re going to see a lot of decisions released, uh, for seniors over the next few weeks. Definitely some have already come, but more and more coming here in the next few weeks.
Um, and then it will become [00:14:00] time to decide where to attend. And May 1st is the typical deadline, uh, for replying back to colleges about whether you plan to attend or not. Um, and then of course, uh, August through September is when you actually report to campus and get started. Um, so that’s kind of the big picture, um, of the time.
Um, and as I go along, I should say, we’re going to leave lots of time for questions at the end, some kind of breezing through this pretty quickly, but I hope that you’ll ask lots of questions and no question is a silly question here. So please, um, you could start piping those or thinking of them, um, at any point, um, As I said, um, you’re probably gonna want to look for support, um, and really, you know, take advantage of the things that are out there for you.
There are so many organizations and, uh, people at colleges and [00:15:00] whatnot out there that want to support and assist first generation students. So you should absolutely, um, look for those things and take advantage of them. Um, definitely you can start with the website of the college where you’re applying and, um, the admission page.
Um, there are lots of opportunities to learn virtually. Um, there will be information sessions and tours online. Sometimes there are specific. Sessions or outreach programs, um, for first-generation low-income students or Figley you might hear kind of out there as a, as a term often used. Um, so we’ve identified a few here that have like particular groups in place, like UVA and Yale.
There are many, many more. Colleges out there that will have like specific groups to support, um, [00:16:00] students who are first generation college attendees. So you can always also start with Google name of university first-generation student, and you may find that there is a, a student group or an admission support system or something out there, um, to help you navigate through that process.
So definitely look out for those things and take advantage of them there. That’s what they’re there for. Um, admissions officers are, um, On the whole really friendly, nice people who want to hear from you. Um, it’s their job they would love to assist you. Um, so please don’t be afraid to email them and say, Hey, I’m a first-generation student.
I’m wondering, you know, if there’s another student I can connect to, or a student group, maybe that I could ask some questions, or if there’s any other support out there for me, um, don’t be afraid to ask. Um, they should [00:17:00] also have resources, um, and ideas for you to connect to, um, at their particular institution or maybe in the community, uh, where you live or whatnot.
So, uh, please, you know, look for these resources, take advantage of them. Um, and, um, don’t be afraid to contact the admissions office. So we’re gonna stop for a poll back to Mackenzie. Yeah. So where are you in the application process? Haven’t started, I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application Mateos together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done.
Um, and while we wait for that, um, uh, what would you say would be a good first place for first gen students to start, um, with this process? Yeah, that is a good question. I probably right in your high school, [00:18:00] in your counseling office, um, I think a lot of the students, you know, overlook all of the resources that they have.
Right in front of them, by not engaging with their high school counselor, um, asking questions there, um, there may be lots of opportunities that they have in your local community that maybe you just haven’t heard, like where they’re posted or, um, they might not have time to kind of disseminate all that info, but a lot of things come across their desks, a lot of opportunities, programs, summer options.
Um, so I would definitely introduce yourself to your high school counselor if you haven’t and let them know, like you’re planning on going to college, what you’re interested in, maybe studying or doing, um, and ask them, you know, if opportunities come across that might fit for you to let you know. Um, so I would definitely start within your high school, um, and looking for [00:19:00] opportunities there.
Definitely. And they’re also a great place to look for those local scholarships where you can start building up some money for college, but also remember most school counselors do look at more state schools. So, um, don’t let your options be limited to just what they say. That’s just a good starting point.
And if you have something in mind, some I’ve heard some of my clients, uh, and from my own high school experience, some counselors may be discouraging, um, to certain, um, dream schools or options for you. But don’t let that discourage. You always find people that are willing to support you and not, um, providing, um, what does that constructive criticism is good.
That’s somebody that’s just outwardly negative is not someone you want to take your advice from. Yeah, absolutely walk away then if they’re negative, but I hope they’re really positive and would have a lot of options for you. Um, To yeah. Engage [00:20:00] with. So definitely. So it’s looking like we have 28%. Haven’t started 50% are researching schools.
