books and college stuff

Ask Test Masters: First Generation College Students

You ask and we anbooks and college stuffswer! Do you have question about college admissions, applications, entrance exams, or anything pertaining to college preparation? Drop us a line at Ask Test Masters, and we will answer your question in an upcoming post!
Question: “I am a junior at a high school in Texas. I am the first generation in my family to attend High School in America, and honestly it’s been quite the journey. However to fully understand where i’m coming from let me go back a bit. I have mainly lived and attended school in New Delhi, Toronto, London, New York and Texas. I have attended three different high schools over the span of three years. Now school counselors mean well, however they aren’t always used to the different school systems, and I have been victim to the carelessness in handling of my academics. It is definitely my mistake also, but my family and I didn’t know better, and we didn’t have any friends necessarily who were experienced and could guide us. (The advice we received often harmed more than repair.) Despite all of these changes for me (socially, academically, environmentally) I really did try my best and have a pretty decent school record- AP classes and clubs and honors. However preparing for college is a daunting task for me. I do not know where to start, what to see, whether i’m aiming too high and where I need to work to get into the colleges I want (Stanford, Colombia, NYU, UTofA, UCLA, Cornell). The counselors try to help, but do not really know where to begin to explain to someone like me how things work. So I was wondering if you could give some advice centered on people who are in this alone, who are the eldest sibling in a first generation family, who have high goals and well-intended-but-unhelpful guidance. Thank you for your time. Oh! Also, Testmasters is amazing and I hope to do well with it’s tutoring on the March 10th SATs.” – P.

Answer: First, we are glad you are planning to use Test Masters to help you prepare for the SAT. They really do have a great program to increase your entrance exam scores.

P, you brought up a number of important issues:
–       The role of counselors
–       First Generation College Students
–       How to know what tier schools to target and aim for
–       Understanding the basics of the college app process
–       How to go it alone – preparing without much assistance
–       The information gap in the college process

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Thanks for writing us and illustrating that every high school student encounters a number of struggles and roadblocks during their college application journey. I could write a book, literally, to address all of these issues, so I will only be able to touch the tip of the iceberg in this post. I’ll do my best to cover all of these topics in depth over the next few months!

Most importantly, though, don’t feel alone! I am a (half) First Generation College student myself. My dad went to college, but the process and college game has radically changed since his time. On my mom’s side of the family (extended family included), I was the first person to go to college.

If you don’t have older siblings or close family members who have recently gone through the college process, it’s easy to feel dazed and confused. There is a wealth of information on the internet but sorting through the good and bad information can be confusing. (Believe it or not, not everyone with a domain name is an expert!)

High school counselors can be great resources, but admissions assistance is not the main responsibility of public school counselors. Many school counselors deal with 600-800+ students, so their main tasks include crisis management, behavior issues, and scheduling. They often don’t have the time to become admissions specialists.

Some families (who can afford $$$) work with independent college consultants who walk the students through every step of the application process. Depending on the company, you may get top-notch help, but plan to spend several thousand dollars.

For students navigating the process on their own, established companies like Test Masters and College Board offer a wealth of information and guidance.

Helpful Posts: Check out our post on the Basic Steps of the College Admissions Process. It provides a brief outline of steps to help you get started in the right direction.

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