People often talk about accessibility for first generation students; how important do you think support is for all students?

What forms of support do you think are most often missing?

Success with the college admissions process requires planning and perspective to understand how applying to college fits into a student's long-term goals. First generation students often lack personal advice of tying college to the big picture. College counseling in high schools is limited and a first generation student might not receive the advice they need from parents or caregivers that know them the best when it comes to college.

Why is support such a vital part of the college application process?

Many students do not know where to begin when it comes to applying to college or how to turn the college admissions process into the springboard for long-term success. Support is critical to ensure that students make progress and use the college admissions process to develop into the passionate leaders of tomorrow.

What does good support look like to you?

From a parent or guardian?

Discussions with a student about their long term goals and how college admission fits into their plans for the future. Parents and guardians can help students manage the stress that comes with applying to college and support with students reflecting about their experiences in the applications.

From a mentor?

A mentor should provide guidance about how college fits into a student's long term plans.

From a community?

Most communities offer low cost or free resources to prepare for the college admissions process, including test prep.

From a school?

Schools offer information and guidance about what students need to do to apply to college and make the most of this process.

For students who don't have the traditional parent/guardian role/figure in their life where can they turn?

The web is a fantastic place to start. Khan Academy offers free courses on the college admissions process. I personally created College Path to provide weekly hand holding for the process, beginning as early as seventh grade for just $6/month. If a student cannot afford College Path, they can email us explaining their financial circumstances, and they can receive weekly guidance through the program for free.

How would a student identify that support is lacking?

A student need only ask if they feel like they have a plan to prepare for the college admissions process. If that plan is lacking, which is common, they need to meet with their school guidance counselor ASAP to understand at a minimum what classes they must take to be eligible to pursue their education further. Google searches can provide a great starting point thereafter.

How would you encourage students to ask for help who may be afraid to?

I would tell students they are not alone. Applying to college can seem overwhelming. First, figure out what it takes to go to a college that interests you. Second, turn this process into one about you. Take classes, participate in activities, and find areas of life that interest you and pursue them with all your being. Colleges are looking for passion; the fun part is finding ways to express yourself.

What are ways we can bridge the knowledge gap between students in the college application process and parents who are not as familiar with the process?

We need to offer programming to parents that explains the process and offers strategies for parents to be supportive of their students in productive ways.

How would you recommend a student approach the subject of college if their family has not historically had experience with a college education?

I think it is helpful for students to approach college by explaining how it aligns with their long term goals. If cost is a concern (and when is it not), students need to explain to their parents the resources available to families to help with their finances.

How can students who have always had the expectation of going to college be advocates for those who haven't?

Reorient the conversation to long-term goals. Students feel anxious about the competition of getting into college, but this anxiety is misplaced as many different schools offer students the same path to the desired outcomes. While college is by no means a requisite or guarantee of a happy, healthy, and financially independent outcome post graduation, if a student doesn't see college as their destination after high school, perhaps they will be more comfortable seeing it as a stepping stone to something they are interested in.

What is one thing you would like to see all high schools adopt to help students who don't come from a traditional background apply and transition to college?

Recognition that non traditional backgrounds bring incredible diversity and perspective to colleges, and that colleges are actively seeking these diverse perspectives on their campuses. College may feel out of touch for students from nontraditional backgrounds, but these students need to know that colleges want them to add to their campuses.

In your opinion, how can colleges and universities improve their systems to help first generation, or under-supported students, have an easier transition?

Webinars or web pages geared specifically toward this community (in foreign languages as well) would be very helpful and a low cost, high impact way to engage the first generation community. This could also provide guidance about what colleges are looking for in applicants, and how these students can find resources in their communities. There is a credibility factor when coming directly from a university.

What organizations are you seeing students use to overcome these obstacle?

Test prep is critical for college admissions success. There are so many more students applying to college today from all over the world that colleges often make their first admissions decision based on test scores. There are incredible free resources for test prep and students can obtain competitive scores for the schools they are interested in attending online (Khan Academy), or at their school or local library.

Any final thoughts for us?

First generation students should develop a plan for tackling the college admissions process early, stick to it, and make sure that the plan is true to their passions and where they want to go in life.

Greg Kaplan

Founder, College Path

Greg Kaplan is the founder of College Path, the first web app that serves as a virtual advisor for college admissions, a college application strategist, and author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges. College Path and Greg are dedicated to helping students develop and market their passions to earn admission to their dream college and create the foundation for long-term success. For more information, visit www.collegepathweekly.com.