9% are working on their essays. Another 9% are getting their application materials together. And the last 4%, the lucky few are almost done. Great. Congratulations to them and good luck over the next few weeks. If you’re waiting for a decision. Um, so now I’m getting a little bit more into just some of the terminology and the confusing, um, lingo that comes with the college admissions process, um, to get back to that point of sometimes thinking that certain things are unattainable or unaffordable, um, it helps to understand these different terms, um, to make sure that you’re, you know, not ruling something out based on a misconception of what, um, these different things mean.
So let’s walk through [00:21:00] these a little bit and, um, definitely. Feel free to ask questions about this. Cause it’s kinda complicated. I always feel like this maybe takes like a few times to sink in. So you might want to rewatch this later or refer back to the slides when you’re getting, um, in the process. Um, so need blind, uh, to start off with, um, means that, uh, when you’re applying your financial need, um, which is mainly determined by the FAFSA, the federal form that you complete, um, and, or some schools require the CSS profile.
Um, in addition to the FAFSA that, um, when you take that and figure out what you can afford to contribute towards your college, um, it does not. Impact your admission decision. So basically the admissions office is separate making decisions separately from the financial aid [00:22:00] office, in this case where a college is need blind.
Um, so the admissions officer really could care less if you could pay for it or not. Um, which is a lovely place to be when you’re an admissions officer, right. You don’t, you’re not, um, uh, worrying at all about that aspect of the process. You’re really just figuring out whether a student would be a good fit at your institution or not.
Um, so the admission decision is based entirely on your academic profile and your other accomplishments. Um, yeah. Does not, um, get impacted one bit by your financial circumstances. So that is need blind. Um, on the flip side of that is need aware. So not every college is in that position to have, um, a large enough [00:23:00] endowment, um, or, um, Just to make their decisions based on that way, um, due to their budget constraints.
Um, so some colleges are actually a lot of colleges more than our need-blind are need aware. So meaning that your financial situation could impact your admissions decision, um, and play into whether or not, um, you would be offered a place if you would be able to afford to attend. So they may look at your demonstrated need and think about, um, whether it will be possible for you to make up that difference, um, of what they offer you and what you need, um, before they decide to admit you.
So Nita, where does, um, take into account your financial circumstances? Um, some schools [00:24:00] may have different policies for different populations. Uh, so often schools that are need blind for domestic students are often need aware for international students. So brown Dartmouth, Stanford, um, Northwestern was this way.
Um, there’s a variety of, you know, the top tier of institutions that fall into this need-blind category. Um, but actually, uh, practice a different approach for, um, international students because the international students, um, do not have access to federal financial aid and grants scholarships. So to really fund them, they would need a much larger amount of funds from the institution.
Um, so. That is why it’s a little bit different. Um, and then the tricky part can be that sometimes, um, students who are [00:25:00] in the country, but who are not citizens, um, maybe be considered as international students by colleges, um, and then fall into this need aware category, um, which is a tricky place to be.
There are some, um, specific programs sometimes, like for example, for DACA recipient students. Um, but sometimes colleges kind of treat this as a blanket, uh, international designation if you’re a non citizen. So that’s a kind of a tricky aspect, um, to this needle where for international students, um, part, um, I Amber fact checked this.
So I’m going to trust her that hammers, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Yale are the only schools to offer. Um, need-blind admission to both domestic and international students. So it’s a really small [00:26:00] segments. Um, and then most of the rest are going to be, um, need aware for international students, um, if they’re need blind for domestic students.
Um, so that is a lot to take in, uh, Mackenzie, do you think. I got it, or just anything else to add on to that particular one, because I know it’s confusing. Uh, I just added something in the chat about, um, what FAFSA and CSS are. So, uh, there is another slide on this, I think, but pretty much FAFSA is from the federal government and you apply to that.
And that gets sent to all the schools that you want it to get sent to. And most schools are going to require that to figure out your financial aid, if you’re getting needs based date. And sometimes for merit based scholarships, um, CSS profile, um, is only for the about 400 private schools that are on it.
