How to write a first generation college student essay

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For worse or for better, applying to a college is often family affair. Some questions in your college applications may ask for information not only about your personality and life, but also about parents. For example, you will be asked to state the education level reached by them. Colleges have different reasons for asking information about the educational progress of your parents, and the main one is to put the rest of your application into context.

Who are first generation college students? Their parents didn’t graduate from the college, and this fact may affect how your high-school background and academic accomplishments are viewed by colleges. If you want to write a first generation college student essay successfully, get more information about the following:

  • Who is included in this category of students;
  • How colleges view first generation application writing;
  • How it may affect your application.

Who first generation college students are

In a basic sense, a first generation college student is someone whose parents have no degree. If your parents didn’t attend any college or they failed to graduate, you belong to this category. Many college applications ask you directly whether your parents graduated from any college.

There are different effects that being a first generation college student may have on your application, and this fact can be mentioned in many ways. For example, it can be mentioned by your teachers or in guidance counselor recommendations. It’s possible to address your backgrounds and its impact in your application essay. Theoretically, first generation college students come from a range of categories, including:

  • Ethnic;
  • Socioeconomic;
  • Geographic.

Being a first generation student can indicate many other things about your personality, and you can use them as interesting factors for the admissions committee.

Possible disadvantages of being first generation college students

Although each situation is different, many first generation applicants experience a number of systematic disadvantages that have a certain impact on the ability to access their college education. As an example, if your parents have no useful college experience, it’s harder for them to navigate your application process compared to parents who are familiar with it.

Parents who didn’t attend any college often don’t have a personal experience to advise their children about the entire admissions process and application essay writing. They also tend to be less familiar with the following criteria of competitive colleges:

  • Requirements;
  • Timelines;
  • Expectations.

They all can be quite stressful and confusing to manage even for experienced parents.

Being first generation college applicants may also mean that they come from lower-income families, and it has a major impact on their personal challenges. It may mean that such students had different life experiences compared to other applicants. If your community is also lower-income, you may not have the resources necessary to offer such opportunities as extracurricular activities, courses, college counseling, etc.

By designating you to this category of applicants, colleges don’t make any judgement about your backgrounds. They only clarify that a set of your life opportunities or experiences can be different from the ones of applicants whose parents attended colleges. This is how the admissions committee gets a more details picture of your achievements and their meaning.

How colleges view your first generation college student status

When colleges are informed that you are a first generation college applicant, they consider it when assessing your accomplishments. Most of them practice specific holistic admissions processes to get to know all applicants as personalities. So, this status is a part of their holistic understanding of your backgrounds.

You will never be penalized by colleges for belonging to this category of applicants. As a first generation college student, you may miss out some networking opportunities during an application process. Don’t be surprised to learn that this status is often viewed as something positive by many colleges. It’s a hook or an important factor that may force admissions officers to focus on your college application. That’s because you had to overcome different obstacles to be able to apply to a college, and this fact may cause them to pay close attention to your accomplishments.

If such traditional qualifications as test scores, grades, and extracurricular activities may not be as great as the one of other applicants because you have a first generation status, it can be a mitigating factor for the committee. If the income level of your family means that you need a paid job, you will have less time on academic assignments. If your standardized test scores aren’t perfect, it’s because you couldn’t afford expensive tutoring.

Although it doesn’t mean that parents who didn’t attend colleges can’t effectively help their children during this process, it’s quite labor-intensive and complex even for prepared and experiences families. Those applicants who have college-educated parents get their access to extra knowledge and experience, unlike first generation students who simply have less background information to submit a competitive college application.

In many cases, colleges decide to accept specific applicants based not only on their personal and academic accomplishments, but also according to everything that can bring to enrich them. The admissions committee is interested in creating a diverse campus community that benefits both socially and intellectually from including a range of perspectives. Your academic abilities matter a lot, but other factors are also taken by colleges into consideration. Your status of a first generation college student provides you with a unique set of experiences and voice to share when writing an application essay.

Furthermore, a college campus is a very boring place to study and live if students have the same backgrounds. That’s why applicants who are different in their profiles can get extra interest from admissions officers. Having this status can be compared to being any underrepresented minority.

The effects of being a first generation college student status on your application

As you can see, this status is quite unlikely to ruin your chances to get accepted by a competitive college. On the contrary, it may even attract more attention of the committee and increase a chance of viewing your application more positively. Many colleges are more willing to forgive a bit lower test scores and grades when it comes to first generation applicants. They also recognize that students with this status have less background knowledge because they have other obligations in high schools.

