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College Decision Advice for the First-Generation College Student

by Story2 Guest Author, on Apr 13, 2015 11:56:00 AM

You've been spending countless hours on your college search and applications and all your work has paid off: you've got acceptance letters from multiple schools, and you’re going to be the first person in your family to go to college!  Now, you're faced with a pretty big life decision about which one is the right one. As Decision Day grows closer and closer, here's a guide for first-generation students to pick a school that will be the best fit: where you'll spend the next few years excelling academically, where you'll be the most happy, and where you'll find the school that makes the most financial sense for you.


Decide what aspects of a school are most important to you.  Will the financial aid package fit your budget?  Also consider campus culture, and things like athletics, Greek life, and other extracurriculars you may want to participate in. Do you want a big school or a small school? Do you want to stay close to home or do you want to head elsewhere?  Once you've figured how important the answers to these questions are, you'll be able to better compare schools.

Compare Financial Aid Packages

For many students, financial aid is a big determiner in which school they'll choose.  Take a close look at the packages that are offered from each school, and see what options are available--will you need to take out loans or do you plan to work while you attend college? Options like these, as well as work-study programs on campus, should be conversations you have with you family to see if a school is a financial fit.  If you log in to your College Greenlight account, you'll be able to see other helpful tools like the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and Net Price Calculator that are also useful when looking at this information.

Investigate Academics

Some students may already know what area of study they want to study (and some may have no idea--which is also okay!)  If you already know what you plan to major in, comparing academic programs between schools can help; depending on the school, each department may have different requirements per major.  Students considering a specific major should also check to make sure schools are offering it or should decide if taking a more generalized area of study will work for them. Last, check out the faculty in the department, their accolades, and feel free to reach out to them with any questions you still may have.

Consider Social & Environmental Fit

Don't underestimate a campus' culture in your decision--surrounding yourself in an environment you're comfortable with and enjoy can help you excel academically as well.  Do you prefer a rural or an urban campus? Do you want a bustling, large campus that comes to a halt during athletics or a smaller, more liberal arts-oriented school?  If you were able to make a campus visit, now could be a great time to look over any notes about the campus you took, or, if it's convenient, visit again.  Not able to make it? Conduct a Virtual Visit using College Greenlight to get an idea of what the campus is like.

Decide & Respond

Once you've taken a hard look at these factors and made your decision, make sure you take all the necessary steps to secure your place, including sending in your acceptance, any deposits, and other necessary items by the due date.  In addition to letting the school of your choice know you plan to accept, you should also let any schools you won't be attending know you'll be declining their acceptance.  This way, students who are waiting for your spot and any financial aid will get a more timely response and if you decide to transfer you'll have kept up a good relationship with the school.


You did it! As a first generation college student, your college decision is one of the most important choices you’ll make.  Take the time to do the research necessary to make it the most informed one you can so you’ll end up at the school that will put you in the best position to succeed.  

Elizabeth Chereskin is Content Manager at College Greenlight. As Content Manager, Liz curates and maintains the College Greenlight blog, newsletters, and social media platforms to nurture meaningful communication with our students, counselors, advocates, and colleges. She has been with College Greenlight since January 2015, and is very excited to be a part of the College Greenlight team! She's a graduate of the University of Central Florida where she received a BA in English and also holds an MFA from Columbia College Chicago.

Topics:college admission