So all your Ivy leagues are going to be on [00:27:00] it. Um, most of your state schools will not be on it. Um, I don’t think any of the UCS are on it and, um, Smaller school, uh, not smaller. It’s not what I want to say. Um, public schools are more than likely not going to be on the CSS profile, but it’s just a more tedious version of FAFSA.
You’re using the same documents, but you’re getting a lot more information from it. Um, there’s different rules for divorced parents and, um, foster parents with all the documents. So definitely reaching out to a financial aid advisor, uh, joining college advisor, if you need one, um, could be a good way to get through those.
Or if your counselor can sit down and walk you through that, because typically the financial aid process is the more challenging part, just because it is a lot of documentation and paperwork and you do need your parents. So, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. I don’t know. I would have to look if it’s, um, in a different language also in case certain people, their parents don’t speak English.[00:28:00]
Hmm. That’s a good question. I’m not sure if those documents are available in other languages. Yeah. Okay. I’ll keep going. You can take a look, see if he can locate that. All right. So yeah, we covered this a little bit, but just diving into it a little bit more. FAFSA stands for free application for federal student aid.
Um, it is a multi-step process that you complete online. Um, you will need tax information, um, or you will. Needed to complete your taxes, um, to complete the FAFSA as well, for the most part, or it gets more complicated if, if your family hasn’t done taxes. Um, so it does help to like prepare a little bit in advance.
Um, it uses the prior, prior year’s taxes. Um, so it will be the taxes that are already completed and finished. Uh, but some folks file [00:29:00] extensions or just don’t file taxes, uh, whatnot, and it gets complicated and messy. So, um, in those years leading up to going to college, you want to kind of be in line with your taxes to, um, complete the FAFSA.
Um, it does link directly to your tax information. Um, again, it’s a multi-step process. So, um, if that is all done, then. It should automatically pull in a lot of your information, but there can always be little, um, roadblocks that get in the way of that. So again, starting it right when it comes out on October 1st and, um, Getting, you know, assistance with that, if you need it.
Uh, like I said, a lot of states do have kind of like, uh, an on the ground student college student core of, um, [00:30:00] helpers who help students through that process, especially the FAFSA, cause it can be a such a challenging thing. Um, so be looking, you know, for that help. Um, and for that assistance, again, go to your high school counselor and ask like where you can get help with the FAFSA.
Um, yeah, we are lucky to have some financial aid experts on our team who will help our students through if they get stuck. Um, we do, um, also assist with the CSS profile, um, which like McKenzie said is, uh, just some more detailed sort of version. Have a financial aid form similar to the FAFSA. Um, this is, uh, run through the college board, the same company that runs, um, the sat.
Um, so it’s a separate, uh, Thing, not through the government where you enter in a lot of additional details about any assets of your family, [00:31:00] about, yeah. The, if there’s a separations or divorce, all sorts of information, just everything, basically a little bit tedious, um, to get through for sure. Um, and then some schools want some additional documentation which is uploaded or submitted through I dock, um, which is just a sub service kind of, of the CSS profile in college board.
So sometimes you’ll have to actually scan in, um, send in, submit additional documents, which can, is sometimes difficult, whether you need to ask to use the scanner at school, or if your phone can do that. Sometimes that’s a challenge is getting things scanned and submitted. Um, But, uh, hopefully school can, can help you with that.
If you run into any challenges a little bit easier these days, if you have a phone that can do it, um, international students. There may be additional [00:32:00] documentation required again, uh, as we mentioned, um, it’s often need aware. So sometimes you do have to show a bank accounts, statements, additional information, kind of proving, um, your, you know, financial stability, um, to apply.
So just another layer of complication, um, there that you have to be prepared for and check into early on. Um, so while you can, you know, get really focused on the application process, writing essays, doing that, um, it does take a lot of time to get through the financial aid steps as well. Um, especially, you know, for first gen students going through this the first time.
Um, so the more prepared you can be with the application process kind of. Uh, meet a lot of early deadlines, get a lot of that off of your plate. And then you can have a little bit more time to dedicate to [00:33:00] sorting through, um, the FAFSA and the CSS profile, which can take a, you know, a big chunk out of October, kind of navigating through that.
