Maximizing Your Admissions Odds as a First-Generation Student

Are you a first-gen student wondering how you can best maximize your college admissions chances? Join Admission Officer David Querusio as he provides strategies on how he was able to maximize his admission odds as a first-generation student and how you can too! The webinar will start with a 30-minute presentation and end with a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 05/31/2022

Webinar Transcription

2022-05-31 Maximizing Your Admissions Odds as a First-Generation Student

[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Maximizing Your Admissions Odds as a First-Generation Student. As a first gen college student. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our panelists.

Hello everyone. My name is David Querusio. I’m happy to be here today. Um, I’ve been in admissions for about five years now. Um, I spent four years at New York university where I worked primarily with undergraduate degree programs. It was a great experience for me. I worked with a variety of students from all walks of life, all over the world.

Um, and it was a really great time, uh, learning more about what goes on behind the scenes, in the admissions process, especially at a large school like that. Um, I now currently work in graduate admissions. I’m an associate director of graduate admissions at Boston college [00:01:00] currently. So, um, if you’re ever thinking about what goes on beyond the bachelor’s degree, I know we’re still thinking about that at the time being.

You feel the need to get a master’s a doctorate degree down the line. Definitely come find me. Um, but otherwise I’m happy to be here and share some tips and tricks about this very important topic tonight. Definitely. I’m trying to get my master’s at NYU actually, but. For a real quick, we’re 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 transfer student taking a gap year, and if you’re a parent on the call, you can click the year that your student is going into and what will be ready for that? Uh, David, what was it like for you applying as a first gen?

Yeah, absolutely. So, um, I am a first-generation student person on the family to go to college. I always knew it was something I wanted to do, but it was never something that was set in stone or guaranteed. Um, my parents were just. Focused on getting me through high school, which is great. I went to a really small public high school.

[00:02:00] Um, we didn’t have a designated college counselor. Um, anything like that, colleges weren’t coming to my high school to visit. I was from a rural area. So that definitely impacted what I knew and what I could learn about the college process. So a lot of things that seemed obvious, you know, once I started going to tours of bears and I was hearing all these people ask these questions about the sat and early.

That was, it’s like a whole new language. Right. So, um, that was probably the biggest challenge. Thankfully, I think the internet has helped extra extraordinarily with that. Um, but there’s still a ton of tips and tricks. Um, that first gen students aren’t always aware of. Um, so I’m happy to dive a little bit deeper into those tonight.

Definitely. So it’s looking like would have 20%, ninth graders, 60% of 11th graders, another 20% 12th graders. And you can control the slide. Perfect. So this is good because this information will be relevant. I love hearing that there were some ninth graders in the room getting a head start. So to kick things off in this first half hour or [00:03:00] so, we’re just going to talk about what first gen means broadly, some tips and tricks and how to best navigate this process.

If you identify as a first gen student. So firstly, what does first gen mean? Uh, it sounds like it’s intuitive, but not necessarily. There are some tricky nuances to it and people are always sometimes confused about what that exactly means. I, myself didn’t realize I was first gen until I got to college and realized that that was even something I could’ve claimed.

Um, but essentially in a nutshell, first gen means that if neither of your parents or legal guardians received a four year bachelor’s degree, then your first gen. You know, maybe neither of your parents went to college degree, but you got a college degree, but your older brother or sister received a college degree, doesn’t matter.

You both are still first gen in that instance, uh, actually 50% of college students identify as first gen, which I think is more than some people might expect. Um, that said, you know, we’re definitely becoming a more educated society. You know, at the end of the day, education is still something that a lot of folks don’t have access to.

So it’s important to remember that. [00:04:00] Um, I also want to say to extended relatives, you know, if you have a cousin twice removed on your father’s on side or whatever, they have a college degree, it doesn’t matter. It is about direct lineage, uh, for your direct parents, when it comes to the actual definition.

So how can the application process be different for students who are the first in their family? So if you are a first gen student, what exactly is different? And like I mentioned earlier, the college application process really is centered around, inside or not. There are so many tips and tricks and nuances and specific acronyms and terms that aren’t necessarily universal to folks who have not been to college.

So it’s been really important as a first gen student to familiarize yourself with this world and understand that, you know, you are, you know, you have a right to an education as well. Um, and the first one students might not have immediate access to understanding things like the timeline requirements and expectations.

They’re not talking about it with their parents at home necessarily, and they’re not able to pull from their own parents’ experiences at college [00:05:00] to really understand and get those tips and tricks as they go through the process themselves. Things like deadlines for the free application for federal student aid or the.

Um, standardized tests, sat act again, lots of acronyms. How do you even begin your application? How to get scholarships? They’re not immediately obvious to most folks who might be first gen. Right. Um, and you might also notice, spend as much time on a college campus in general. Um, you know, a lot of parents who are legacies or have gone to those whose families have gone to the same college for years and years, right.

Even if you’re a kid growing up and your family has that college legacy, you’ll still be associating yourself with that college campus environment. You’ll have a sense of what the culture is. Um, first gen students don’t necessarily have that. Right. So when they go through college tours and things like that, that might be the first time they’re actually stepping foot on college campus.

So it can sometimes be a totally different experience for first gen students when it comes to navigating that process, that said there are some advantages for sure. Applying as a first gen student, right. [00:06:00] At the end of the day, you are positioning yourself as a pioneer for your family, right. Um, regardless of what your application looks like or how you frame it or what your story.

Admissions counselors are going to see that you’re first gen and give you kudos for that. Right? Um, it’s something that we definitely acknowledge and appreciate and keep in mind. Um, because as we said, there’s a different context for first gen students. Another advantage is your own point of view. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes parents can, can influence your own college perceptions and think about where you want to go or what you don’t want.

