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For first-generation students (those who are the first in their family to attend college), the idea of applying to a four year university can at times be both exhilarating and very overwhelming. Quite often parents of first generation college students would like to help their children navigate the college admissions process and see their children succeed academically in higher education. However, it can potentially be very hard for parents to lend advice to their children when they lack experience and prior knowledge on the subject. If you and your parents are having trouble knowing what steps to take to further your college admissions process, here are four essential steps that need to be taken to start on your college admissions journey.

Take the ACT or SAT early

It is smart to be proactive about the taking the ACT or SAT while in high school. Typically, high school students will take the standardized test of their choice once during their junior year and once again during the beginning of their senior year of high school. This method ensures that you are given enough time to study over the summer months to try and improve your original score in the upcoming semester of school.

If you are curious about whether you should be taking the ACT or SAT, the vast majority of students perform comparably on both tests. The decision of which test to take may just be determined by whichever admissions criteria is specified by your prospective school of choice. If the colleges you’re interested in accept scores from either test, you can consider taking both admissions tests. This is not a requirement but by taking both you would have the ability to figure out which test you score higher on. Thus, allowing you to turn in your higher test score to the school of your choice.

Understand the financial obligations of a four year university

It is crucial for first-generation students to be fully educated on the costs of attending a four year university. The best way to do this is by research tuition rates at every one of your prospective schools and deciding based off of that information which ones best fit within your specific financial situation. However, don’t let tuition rates deter you from attending university. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid also known as FAFSA is available for all prospective college students to apply for. The application should be filled out and submitted as soon as possible after January 1st of your senior year of high school. Once it is processed FAFSA will let you know what types of grants and loans you qualify for. Don’t leave this to do at the last minute because qualification for federal and state financial aid is based solely on this form.

Don’t delay completing college applications

Most early-decision application deadlines for universities are every year during the month of November. While, most regular decision application deadlines are between January 1 and February 1 of your senior year of high school. If you are for some reason late on these deadlines it is important to note that some colleges offer rolling admission, which means they accept applicants throughout a number of months until all their student slots are filled.

According to firstgenerationstudent.com, colleges strongly prefer to look at your academic potential as a whole, by focusing on the following areas of your college application.

• Grades in college prep courses
• Strength of curriculum taken
• Scores on SAT/ACT
• Grades in all courses
• Essay or writing sample submitted
• Student’s demonstrated interest in college

Visit imfirst.org

If you are looking for more in depth information about the college admissions process make sure to visit imfirst.org. I’m First! is an online community for first-generation college students. It allows you to hear inspiring stories from other first-generation students, find answers to your very important college questions, and allows you to receive guidance all along your college journey. This website is also very insightful resource for parents of first-generation college students.

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