And yet Mackenzie, a really good reminder that you will have to do that every year, um, with the FAFSA, um, and keeping up with all those different documents over the course of your time in college.
Um, so how do you get the most money? Um, number one is doing the FAFSA and the CSS profile. Um, the biggest, you know, kind of pot of money that’s available for college students is from the government and the institutions themselves. So just meeting those application deadlines, staying on top of it, it’s going to put you in the best situation to receive those funds from your institution and qualify for any, you know, first gen programs that they may have.[00:34:00]
Um, there are also lots of scholarships out there. Um, two of the sites that are most popular right now that we see a lot of students using are going Mary, um, and my scaly.com. So those are great places to start from again, kind of. Common app almost, um, for scholarships, where you’re going to fill out all your basic info and start applying.
Um, some of those you can potentially apply for, um, throughout high school before you apply to college. So you may want to, you know, just kind of start asking, looking, getting familiar with these and, or just kind of making future plans for what scholarships you would be looking into, um, going forward. Um, other, you know, like a very big scholarship programs.
Um, for first gen students, um, QuestBridge, uh, is a huge one and they do have [00:35:00] some summer programs and different things that they run, um, for students, uh, at different grade levels as well. Well, so they have a lot of resources to draw from. So I would definitely check out, um, QuestBridge also as a great place to start as you’re looking at potential scholarships.
Okay. So, um, imposter syndrome, uh, can definitely be a thing, uh, in this process. Um, and when you get to campus, right. Um, and if you haven’t heard of imposter syndrome before, um, it’s this feeling like that you’re not enough that you don’t belong here, that, um, you didn’t earn your spot. Um, and sometimes it’s, uh, takes a lot of work to kind of get past, to understand that you, you know, [00:36:00] Earned your way there.
And that’s, um, where you’re supposed to be and kind of really taking advantage of all the things that are there for you. Um, so you really need to find your people. You need to find your network, your support system, um, within that institution, or even, you know, where you’re at now. Um, you need to either find those counselors or those extra organizations that are going to help step you through this and build your confidence.
Um, but let’s just start now. I mean, showing up here, um, you are showing like how invested you are in yourself in this process. You’re taking the steps to get you where you want to go and you should. Definitely feel confident about what you’re doing and where you’re going, and we want to, you know, see you be successful.
And so we’re very happy that you’re here [00:37:00] tonight and we’re here tonight and you need to, um, Stay confident because you’re, you’re doing it. You’re here. Um, sometimes it can seem like you are the only one, like everybody else kind of knows what they’re doing and where they’re supposed to be, and you’re kind of unsure and uncertain.
Um, but, um, if you think about like, uh, this Stanford duck syndrome example, um, which is a term that they have there, where, you know, you see everybody, all the other ducks swimming by so smoothly in the pond. Um, but what you don’t really see is the underneath, right? How hard they’re paddling to keep up and what’s going on kind of churning in their brains underneath kind of everyone is, um, doubting themselves at different points or just really feeling like they can’t keep up.
Um, but, [00:38:00] uh, You can definitely, you know, find your support system and, um, accomplish your goals. So just want to tell you that that’s, you know, a real thing that a lot of students go through. Um, but if you can work through it, have confidence, find your not working your people. Um, we’re excited for all the things that you could do and you should be also.
So, um, it’s not going to be easy, uh, for sure. Um, to find those systems, sometimes it may take a little bit of time. It’s gonna take you kind of leaning in and going out and looking and asking, uh, Some colleges, you know, might be really good at offering support at connecting you with [00:39:00] people, um, and maybe offering you like a summer program that helps you kind of get acclimated and ready before college.
Um, but sometimes those things aren’t going to just be presented to you. They’re there, but you have to really work a little bit harder to find them. Um, if you land at a big state institution like I did, um, you’ve got, gotta show up at office hours. You’ve got to sit in the front, you’ve got to get. To know those faculty members you’ve got to ask for, um, where you find things, um, you know, from your, um, you know, resident assistant or, you know, whoever the student is in your hall, who, who helps you.
