Applying as a First-Gen Student: Who to Ask For Help

Applying to college can feel overwhelming, but it can be even more stressful as a first-generation college student. As a first-generation college student myself, I often felt like I needed to handle everything on my own. To me, the hardest part about applying to college when neither of my parents had that experience was the feeling of sole responsibility. However, throughout the college application process I was reminded that there are a lot of people who I can turn to and lean on for help.

The first people that I turned to were my parents. Even though my parents didn’t go through the college process, they were still a great support system. My parents didn’t know the ins and outs of the Common App or how to apply for financial aid, but they were able to give me advice. My parents were able to offer practical pieces of wisdom by telling me that I should ask my teachers to read over my essays and I shouldn’t stress myself out too much about any singular part of the application. They were also there to constantly remind me that I had worked hard throughout all of high school and that, no matter what school I chose, I would end up being happy. While this may be a little different from some other parents, the unique advice and support I received from my parents was crucial to me getting through the college application process.

My high school counselor was also extremely helpful. I went to a rural public high school and was the only person to apply to Yale in the past several years. Despite this, my guidance counselor was able to guide me through the process by contacting other counselors in the area and always keeping her door open. She also helped me organize all my documents and keep track of all the tasks I needed to complete. She never edited my essays or tried to prepare me for the SAT, but she did constantly remind me that it would all work out. I definitely wouldn’t have made it through the process without her help. Even though she wasn’t an intense college coach, she was still extremely supportive and helpful.

One potentially unexpected source of support for me was the staff at admissions offices. It may seem scary to reach out to the admissions offices at the colleges where you’re applying, but it was actually a really helpful step. I reached out to several admissions offices to ask about financial aid paperwork, specific deadlines, and general admissions questions. For example, halfway through senior year my course load changed and I checked in with all my admissions officers to ask about how the change may impact my application. To my surprise, the responses I received were really kind and helpful. I learned that admissions officers are extremely accessible. I was nervous to reach out, but I’m glad I did because it gave me a lot of peace of mind.

Even though I went into the college admissions process a little nervous and overwhelmed, I came out of it with a new appreciation for the people who helped me along the way. When you apply to schools like Yale it can be scary and overwhelming, especially when you have no one around you who has navigated the admissions process before. However, the most important thing to remember is that you are never alone, and there are a wealth of available resources. You just have to ask.