But if you’re a first gen student, you have one more, a clean slate, right? You have a, your own frame of reference. You’re able to inform your own questions, really get a feel for campuses, um, and your own perspective and, you know, kind of have the story be your own. So, you know, I don’t want people to think of on first gen the systems built around me.

I’ll never be able to figure out because that’s not necessarily true. So what’s important to understand about the application process for [00:07:00] first gen. I will say this many times throughout the presentation, but you have to keep track of deadlines and requirements. Lots of schools have lots of different Shirky deadlines, um, between, you know, early action, early decision, and then we’ll get into those definitions.

Um, deadlines for scholarships, financial aid, there are deadlines to sign up for the sat and the act. Right. I remember when I was in high school again, I’ve, you know, I only found out about people doing the sat through my friends, um, saying, oh, I signed up for this. Have you signed up yet? I said, oh, I didn’t even know.

I had to do that. Right. It sounds maybe cliche and naive, but it’s the reality of first gen students sometimes because those conversations are not happening as organically in the hall. Um, so definitely try to keep track of deadlines and requirements whenever you can, however you can do the research, um, because a lot of the times those deadlines and requirements aren’t going to necessarily seek you out unless you’re doing, you know, unless you’re looking for that.

Also ask questions, college counselors like myself are meant to help you through the process. [00:08:00] Literally it is our jobs and we want you to feel confident as you do the application process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There truly is no thing as a dumb question. As I was saying, there were things that I had no idea about the process I was in high school.

So I, you know, I can definitely relate to, to any and all kinds of questions. Um, that is what we’re here for. And that shows that you’re demonstrating interest, right. It shows that you’re being proactive and you’re passionate about the school and you want to learn more. Right. So don’t be afraid to take that step.

I know sometimes it can feel a little intimidating. I’ve had students say that, oh, I just, sometimes don’t even know what to ask what to say. It can be anything, it can be anything from an actual application process to their own time on campus, to just a question about them. But I think establishing our relationship is very, very important.

And it’s something that first gen students might not always know to do right out of the gate. And lastly, you are just as worthy of a college education as other students whose parents are educated are, um, education access is definitely not [00:09:00] equitable in this society. Um, it has nothing to do with your own inherent talent or worth you are just as valid and just as worthy of going to college as anyone else.

And it’s important to remember that and take up space in this. Um, because that’s how you’re going to be able to succeed and be confident in your applications.

So what is the ideal college application timeline? I want to preface this by saying this is just sort of a sample and a suggestion. You know, your own timeline may look entirely different. Um, especially for folks who are thinking about arts programs or who might be thinking about being recruited for a sports team, you know, those have specific nuances and, and, uh, characteristics that might not be captured in this specific timeline.

So again, it goes back to one of my first tips, always clarify deadlines and requirements. Um, but generally this timeline will apply to most application processes. I started with the summer going into senior year. I think before that it’s, you know, pretty generally, you know, be as [00:10:00] involved as you can as humanly and mentally possible.

Um, and focus on your academics, try to challenge yourself and more rigorous coursework. Keep on top of your grades, establish relationships with your professors. You know, that’s what you should be doing. Ninth, 10th and 11th grade really is just filling out that resume and being proud of your transcripts.

And then some are going into senior year, I think is really when things kick into overdrive. So hopefully before summer going to senior year, you at least had some idea of colleges that you’re interested in or criteria that you’re thinking about. Maybe large schools, small schools. You know, you’re figuring out your major.

So some are going into senior. Year’s a really good time to tour colleges and really pin down that list. Um, and you know, touring colleges can mean going to a formal tour doing an info session on campus. Oregon just mean walking around with your friends or your parents and just checking things out. I did a combination of both in my own process, and I feel like there’s pros and cons to both.[00:11:00]

You know, when you do a tour and in post session, you’re going to get a lot of that good information about deadlines requirements. Um, but some of those hidden things, you know, about the campus culture, um, the school environment, you know, those things you kind of just pick up just by walking around campus on your own sometimes.

So I think a combination of both is really recommended to really get a feel for what the campus culture is like. Um, in terms of finalizing a list, I generally recommend around 10, six. Again, I’ve heard folks go as high as 20 folks go as few as five. I think 10 is a sweet spot, but there’s no magic number, but what is going to really ultimately be your final list is going to be determined by you really going to see those schools in person, if you can, or at least establishing those relationships with college counselors, um, to get a better feel for what the school is like.

And then lastly, in the summer, think about your recommenders. You haven’t. Most schools are going to ask for about two or three recommendation letters. One usually comes from your [00:12:00] college or guidance counselor. That’s kind of your given. And then you can ask one or two more usually, uh, teachers, um, who you’re really close with and who know you well.

Right. So think about who you’re closest with and you can best speak to your ability to succeed in a college setting. Um, I think about if you want to ask them, maybe when you get back to school in the fall, if they’re willing to write a letter for you, and then finally school starts fall of senior year.

Mark out all of your application and financial aid deadlines. It sounds cheesy, but I think it’s really helpful to get a big calendar and just visualize where all those deadlines are. There’s a lot of overlap, so you don’t want to be hit by realizing, oh my gosh, 10 schools, apps are all due tomorrow, all at once.

And you haven’t even been planning for it. You really want to make sure you’re on top of these application and financial aid deadlines. Uh, so you can have all your ducks in a row. This is also when it becomes important to understand. The difference between early action, early decision and regular decision.

Again, some schools have [00:13:00] their own unique policies, but broadly speaking early action means that you can apply to a school earlier in the fall. If you’re admitted, they expect you to attend, but it’s not binding, right? So you can still be admitted and say, thanks, but no thanks early decision. On the other hand.