So you might have two. Uh, work a little bit harder to seek those things out. Um, but they are there. You just have to kind of go after them. So, um, McKenzie, I [00:40:00] want to chime in on you at this point and see if you have anything to add. You’ve been quiet for a little bit. Uh, for finding additional resources, definitely going to some student organizations could help, um, not only what making friends, but they can usually point you to some things you might not have known, uh, going to, um, offices where, um, it is for first gen or low income or other marginalized groups can usually, you can find those resources that you need for your, uh, going to the one for your identity or multiple identities can really help you with finding resources that you best.
And then also again, asking students and what they’ve found, um, there are different resources that I’ve heard about where you can get like free storage or like plane tickets, if you need them, um, depending on your circumstances. So those are really good to know, but they don’t usually post about them places.
And then also one thing I was told, um, [00:41:00] is to make friends with financial aid office. Become best friends with somebody in there. Um, if they help you out, maybe write them a note afterwards, these things can seem kind of awkward, but they can help. Um, you’d be remembered by the people that control the money.
And usually just remember that money is imaginary essentially, and there’s always more of it. Um, so if you know who to ask and how to ask and when to ask, they may just have an extra bit of cash to give you at any random moment. Maybe if you want to go steady and fall, or if you just need extra cash. Uh, I love that McKenzie.
I’m so glad you said that. I’m going to remember that when he is imaginary, theoretically, uh, And it reminds me of a story of a student who I worked with a few years ago, who was a first gen student who, uh, was a first gen American as well. And she, um, had a, uh, support, um, a really great, uh, scholars [00:42:00] program that she was working with too.
Um, and they had extra support like for when she got to college, she got a great scholarship, um, because of some things that she had done throughout high school. And when she came back, um, during her first year, this is when I worked in a high school. So she came back to visit the school, to talk to us, and I was asking her how it was going.
And she was saying that, um, one thing that she didn’t realize, uh, That was just like such a major thing had to do with the money and the financial aid office, which was, she was on full scholarship and she had all these, uh, grants that she could access, but she actually just didn’t know that she could go and get money that she could use, like for her expenses and things.
Um, and I think, yeah, that’s, that’s a easy one that is sometimes overlooked, um, that if you are a student with high [00:43:00] need, um, that your, um, Expenses that are covered. Go beyond just the tuition, um, in room and board, but also go on oftentimes to cover your books and, you know, additional living expenses. And so you’re absolutely right.
Just getting to know that financial aid officer can be, um, really important because you may not realize that there is money out there that is just waiting for you. And she actually realized that, uh, she should take that money and she’s investing some of it as well. Um, because you know, it’s, um, she’s earned it, entitled to it.
Um, and it’s just kind of sitting there waiting for her. Um, so, uh, that was a great point. I’m glad you reminded me of that story. All right. Um, so, uh, other kind of final tips, um, think, um, you know, as you’re getting ready for this [00:44:00] process about the impact that you have, um, You’re going to be looking for a lot of support.
Uh, but what, uh, what, how can you help others kind of, how can you, um, make an impact or even, you know, like take the things that you’re doing, uh, that are your hobbies and kind of bring them to a new level as you’re going through this process. So I’m always thinking about, um, taking it up a notch, um, before you going into this process to, to kind of, um, really set yourself up, um, to stand out, uh, as we were getting ready to prepare applications, um, go on college visits.
Um, and so this, uh, Can sometimes be challenging right. To, to travel and to see different places. There’s a lot of just sticks busy. It can be [00:45:00] expensive. Um, but now more than ever, you can do a lot of this virtually. Um, so. Do all the virtual visits, but maybe try if, um, resources are limited to at least do some visits in your local area.
Like whatever colleges are closest to you. Um, because even if you don’t think you’re gonna stay there, go there, just getting to learn the terminology, seeing what things are like on a campus, um, seeing, you know, other students, um, it’s gonna help, um, every step of the way, just to kind of understand the inner workings of colleges and the lingo, um, and kind of break that down is just like I’m saying with the financial aid, I think it takes a little bit of time to kind of get used to all this jargon.