If your extracurricular and academic records are spectacular, your application will impress the admissions committee even more. They will understand that you worked hard to achieve this access, no matter of your life challenges. However, this status is not a panacea that can smooth over all kinds of rough spots or drawbacks in your college application. The educational level of your parents is only one thing among many others considered by admissions officers when reading your application essay because they are also interested in your:

  • Recommendations;
  • Academic performance;
  • Extracurricular results.

To get accepted by competitive colleges as a first generation applicant, it’s still necessary to be a strong and fully qualified candidate. They need to know that you can handle all kinds of academic challenges and positively contribute to their campus community with your hard word and ideas. Since many qualified applicants are interested in competitive colleges, having such a hook can help you stand out.

It’s a matter of their understanding that all applicants have different backgrounds. Some applicants have more inherent benefits than others, so it’s not fair to compare all students without considering this status. Informing the admissions committee that you’re a first generation college student is a clever idea because it can’t cause any harm to you, and you will provide them with a better understanding of your qualifications and backgrounds while increasing your chances of success.

How colleges choose the best candidates

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To be successfully accepted by the chosen educational institution, you should learn the basics of how colleges choose students. Basically, they use different factors to determine the best candidates, but they all pay close attention to high-school grades because they demonstrate the ability to succeed academically. Other factors taken into account by the admissions committee include the following:

  • Test scores;
  • Grades in each course;
  • Strength of your curriculum.

The success of your college application is not only about the classes you take and the grades you receive, but also about different aspects considered by officers:

  • Class ranks;
  • Counselor and teacher recommendations;
  • Subject test scores;
  • Your demonstrated interest;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Your application essay.

When writing your college application essay, present yourself authentically and without pretending to be someone else. The evaluation approach chosen by a particular college may differ. For example, some colleges use a more holistic approach when reviewing applications, while others use a more mechanical process and numbers to determine initial qualifications.

No matter of the college you want to apply to and the approach chosen by the admissions committee to review candidates, use each available opportunity to showcase your individuality and character.

Effective ways to increase your college application chances

Above all, you need to present yourself in an application essay authentically. Answer all questions in a natural writing style and make sure that your paper is grammatical and clear. The use of a simple language is more effective than choosing long words that can’t impress anyone. Explain why you’re interested in the chosen college and your future educational goals.

Let your personality shine in a college application essay because it’s the best place to reveal your unique traits. If you can choose questions to answer in this paper, focus on the ones you’re excited to write about and make sure that they can reveal something about your character. Consider something that shows others who you really are instead of giving a standard description. If you can’t choose a particular topic for your college essay, determine how a given subject can highlight specific personal qualities.

Get to know college application prompts

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Ease the process of writing your college application essay, no matter if you’re a first generation student or not. Take enough time to understand its prompts or questions to give an adequate response. Ensuring that you fully understand them is one of the most important steps to your successful admission because your essay must adhere to given prompts. They often suggest suitable ideas or topics to discuss, and they may vary from trivial to personal. They all challenge your writing abilities and spark your insight and creativity. Think about what is asked before letting relevant ideas flow. Before you start brainstorming, determine what your college application essay should accomplish. Don’t try to use any of your high-school essays because they never showcase you as a qualified college applicant.

Effective brainstorming techniques

Use your creativity when brainstorming possible ideas to address application essay prompts. Sometimes, this session can be more tedious than writing your college essay. Its basic purpose is to find interesting ideas to let you fully understand and know a given topic when you start writing. Reflect on relevant events or experiences that can serve as specific and strong examples while answering a few basic questions:

  • How can your friends describe you?
  • What are your strong sides?
  • What can set you apart from other applicants?

Write down all ideas and come back to them later. You also need to narrow down available options and choose a few concepts that can fit college application essay prompts perfectly. Determine the one that can be further developed without losing the audience. Consider the idea that captures your true personality. Select a good story that you want to tell the admissions committee. Make sure that you have enough supporting details to effectively demonstrate your academic perseverance, achievements, beliefs, and abilities.

Outlining your application essay

To create a helpful outline of your college application essay, you should map out everything you’re going to write in it. After brainstorming unique ideas, you know what you want to tell the admissions committee in your essay. Next, you need to decide how you will say that, so make a plan and break down everything into sections.

Any good story always has its beginning, middle, and end. Shape your personal story using the same pattern to make it easy and coherent to read. Strategizing is also important to get a successful essay plan, so determine how you will open it and identify the right tone based on specific ideas. Finally, you need to stick to your unique writing voice and style.

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