It’s usually the binding agreement, meaning that you usually submit your application, maybe November 1st, December 1st, the school reviews it and gets your decision a bit sooner December, early January, maybe. And if you are admitted, the expectation is that you attend regardless of the financial aid package status.

So that’s really important to keep in mind that when you apply to a school early decision, yes, you get it out of your way. First. It is the only school you’re applying to. And it’s your way of signaling to the school. You are my top choice. If I’m admitted, I would love to attend. No questions asked even if the financial aid package is not exactly what you envisioned.

So do keep that in mind that they’re going to, [00:14:00] they’re admitting you, you’re going to be expected to attend. Some schools are a bit more flexible with it. And why you, for example, was usually very flexible with the early decision. Uh, just because, you know, you can’t expect to attend a school without knowing the full extent of the financial aid package.

So some schools say, you know, even if we admit you early decision, if it’s not a financial reality, let us know. And we’ll see, you know, we will release you from the agreement or things like that. So definitely read the fine print when it comes to deciding whether you want early action, early decision or the usual regular decision.

Right. So most folks will end up doing. Maybe a school, early decision, there are not admitted, then they’ll do the rest of their lists. Regular decision. Those deadlines are usually in January. Um, so you can kind of get a sense of a timeline. There also keep in mind that many schools are asking supplemental essay questions.

Of course, there’s going to be a main college essay, whether it’s the common app essay or something like the coalition. Um, or the California application [00:15:00] system, right. There’s going to be that main college essay about, you know, the meaning of life, yourself, your story. Um, but there’s also going to be more specific supplemental questions that sometimes catch folks off guard.

These are more specific to the school. So this would be something like, you know, why do you want to attend this university in particular? What is it about our school that’s attracting you to apply? And why do you think you’ll be a good fit? Right? Some of them are a bit more. But if you keep in mind that these supplemental questions are usually released August, September, um, and you are going to need to answer them thoroughly.

And I think with a lot of schools going test optional, these essays are getting more and more important and helping admissions officers understand that college fit piece. Right. When we’re asking ourselves, is this student going to be a good fit in our campus? Are they asking questions? Have they done their research?

Um, not only what are we going to provide them, but what are they going to bring to campus, right? It’s that two way street. So definitely plan ahead for those supplemental [00:16:00] questions. You don’t want to be caught off guard and realize that your dream school is asking you for extra essays on top of your first one at the last minute.

Right? And again, as I mentioned, that application window is usually November to January, and then you get to spring of senior year before you know, it it’s a waiting game. Most decisions are released March, April. Um, you’ll usually receive your financial aid packages. Um, if you submitted your financial aid information and applied, um, and then you have to decide and commit to the school by May 1st, I will say that my general rule of thumb is to submit your financial aid package information, uh, the required documents at the same time that you submit your application itself.

And we’ll get a little more into that. Yes. So now we’re going to do another quick poll. 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 materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done while we [00:17:00] wait for those to roll in.

Um, David, can you tell us a little bit about, um, what is the most challenging part of the application process for a first gen student?

Probably the most challenging might be the essay. I think that it can be really hard to come up with your story and your brand for lack of a better word. And that main college essay is the best place to do that. I think when you’re someone who doesn’t have as many close connections to college and what college is really meant to do, it can be harder to articulate that and put into words why you want to go to college in the first place.

A lot of the times, it just seems like something that you feel like you have to do. Right. Or maybe it feels like something that was, you don’t have to do necessarily if your family’s not really talking about it. So it can be hard to know how to situate yourself. So I think, um, and this isn’t unique to first gen students of course, but I think the essay is definitely really tricky.

So I recommend spending a lot of time with it. Um, and asking everyone in [00:18:00] anyone for an extra pair of eyes when. Definitely. Um, yes. So it’s looking like we have 20%, haven’t started 60% are researching schools and the other 20% are working on their essays. Love it. You guys are to be very proactive, getting a headstart.

I love it. Let me see. Let’s keep it going. So now we’re going to think more about how to research, right? You were talking about that some folks are in that research stage. What exactly should you be looking for? And of course you should be. Looking at majors, minors, academics, size, who the professors are, the location is, but you also want to know what supports systems are in place on college campuses.

Right? What resources are they going to be able to provide you to make sure you’re successful? And these go by a lot of different names. So, you know, some schools have student success teams. Some schools call them student services offices. There are offices of diversity and multicultural identities, and the list goes on and on and on.

And [00:19:00] each school is going to have a unique spin on what these services mean. Um, but more often than not first gen resources are going to be housed within these kinds of offices. Right? These offices that are designed for student support and success, that’s usually the first place I would recommend. So, if you’re really interested in school, you can Google whatever university office of student services or office of student success and do some digging and see what you can find.

You know, I’ve seen resources ranging from mentorship programs, career workshops, just informal support groups, right? The list goes on and on. And on my own time at NYU, I was a mentor to a first gen student at NYU who was interested in working in higher ed. Right. We repaired because we had overlapping careers.

So it was really great to connect with her and learn more about her story. Tell her more about my story and just keep that connection. So she felt a little bit more at home at NYU and like she wasn’t alone. Um, so there are things like that. I’m sure many, many [00:20:00] colleges and universities, so definitely be open to exploring those resources because they can make a huge difference for first gen students who may not immediately feel at home on campus right out of the gate.

So now when we get to financial aid, a very important topic, um, and this will just be scratching the surface. So I’m glad we’ll have time for questions, but generally when it comes to the essentials of what you need to know about financial aid, it’s important to remember that most of your funding to attend college will come from two buckets, right?