So even if you don’t plan on attending your local institution going on the tour, we’ll just kind of help you, um, learn to navigate the whole bigger picture. Um, do you want [00:46:00] to encourage you if you’re a junior to apply to our scholars program? Um, so we do offer a scholarship, um, for college advisor services, um, to qualified students.
Um, we’ll have an application process which will be opening in may. So you’d get to work with cool advisors like us, um, who will help you navigate through this process. Uh, help you with your essays. Um, and we do some like tailored programs, um, webinars like this exclusive for our scholars, students and planning all sorts of interesting new things as well as definitely that financial support.
Um, in terms of completing the FAFSA, the CSS profile to help students through. Um, so we’ve got a, um, email address. You can email to get more information on that, um, to be notified about [00:47:00] the application, but that should, um, open in may. Um, and we’re excited to see a lot of great students, um, apply. Um, I worked with an awesome student this year, um, in the scholars program and did a couple, uh, of webinars with the scholars students.
Um, so, um, it’s really important to us, um, that we offer that opportunity and we hope you will consider applying, um, remember that, um, there are so many people out there that, um, are ready to help you, um, and want to answer your question. Um, so ask, make it known, you know, what your goals are, what you’re trying to do, and look for those support opportunities out there.
Promise. There are tons of great things I’m available to you and the colleges themselves, the admissions officers, you know, want to [00:48:00] assist and answer your questions. So don’t be afraid to ask, reach out, ask, um, put yourself out there. You might have to get a little uncomfortable, but um, it’s going to be worth it.
You’re going to get to where you want it to go. I’m sure because you’re here tonight getting started. Um, so don’t be afraid to kind of take the next step. Um, dream big and ask questions. And we’d love to see what questions are on your mind right now. Yes. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar.
I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slide from the link in the handouts tab, moving onto live Q and a I’ll read through your questions. You submitted in the Q and a chat and answer them, um, and read them a lot before our panelists gives you an answer, uh, as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom links sent to your email and not from the webinar landing [00:49:00] page.
Also known as the website. If you join through the website, um, you won’t get all the features of big marker. So just make sure you join through the link sent to your email, and yes, and also, um, if your questions don’t get answered, or if you find that you have more questions, remember that we do have our other webinars that may go into more specific detail on certain topics.
Okay. So starting, um, does first-generation exclude or include, um, Uh, that includes your parents. So we’re talking about, uh, if your parents did not graduate with a four-year degree, um, then you could be considered as a first-generation student . So if your siblings went to college before you, or if your grandparents went though, or your aunts and uncles, those don’t, um, those, they wouldn’t affect your first gen status.
It is just your parents. Um, going on to the next question, um, [00:50:00] Another student is asking, uh, should we start the application process in junior or senior year? And then their next question was, what should we focus on our junior year? Yeah. So there are definitely some aspects you can start on in junior year.
Um, biggest of those would be researching colleges, kind of really trying to figure out what you’re interested in, what you want while your top priorities are. Um, as far as, um, the colleges that you put on your list, um, as well as getting that testing out of the way, which is the topic we didn’t really talk about.
Um, Um, if you’re going to test, um, which a lot of places are optional right now. So it might not necessarily be critical for every student, but, um, if it’s going to be offered for free at your school, um, or, um, your counselor, or if a program you’re involved in is going to get, be able to supply you a fee [00:51:00] waiver, which, um, they definitely should, again, this is a thing you might have to just ask for, and it’s totally normal to ask for.
So go to your counselor and ask for a fee waiver for the sat or act. If you’re not, you know, offered one and you think you could qualify. That is something you can get out of the way, uh, in junior year or, uh, in the summer throughout. Um, but, uh, first and foremost, you really just want to get your best grades, um, do your best, uh, throughout junior year as your final junior year, grades will be kind of front and center in, um, your college admissions decisions.
Um, so if you don’t do anything else, you just really want to focus on your best academic year in junior year. Um, and see if you can find out about what your school will offer in terms of sat act and, and fee waivers and get those things out of the way, then you can definitely start your applications over the summer.
