Starting the College Search Process as a First-Gen Student
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Malik Farr and Alexander Oddo in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
There are many ways to start the college search process, all of which will prepare you for success. As a result, this can be very daunting, especially if you are a first-generation student whose parents or guardians have less context for the college admissions process. Here are a few key strategies to get you started.
Identify Schools that Interest You
One place to start is to draft an initial list of schools that interest you. This list should include any school you have ever heard of or wondered about, regardless of the school’s location, cost, acceptance rate, or any other limiting factor. There are so many incredible colleges and universities and this list may very well include multiple schools that could be a great fit for you.
Do Your Research
After you have prepared an initial list of schools, spend some quality time visiting the website of each school to learn more about the school’s mission, location, academic programs and faculty, student life, extracurricular activities, professional opportunities, and anything else you might be interested in. Many schools also have a quick facts page that summarizes the most relevant information for prospective applicants and students.
Get Yourself Organized
The college search process can quickly become very overwhelming if you are not organized. You do not want to miss an incredible opportunity – like a scholarship application deadline or an information session – because you are not organized. Here are three simple ways to get yourself organized:
- Create a new email account that is dedicated exclusively to the college admissions process.
- Use a digital or analog calendar to faithfully record all key dates, deadlines, and goals for the college admissions process and make sure to continuously update this calendar.
- Start a master list in Excel, Google sheets, or a blank word document where you can keep track of all of the schools to which you are applying, scholarship applications, standardized testing, and anything else related to the college admissions process.
Have an Open Mind
The college admissions process is a time intensive, emotional, and all-consuming process. Many people will share their solicited and unsolicited advice with you, and you will quickly develop your own opinions and expectations. But the way to stay grounded throughout this process is to keep an open mind while also staying true to yourself and your goals.
For instance, some applicants have the tendency to idealize one particular school over all others to the point that admission to this one school becomes their definition of success for the entire admissions process. By keeping an open mind, applicants can dismantle a one-school mindset and do the research needed to realize that there are many schools (and at least more than one) that would be a great fit. By getting excited about multiple schools, you maximize your chances of success in the college admissions process.