There’s going to be federal financial aid. If you are a us citizen and eligible for federal aid. That’s coming from the government and there’s going to be institutional aid from the college and university themselves. Right. These are specifically coming from the schools and their pool of money based on your application that you submit.

So now that your final financial aid package is going to be a combination of whatever federal aid they give you, which could just be loans, right. Or it could be something like a [00:21:00] Pell grant or a scholarship that, right. You want the grants and scholarships, which is money. You don’t have to pay back. Loans are the last resort.

Um, so do you keep in mind that a school can say, yes, we’re going to provide you with a full financial aid package, but then you look at your package and it’s all saying, take out federal loans. Right? So be aware of that distinction. When students, when schools rather, when schools say they’re going to meet financial need, oftentimes that can, you know, the fine print just means that they’re meeting the full need because their package offers full of loans would help you meet the cost of attendance.

So do you keep in mind of those specifics and understanding the exact repercussions of what your financial aid package would look like? Ideally, right. An ideal package would be scholarship, merit funding, institutional aid, which you don’t have to pay back as little in loans as possible. That’s why it’s also important to adhere to your school’s free application for federal student aid or FAFSA.

It’s a mouthful deadlines. [00:22:00] Um, as I mentioned, submit your FAFSA paper. If not the same, like if not the same week, the same day as your application, just so everything gets in together. A lot of the times, admissions offices and financial aid offices, they work closely together, but they are for of larger schools, separate entities, right?

So I always say, submit them both together. And that way they can, cross-reference more easily and make sure they have everything they need from you. And that way you can figure it out sooner. It is a sad reality that, you know, there are folks who have been admitted, but they don’t get their financial aid package because they never submitted the FAFSA.

And then they’re stuck scrambling and financial aid office can not guarantee that they’ll even be able to process the financial aid package when it gets to the March and April. Right. So definitely keep in mind that you need to keep those FAFSA deadlines. At the top of your mind. Um, so I’ll also add one more thing.

Some schools may also require the CSS profile. Maybe some folks in the audience have [00:23:00] heard about the CSS profile. Some schools recommend both doing the FAFSA and the CSS profile. I think that’s generally a good rule of thumb to do both personally. I think the CSS profile captures a lot more current and updated information about your financial status and your family.

Um, and a lot of schools will use that to help inform their own merit scholarships. So I always say, do FAFSA NCSS, if you can. Um, but again, ask questions. That’s a great question to ask a college counselor, right? Do you require both the FAFSA and the CSS profile? So getting used to those nuances and those kinds of questions were really help you maximize the age.

You can get another distinction that might not be immediately obvious the first gen. Is need-blind versus need where admissions. So these are terms that colleges use to basically describe the relationship financial aid plays when it comes to reviewing applications for admission. So when we say need blind, it [00:24:00] means that admissions offices do not review your financial aid information.

When determining an admissions decision, most schools say they’re needs. This essentially means, you know, when I, as an admissions counselor and looking over your transcripts, your essays, your recommendation letters, I’m seeing all that information. I’m seeing you submitted your FAFSA, but I’m not seeing any of the specifics.

I don’t have access to your pops or the CSS profile. Those documents are totally off out of my purview for the office of financial aid. It’s the opposite. They’re just seeing those FAFSA documents in the CSS. If. They’re not seeing your grades. They’re not seeing your letters or your transcripts or anything like that.

So we both kind of come to our own independent evaluations and they consult each other in the end. So do keep that in mind when we say need-blind on the other hand, need aware is when admissions offices reserve the right to review financial aid information during the application review process. So there are rare, there are rare situations where a school may actually use the financial aid [00:25:00] information from the FAFSA and those specific documents to inform the admissions decision.

Um, this typically happens for international students to be quite honest. So if you do have any concerns or questions about this, you can always ask for clarification from your school about what the distinction is between you blind and need aware of their own institution. But generally this is the.

So how can I get the most money? A question on everyone’s mind as I started once I said it like four times already, but I’ll say it again. You got to follow the deadlines and most schools try to make it as clear and obvious as possible, but in my mind associate the same application admissions deadline with the financial aid deadline, and the deadline just means submitting the FAFSA.

It can take a while and then maybe take an afternoon or maybe longer if you don’t have the necessary documents. So don’t start filling out the FAFSA day. The application itself is due. I would say at least take a look at it, um, a month or so before at [00:26:00] the latest, just to have an understanding of what they’re asking, same bills for the CSS profile.

It can’t be stressed enough to get a headstart on those things, to make sure everything is neat, accurate, because those delays can really end up impacting what your package can be. If the college is missing information from you, I’ll also say, know your goals for college, but what I mean for this is know what you want out of college and what you’re mostly what your budget is for college as well.

It’s important to make a budget and understand what you’re willing to spend out of pocket versus what you’re willing to take a loan out. Right. Depending on where you want it to get you. Um, and it also speaks to the fact that there are lots of specific scholarships out there, um, and understanding what you want to do and what you want to study, what kind of work you want to do, why you want to go to college, your reasoning for going for college.

Those can all inform those scholarship applications and help give you an edge because that’s money that can come outside of those buckets. I mentioned earlier. [00:27:00] You know, there are actually three buckets, there’s the federal bucket, the college itself. And then there’s just general scholarship money, right?

If you know of an organization or a company or a group that have scholarship funds, you know, that money will apply towards your college bill. Regardless, they’re going to take the money, the colleges aren’t fussy about where it comes from, if you have it right. So do the research and understand your own approach to why you want to go to college.

And do some research and scholarship programs as well, because there might be some that surprise you. And I say it, the bottom bullet here, there are scholarships specifically for first gen students, and you can look up, you know, first gen student scholarships and see what appears, um, and you might be pleasantly surprised at things that you can do, uh, to help supplement that cost of attendance.