And as I said, [00:52:00] getting ahead of that could make a huge difference in having enough time to dedicate to the financial aid process, which could be, um, one of the trickier parts of the process. Uh, going onto the next question. Uh, if my parents graduated from a foreign university, would you be considered first gen?
Hmm, that’s a good question. Um, so if the degree they earned as the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in the U S then probably not. Um, but I think that, you know, some institutions may have different definitions as we mentioned. So there, there might be some cases, uh, where you could be, but for the most part, if it’s a similar, um, or considered equivalent degree, Uh, there, I added a link in the chat, uh, for the definitions of Christian and every college does have their own definition.[00:53:00]
There are colleges that don’t count foreign degrees, um, and it depends on the university it came from and its accreditations. Um, so that one is something you’re not to look at case by case in. Um, and then what type of degree it was. Cause there’s some people where their parents got PhDs and other countries, but they’re counting first gen here.
Yeah. Yeah. I would say the particular country could make a huge difference in how it is evaluated. Going on to the next question. A lot of students are, well, this is just abroad, but a lot of students are asking about the essays and how to really stand out. Um, could you give some tips on, um, what’s uh, some, what are some things that admissions officers are looking for?
It. Sure. Um, we have lots of blogs and examples. Um, and I know we’re going to be having lots of webinars coming up about essays and even particular college essays. Uh, so this one could take at a whole separate and many. Individual webinars, [00:54:00] um, to talk about essays. Uh, but in general, you know, we’re really looking for your voice.
Something that only you could write sounds like you, um, it’s little. Personal. Um, so, uh, try not to think about, you know, what colleges want to hear, but think about, you know, what is your story? What do you want to say? What do you want them to know about you? Um, and communicate that in your authentic voice, um, it’s a different type of writing, not like what you typically write for school in terms of reports or essays.
So it can be a little bit more difficult, like to get started, to figure out what your topic is to really think about you and what your story is. Um, so definitely, um, starting early journaling, like trying on some different ideas that may take a little bit of time to, to come up with, you know, what you feel [00:55:00] is central to you, but, um, There’s the hard part is there’s kind of no right answer as to what you know, the perfect essay is what makes it so difficult.
So it’s, uh, something that’s really, you know, rings true to you and general. Definitely. And if you want help with those essays, um, you can always join college advisor for those in the room who are already working with us. We know that the college admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike.
Our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate in one-on-one advising sessions. In last year’s admission cycle, our students were accepted into Harvard at three times, the national rate and accepted into Stanford at 4.4 times the national rate sign up for a free consultation with us by registering for our free web platform.
App.college advisor.com their students and their families can explore webinars, [00:56:00] keep track of application, deadlines, research schools, and more right. All on our website and with our advisors, you can get that awesome help, that personalized help on those essays. That is one of my favorite parts of being an advisor is really working on those essays and creating something very personal.
So definitely check it out. And I will put the link to the website in the chat in just a second, but going on to the next question, um, I’m gonna combine it since we’re getting low on time. Uh, students are asking about some sort of extracurricular things that they can do. So some students are asking about it, volunteer hours matter if passion projects matter.
Uh, and then also like how do leadership experiences apply? So yeah. All those, yeah. Okay. Again here there’s no right answer. Like there’s no one specific thing that every college is looking for in terms of like a perfect, you know, activity list. Um, but colleges are looking for some dedication over time, so [00:57:00] that maybe you’ve had somethings that you’ve been committed to and perhaps taken on more responsibility in, or a leadership role or some type of accomplishments.
Um, so I think the real key is to, to find a few things that you really care enough about to stick with over time and find ways that you can have a bigger impact. And in those things, by either taking on leadership or competing at a higher level, um, Yeah. And passion projects, you know, can take on lots of different shapes.
Um, so sometimes that is working within organizations. Sometimes that’s, you know, developing something entirely on your own, whether it’s a business or research or, um, a nonprofit program. Um, so whatever you’re passionate about, really kind of diving into that and seeing how you can kind of [00:58:00] take it up to a higher level perhaps than what you first anticipated or expected and, um, yeah, think, think big and, um, see what you can do with the things that you care the most.
