First-Generation College Students: Research, Apply, Accept, Enroll! - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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College Admissions College Preparation
October 31, 2017

First-Generation College Students: Research, Apply, Accept, Enroll!

Being the first in your family to attend college is a huge honor, a remarkable achievement, and an often-confusing ordeal. There’s so much research to perform, so many forms to fill out, and big decisions to make. Where do you start?



If you don’t already know exactly what you plan to study, use this handy Recommendations: Student Self-Assessment form to connect your interests and abilities to a career path. It also provides your college counselor with specific details that will help her draft your college recommendation letter, and it can be helpful in guiding you through the interview preparation and admission-essay-writing process.

It’s much easier to cull through the more than 4,000 colleges in the United States if you have clear insight into the type of cultural experience you’re looking for, how much social contact you need, and where you’d feel most comfortable, geographically speaking. U.S. News & World Report suggests you record your answers to a few key questions and then narrow your top contender list down to no more than eight schools that meet your needs for these three parameters:

  • Academic interests (your major)
  • Location (weather, recreation, proximity to family)
  • Size (small colleges vs. large universities)

Some colleges actively seek to enroll first-generation students, and others, including Geneva, offer expanded financial aid and support services to students participating in programs such as The Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program for Pittsburgh Public School students. Don’t rule out any college or university, public or private, until you do a close examination of the various grants and forms of financial aid that might be available to you. Investigate sources of independent scholarships from institutions or organizations in your community.

U.S. News & World Report suggests that you make arrangements to speak with financial aid officers at colleges to which you hope to apply. Ask for an estimate of your Expected Family Contribution. “The more you know about actual costs at the front end of the process, the easier it will be to identify and target schools that are likely to admit you and give you the assistance you will need.”



Create a resume that lists the activities, experiences, and accomplishments of your recent past to help you identify the key messages you want to deliver in your application. Why should the college you want to attend want you? What special skills or traits do you have to offer to the community? Are you a strong and motivational leader? A compassionate friend and neighbor? Begin thinking now about ways to set yourself apart and make yourself attractive to admissions representatives as you apply. Gather up your letters of recommendation from teachers and advisors at this time.

As a first-generation student, if you come from a low-income family, you may qualify for waivers of test fees and/or college application fees. Make sure you’re on top of the firm application deadline for each school to which you’re applying, and apply online whenever possible. If you choose to submit a paper application, write neatly, use your full names at all times, and make copies of each page in the application to keep on file at home.


Once you start to receive acceptance letters, travel to the campus to speak with currently enrolled students, get a feel for the mood on campus, and check out some of your prospective instructors. U.S. News & World Report suggests that you visit each campus before applying to know what you’re getting into and to communicate your level of interest to the college, but this may not always be practical.


Accept, Reject, and Enroll

If you receive multiple acceptance letters, review all the information you’ve compiled on campus culture, costs, location, and programs of study to make your decision easier. Carefully fill out the paperwork in your acceptance package, and do let the rejected colleges know that you won’t be enrolling as a courtesy.


If you’d like to learn more about Geneva College’s Christ-centered academic community and the more than 80 traditional undergraduate majors and programs we offer, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education and career goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email