And lastly, reach out to schools, financial aid offices. Don’t be afraid to do that. No, I’ll be honest. Sometimes there’ll be long wait lines. Some, you know, everyone wants to talk to financial aid, especially during busy seasons, they are doing their best. They want to give you as much information as they [00:28:00] can.

Um, that’s why it’s important to have their emails, their phone numbers, and understand that you often have an assigned counselor specific to your region or to your program that you applied to. That can be your go-to person. So try to figure out who that is or get a contact as soon as you can. So if you do have any quick questions or clarifying questions, or, you know, maybe your application portal says the FAFSA wasn’t received, but you got an email saying it was received and you want to clarify, don’t be afraid to ask those questions because that’s how you can maximize your chance to get the most money, to make sure they have everything they need.

So how can students combat imposter syndrome? And the application process and once they get to campus, so no, this is something that, again, doesn’t have a magic, clear answer. I think it goes back to what I said earlier. Know your word, most universities in schools and know the importance of having first gen students on campus.

So don’t hide your first gen status. I think that’s one of the [00:29:00] first step stuff, you know, combating imposters. Once you sort of say proudly, like, yes, I am the first in my family to go to college and that’s not a weakness. Right. That’s my story. And that’s who I am. That doesn’t mean I’m. I want to go to college any less or I’m less eligible, right.

Having that conversation with yourself and overcoming that hurdle is the first step, because it’s true. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, admissions officers keep this context in mind when we’re reviewing applications. I also say when you’re on campus, build relations, You are going to meet so many people and not just your classmates, right?

And not just your professors. There are so many administrators, support guides, advisors, mentors on college campuses who want you to be as successful as possible. You’re going to meet orientation leaders, resident hall advisors, your academic advisors, they’re all designed to help you feel comfortable and confident in your.

Leverage these connections, knowing when to lean on your support is crucial and not being afraid to say, Hey, I’m struggling here. Do you [00:30:00] have in the advice, you know, the college environment is designed to be that space for you. So we don’t want you to feel insecure. You know, maybe the student body may not always look like you, or you may feel like you’re alone.

But going to the support systems will help you realize, you know, there are, there are communities out there for you on campus. Maybe you don’t immediately see them, but they’re there to help you connect to those groups when you can.

So again, similarly, how can you find additional resources once you are on campus? So, as I mentioned, you know, know your name, Um, and just ask conversations, just have conversations. You don’t even have to disclose your first gen status. You can just be like, Hey, you know, someone mentioned, no, my friend at another school mentioned that they have this kind of program.

Do you think we have something similar here? It can be as casual as that. Um, and also just showing up, you know, if you are on campus, uh, showing up to an office of student services or student life and just ask these questions again, I have a feeling, you know, I [00:31:00] haven’t done any. Study on this, but I have a feeling about 99% of us colleges and universities have some sort of support group for first gen students.

Um, whether it’s a formal club or formal organization, or just, you know, an informal network, there’s going to be something for first gen students because college colleges and universities really understand that it’s a, it’s a culture shock a lot of the times for students. So we want you to feel empowered and competent when you get.

So any final tips I would recommend to students who are applying as a first gen student, again, take up space. You deserve to submit an application. You deserve to ask as many questions as you want and attend college. Just as much as any other student, it’s not a disadvantage, don’t hide it. Um, but to also know how you’re, how you’re framing it and what your story is.

Right. And that goes to my next point of saying, you know, if you are going to talk about your first gen status, be confident in how you frame your. Don’t you being first gen from a deficit mindset. Um, and also know that even if you [00:32:00] don’t disclose it or talk about it openly in NESAY, you’re going to have to put in your, um, admissions office, your, your sorry, your parents’ educational backgrounds.

So when you submit your application, we’re going to ask, you know, tell us about your parents. Do they have a college degree? That information is going to be captured. So even if you’re not saying in your essay, I’m a first gen student admissions offices are still going to see that flag as a first gen. And keep that lens in mind when reviewing your file.

So it’s up to you, whether you want to take that opportunity and elaborate upon your first gen status, or just let them take it at face value. Right. So I think what I’m trying to say is you have more control over the narrative than you may realize. And lastly, I’ll say it again. Ask, ask, ask questions. We are eager to help.

We understand the first gen. Sometimes just need a little more talking through the process. Again, it’s not intuitive. It changes every year. If you don’t have parents or family who are in the know, so to speak, then you might have a hard time. [00:33:00] So that’s why it’s okay to ask those questions and really get clarity.

So you can have a clear game plan going forward. And I think that’s it for me looking over to you. 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 on to the live Q and a I’ll read through your questions.

You submitted in the Q and a tab and read them a lot before our panelist gives you. As a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you joined the webinar through the custom links into your email and not from the webinar landing page. Also known as the website.

If you join from there, you won’t get all the features of big marker. So just make sure you join through the custom link sent to your email. Uh, yes. And so feel free to submit your questions in the Q and a tab, but we’re just going to get started. So, um, for the first question, Uh, student was concerned that, um, they don’t have many, um, academic or extracurricular [00:34:00] opportunities.

Uh, and they’re wondering how they can stand out and just to kind of tailor this towards first gen students, some may not have known, um, to how to prepare for the college admissions process or when to start. So how can they make up if they’re in their later years, um, for. I don’t want to say lack, but I can’t think of it.

Other words, lack of like, um, APS or certain extracurriculars and stuff. How can they stand out?

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I can’t hear you.

Okay. My back, no, this is where, sorry folks. I’m back. I’m here. Um, so that’s a really good question. I think, you know, I’ll recap the question. I’m just wondering how a student can maximize their [00:35:00] extracurriculars, their activities, their leadership. Um, if that’s not something that was, you know, top of their mind and their beginning of high school.