Definitely. And if you go to our website again and go to the webinars, I have done three or four webinars on passion projects. If you want it more specific details. And also there are, um, other webinars on extracurricular activities you can look at to the different aspects of the application process and how they’re weighed, how to really, um, increase, um, their.
Quality, uh, and your application and in the coming a week or so we should be doing a webinar on, um, increase or personalizing your brand for the admissions process and really getting that personal narrative and those strong points in your application materials. Yeah. And I see, we have some questions on interviews and recommendations and we have a web webinars on those two, [00:59:00] definitely.
And just to wrap up the webinar with those questions and then any last minute things. Um, so students are asking about, uh, letters of recommendation and then also interviews and, um, uh, how important are those in the application process? And if you want us to answer that specific question about which counselor principal is better than.
Yeah. Sure. So you will have to have a counselor, uh, For your application complete the school portion sometimes depending on the staffing that might be completed by a principal. Um, but for the most part, a counselor is typical, um, to complete that. Um, and then you need teachers in addition. So the principal usually doesn’t factor into it, but if you do have the opportunity submit an additional recommendation and the principal knows you well, um, through your work in the school or something that that definitely could be something that would be supplemental perhaps, um, interviews are, um, [01:00:00] Still available.
Um, this year, I think the vast majority took place virtually. I don’t know if you know next year, perhaps we’ll see some more in-person interviews. Um, come back. I think that’s definitely possible. There’s a lot of them are taking place in your local area and conducted by alums who live locally. Um, and they’re definitely a good idea to participate in.
Um, if you get the opportunity to show your interest, um, to show a little bit of your personality. Um, so, uh, usually it’s a good idea to take advantage of that and definitely prepare by thinking about why you want to attend that institution preparing so questions. And again, I did a whole webinar and interviews with a lot of other tips, um, but you definitely want to prepare in advance.
Um, Um, with, in terms of recommendations, I got five for my application that is definitely not necessary. [01:01:00] Um, one I didn’t really even ask for, but, um, you just need a couple, um, like one or two, some schools even restrict the amount you can submit cause they’re not going to read all of it. Um, and I got them from all different types of people.
So like somebody that I worked for, I’m an assistant principal at my school, two teachers. And then, um, someone else that I can’t remember right now, but, um, the main important thing about your recommendation letters is really getting people that can speak well of you and different work you do, especially things that you might not have been able to touch on in other parts of your application.
So maybe there was a club or some work you did that you really want to expand on, but you didn’t have space in your application at, um, your recommenders are a good place to get those extra points from. And then, um, also, uh, they can just add in those extra details that might not have been said. And then, um, So, yeah, really, it’s just about getting people that can speak well about two.
And then also again, there are more webinars on that. Yeah. Dartmouth [01:02:00] sometimes, uh, you have the opportunity to submit a peer recommendation, so a friend or something like that. So yes. And since our webinars is coming to a close, is there anything last minute you’d like to add? Um, no, I guess I just like to say, you know, we’re so glad that you were here tonight and, um, remember that there are so many resources out there for you.
Um, a lot of this is confusing, so I encourage you to keep coming to webinars or download the slides or save this information, um, for future future use. Um, we’d hope that a lot of you will apply to our scholars program. Um, and yeah, we were really happy, uh, that you were here and hopefully you learned something new.
Um, Thank you for your time. Yes. And thank you to our panelists, Shannon for this wonderful information. And thank you everyone for coming out tonight. Remember again, you can download the slides and [01:03:00] this webinar is being recorded. If you’d like to be out later. And in our upcoming, um, March series on increasing your admissions odds, we will have more AAO advice.
And then, uh, more webinars going over other aspects of the application process that you may be interested in learning more about definitely watching some of our webinars that go over the admissions process as a whole can be a great place to start just so you can know what to look out for, and then diving in deeper into the areas that you’re more confused about, um, is just a good way to go.
So thank you everyone again for coming out and goodnight. Thanks McKenzie. Thank you.