I think one thing that we really like to appreciate and notice in college applications is growth and an upward trajectory. And talenting yourself with more leadership roles as you go through high school. But we mean a lot of different things by leadership leadership doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, president of student council or the football team captain.

Right? Those are obviously great leadership roles. And if that’s something you’re passionate about, you should do it. But for me, leadership also means, you know, taking care of your siblings after school, while your parents are working, right, we’re driving them to where they need to be or working that part-time job, you know, to help pay for, for food.

Right? Those are all different forms of leadership. And I think you might be doing a lot more well, I know for a fact that a lot of students undersell themselves when they’re going through their activities section, especially in the first pass. So don’t be afraid to really break out how [00:36:00] you spend your time because.

We essentially just want to see how you spend your time outside of. Right. And that can mean anything that could mean your own independent project. I’ve read applications from students. Who’ve built their own PCs and computers and listed that as their own activity. Right? So even if you’re not necessarily traditionally involved in, you know, those typical school activities, for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage necessarily just means that you might have to think a bit more outside the box about what activities you are doing and how you want to present those things.

And again, leadership can be. A variety of things. So don’t be afraid to kind of get creative with it. The most important thing is how you frame it and talk about why you’re doing those activities and why they’re important to you. If that makes sense, uh, going on to the next questions, these are, uh, it’s about to be a theme of what qualifies as first gen.

Um, but one student’s asking if one parent didn’t go to college and the other parent went to college, are you still considered. Technically, [00:37:00] no. Um, just by the textbook dictionary definition again. Colleges are going to T your parents’ educational background. And if there’s a story there, something specific, you know, I think it’s still worth explaining if that’s something that maybe impacted, you know, your own experience, there might be a situation where maybe the parent who attended the college and earned the degree, you don’t really speak to them, right.

Or maybe they’re not as in your life as much. Right. That’s, that’s valid. And you know, maybe you’re not an official first gen student in that sense. You’re not really benefiting from the privilege of having a parent who attended a university. Right. So you it’s, it’s a, it’s a gray area for sure. Um, but I don’t want folks to like, get stuck in their head about the specific definitions, um, because you know, first gen status can look very different depending on your own.

Uh, going on to the next question. Uh, what children of immigrants from colleges outside of the U S system still count as first gen? So again, technically, no, but that [00:38:00] doesn’t mean you’re not, it means you’re a first gen American college student. So even if you’re not a, even if you’re not a first gen student, generally, you know, if your parents attended college and did the university system outside the U S that’s not.

Necessarily advantage to you because the U S system is so unique and different. So I think it’s important to also remember, right. That, you know, you may not be a first gen student in that case, but you’re a first gen American and you’re the first of your family to go to college in the U S and that’s really important to talk about and highlight, um, because that will also impact your own approach to the college admissions process.

Um, because again, similarly, most of first gen students. A lot of this will be totally new to you and your family. So, you know, again, maybe not technically the first gen dictionary Dick’s definition, but still a worthwhile identity worth exploring and, and talking about in your application. Uh, some of the schools that I looked at, or, um, some of my students had looked at when we were working on this, [00:39:00] um, they, uh, were, their parents went to a school outside of the country, but the.

Some of the schools in the U S didn’t recognize that degree. So they would be considered first gen. So it’s good. Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, it does depend on like the equivalency to, um, which is a whole other technical. Um, yeah, that’s beyond the scope of this. That’s that’s our next webinars, uh, kind of going off of that.

Um, if a student’s parent completed some school, um, but didn’t get the degree. Are they still first gen or do you specifically need the degree? It’s your Silverstein it’s if they earned the degree. So that’s, that’s my case. My dad did a couple of community college classes and realize it wasn’t for him.

And he never ended degree. So, you know, it’s all about that degree conferral. And I feel like there was another question related to this, but, um, if your parents are [00:40:00] currently in college, um, but they haven’t, um, they’re gonna finish, but they have to apply no first done. Um, I’m not sure. Excuse me. And that’s another gray area.

I think it’s so worth identifying as first gen if it’s not like actually conferred. Um, but again, that’s a technicality, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Definitely. Okay. So now going on to the next thing, um, where can first gen students look for support through the application process? Uh, is there anywhere online at home, a school?

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think the first, the first person you should ask is your college or guidance counselor at your high school. They’re going to be your main contact. And as I mentioned earlier, your counselor usually writes a recommendation letter for you automatically for your college application. So it’s important to [00:41:00] establish a relationship with them.

And if you go to them saying, Hey, I’m a first gen student, this is all new to me. They’ll know how to support you and give you those resources. I also think just generally. Another tip is just going online and seeing what databases and websites are out there. You know, college board has a huge database of colleges and universities, Princeton review does, don’t be afraid to use those resources.

Again, take everything they say with a grain of salt. You know, sometimes our info might be outdated, you know, things like that. But I think in terms of just familiarizing yourself with the landscape and the process to spending a couple of hours just browsing and going through schools, um, is a really effective use of your time.

And then going to the colleges themselves. Um, they may not always have designated, you know, first gen folks to help with applications, but most admissions officers are going to be happy to help you with, you know, general tips and guidelines to be as successful as possible. Um, so don’t be afraid to, to use those resources and go to the school admissions offices [00:42:00] themselves, because I’ll be happy to help where they can

definitely kind of going off. For those in the room who aren’t already with us. We know 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 it all in one-on-one.

And last year’s admission cycle. Our team, uh, our students were accepted into their students and their families can explore webinars, keep track of application deadlines, research.

And more all right. On our website, a really great support system, especially for first gen students. Um, having an advisor who can guide you through not only the process, but also with getting your [00:43:00] essays together, really letting your voice shine through, figuring out what schools to even look at. Um, a lot of the advisors are former admissions officers like David or current admissions officers too.

And then. So, um, current college students have been through the process. You need get those questions like it looking ugly, help navigate it, um, for you and find the best solutions and fit for you. Also, our financial aid team can help you and your parents navigate the FAFSA and CSS profile and figuring out, um, the best, um, resources and.

Places to look and places to look for you. So make sure to go to our Now back to the Q and a, uh, kind of going on to the next question, uh, this for parents, how can parents who have not experienced the admissions process best to prepare for it? What do they need? Where can they start?

How can they [00:44:00] support their students? This is kind of a broad blanket. It’s good though. It’s important to understand. One of the most important things is just supporting your student or child, um, in this process and encouraging them and knowing that if this is something they want to pursue, you have their support.

Uh, I think also being, you know, someone, if you’re able to, you know, bring, you know, go on family trips to do college visits and tours, even if it’s local, just local schools, even if you can’t travel very far, necessarily going to as many college campuses as possible, just to understand. What the environment is like versus a large school versus a smaller school versus public versus private versus a school that prioritizes engineering versus a more liberal arts school.

Right? There’s so many distinctions that’ll help narrow down the list and make the process a little bit easier once you know, you and you and your child have a better sense of what direction they want to go. So being supportive and trying to help facilitate those visits and tours as much as [00:45:00] possible, I think is probably one of the biggest pieces of advice I would give.

Again, that’s not always possible. Life is crazy, you know, we’re still in a pandemic. We still have everyone as well. Right. So if that’s not a reality, There are plenty of online resources. Um, there’s a great site called you visit, which has recorded live interactive tours of college campuses. A lot of colleges, admissions offices are having, you know, you know, some version of like an admissions ambassador or admissions representative, right?

Current students who are, you know, willing and able to talk about the school, right? You can cold email them. Usually they usually have their emails listed on the website. If they’re not, you can call the admissions office, feel free to reach out to them, whether you’re a parent or a student, just to kind of get that relationship going, because usually they’re very candid about their own experiences.

And another big tip I would say would be definitely familiarize yourself with the financial aid requirements. If you have. The FAFSA, um, sometimes catches a lot of people off guard. Um, and I think it’s important to know that the [00:46:00] soonest, you can kind of get your account up and running the students do understand what requirements are needed from you and what forms are needed from you.

The more confident you’ll be in, in going through the process together. So, you know, trying to do some visits. Try and network with, with current students on campus, to the admissions office and prepare for the FAFSA. Those are my big three ones off the top of my head. Yes. And, um, for students that are going into their senior year, we do have, and all the other students, we do have a webinar on financial aid and FAFSA one-on-one.

If you want to check that out, um, FAFSA opens on October 1st. I think CSS profile is open. The same day, if not August 1st. Uh, and then, um, common app and all of the actual application portals open on August 1st or August 2nd, they change it sometimes. Uh, but you can set up your account right now and it will just roll over into your actual application cycle.

And then, but just having everything filled out, getting your generic information and can really help with, um, making sure you’re on track [00:47:00] and figuring out what information you need, um, for your schools, for your application process. And then. First, when the application actually opens, you’ll be able to see what supplements and additional essays schools are asking.

And then October 1st, when FAFSA opens, you’ll be able to start billing an information and sending it out to school. Couldn’t have said it better myself. That’d be great. Uh, going out to the next question, kind of the other end of that, uh, where does a student start to prepare for college? Wow, that is, I wrote that word.

Where can a student start, um, to prepare for college? What is a good first step and how do you begin researching?

I think this might be me again, but the sound went out.

Um, can someone in the audience say, if you can hear David,[00:48:00]


No. Okay. I’m going to try refreshing.

Yes. Yes. Okay. Yeah. Sorry about that. I finally figured out zoom and then I have to do this whole new platform throwing me off. Um, so I’m assuming, just to recap, the question was how, where can students even begin and get started in the process? I, you know, there’s a variety, different ways. Some folks, um, might be surprised to hear this, but I always recommend social media.

A lot of colleges and universities are [00:49:00] really ramping up their social media presence on Instagram and Twitter. It’s goofy, it’s cheesy, but a lot of the times the contents run by current students. So I think if you’re just trying to get a sense for what the school’s personality is like, what the students are like, just look on their Instagram and tech talk and just see what sticks out to you.

I think those are really great variety of content that students can come up with to help advertise and promote their schools. And it can be a great way for you to just sort of understand if you can see yourself there. Um, So beyond social media too, I think just asking, you know, people that you admire in your school as well, where did your teachers go to college, ask about their college experiences?

Um, if your friends have older siblings ask them, I think word of mouth is also a really great way to kind of hear more about people’s own calls, journeys, and understand all the different roads that can lead to a college degree, um, and all the different kinds of ways that folks navigate the process in their own way.

So I would say social media and word of [00:50:00] mouth, um, And again, I mentioned it before, but don’t be afraid to use that database of information like can call it, you know, from college board or even, you know, called is a great database of, of recent information on colleges and universities. So anywhere that kind of compiles the information and makes it either.

Uh, to understand, but deadlines requirements. I think those are great places to start. Definitely. Uh, going on to the next question, um, you kind of mentioned this earlier, but should a student use their, um, personal statement to talk about being first gen? Is that the only good story to talk about? No, it’s not the only good story to talk about.

I think, you know, It’s important to understand that like the college essay is really one of the few pieces of the application that you have full control over. Right. And it’s really one of the areas where you get to communicate directly with the admissions office in your own voice. You know, it’s, I’ve seen it go both ways.

Sometimes it’s really effective to have an SIV revolving around a [00:51:00] certain aspect of your identity, whether it’s first gen race, gender. You know, that can, that’s a really powerful and important approach, but you also want to make sure you don’t lose yourself in that and sort of lose yourself in discussing that.

I think maybe you can definitely talk about how it might’ve impacted your desire to go to college, right. Or maybe it was something that presents more obstacles that you overcame, but it’s important to remember that, you know, Mackenzie mentioned this earlier that August 1st, you know, most applications, you know, you’ll most likely be using the common application.

They have a series of questions. Some are more specific. There is a general open-ended prompt where you can write about whatever you want, but I don’t want folks to feel like you’re obligated to write about first gen, just because you are a first gen student. If you have a really strong essay topic and idea that, you know, it doesn’t really relate to that.

Don’t feel like you have to force it in just for the sake of it, because then that will interrupt the flow of the essay. Right? It can be distracting. Right. So, you know, it’s, it’s not an easy question to answer and there’s no right [00:52:00] answer. One thing I will say is that there’s always going to be a supplemental in both section in the applications.

We do read that, right. Especially during COVID we read a lot of, you know, unique circumstances that came. You know, this is your spot to communicate anything that isn’t otherwise captured. So maybe your essay is about something more specific or, you know, maybe why you want to study what you want to study, or maybe it’s specific to, you know, another kind of piece of information about yourself you want to share, but you still want to acknowledge the first gen status and how that affects.

You can use that supplemental info section to, to use that as well. So there are definitely a variety of ways to communicate that status. Um, but don’t feel like you have to talk about it in the essay necessarily. Definitely. And we do have other webinars and writing your personal statement as well as supplemental essays, if you want to watch those.

Um, and they’ll probably be. Be more towards August towards the end of the year when they’re actually coming out. But going on to the next question, you mentioned how the admissions office will look at the application [00:53:00] through the lens of being first gen of the applicant being first gen. Um, does this mean that the admissions officers are going to be a bit more lenient?

What do they take into consideration? Do they think about like how the essays are it in, what activities are listed? How does that lens sort of affect how that. Yeah, it’s a really good question. And, you know, honestly, depending on who you ask, you know, you might get a different answer. I mean, I don’t know if more lenient the word, but more aware, I think is a better way of putting it and more, uh, conscious of how that might’ve affected the situation.

Right? Your own personal situation, you know, maybe, you know, we saw that you only took the, you only took the sat once because you just didn’t know that it was available to you, or maybe it just means that, you know, a lot of schools track demonstrated. Maybe we see that you weren’t able to attend a tour or something, because that’s just not part of what your family does, your family wasn’t able to take you out there.

Right? Any variety of reasons. Um, I think usually we think of it in the sense of like access to just resources and understanding about the process. So, [00:54:00] you know, it’s not necessarily a specific saying, oh, you know, they’re first gen students that will excuse, you know, all their F’s and D’s right now. That’s definitely not what I’m trying to say.

Um, but for situations where maybe we noticed that, you know, maybe high school started off rough and there was an upward trend, you know, things like that kind of help us put the pieces together. We’re understanding what you had access to, um, and how you kind of went through that and navigated the college admissions process.

If that makes sense. Yes. And kind of just to end off the webinars there, any other advice you want to give to students? Or do you want to share anything about your own experience or. Yeah. I mean, I think the imposter syndrome was such an important piece because as I mentioned, you know, I didn’t realize I was first gen into like lots of college and, you know, a lot of my close friends were talking about how their parents went to the school.

Uh, you know, that are older. You know, all their parents went to. You know how they help them during the application process, how they were, the parents were helping ended their essays. And, you know, I was, that was so foreign to me. So, [00:55:00] um, especially cause, you know, I was kind of doing it all on my own, you know, just because I wanted to go to school and I wanted to do it and make it happen.

My parents were supportive of course. Um, and I couldn’t have done it without them, but again, they just lacked, we all lack that specific knowledge. So don’t let that get in your head and don’t let that make you think that you’re not as worthy or valid to be a college. You have just as much to contribute and just as much of an interesting background and story to share.

Um, so be confident and, you know, be confident in the fact that you are, you know, blazing a path for your, for your family and, and starting a new tradition. Right. It’s, it’s an amazing accomplishment. So be proud about it and don’t feel like you’re, you don’t belong.

Uh, I think now it’s between the two of us. We both been having tricky issues. Sorry about that. But hopefully you’ve been able to hear us and get some good information out of it.[00:56:00]

I’m going to give it another second just to see, I think Mackenzie had some things she wants to say just before we send everyone. Okay.

I was just saying it’s between the two of us. We’re having bad luck with you tonight. Uh, thank you everyone for coming out tonight and thank you, um, David, for this wonderful presentation, we hope you found this information helpful. And remember that you can download the link from the, uh, you can download the slide from the link in the handouts tab, as well as view this webinar again on our

Um, since it is being recorded, um, Here. Okay. This was our may series, but our upcoming June series, we’ll be going over your personal brand different types of identity, um, different schools to look at how to build a college list and other things that you may be interested in, especially if you’re just getting started with the process, or you’re really trying to finalize your list, um, or your application right now.

So those are some great things to really stay [00:57:00] tuned for. Again, there are many parts to the application process. Um, so please do check out our other webinars and our upcoming webinars on those more specific, um, points to get that detailed information or even sign up for CollegeAdvisor, um, where you can get an advisor that will help you and your family through each step of the process, get all your answers.

Get all your questions answered as well as just, uh, having access to all of the other resources that CollegeAdvisor has such as our essay review team, our financial aid review team, uh, and our other many teams, but the webinars are free. So do check those out still. So thank you everyone for coming out tonight and good night.