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First Generation College Students, Affordable College Lists, and the “Why This College?” Essay

affordable college list
Lauren Randle

Written by Lauren Randleon September 13th, 2017

I learned firsthand about the world of highly selective admissions as a former assistant director of admissions at Georgetown University. I traveled the United States, in and out of high schools and auditoriums, to eagerly educate students and their families about the application process, and then painstakingly reviewed thousands upon thousands of applications to fill our class. I reviewed applications for all four of Georgetown’s colleges (Georgetown College, McDonough School of Business, Walsh School of Foreign Service, and School of Nursing & Health Studies), and chaired the admissions committee for the School of Foreign Service. I experienced the nuances of the recruitment process as the admissions liaison to the Georgetown women’s soccer team, and also understood the significance of the admissions interview as the co-coordinator for Georgetown’s alumni interviewing process. I left admissions to pursue a master of education degree at the University of Virginia to broaden my knowledge of student development theories and current trends in higher education. There I decided that it was time to work more directly with students and families at the high school level, where my support and encouragement would have a more personal impact. That desire led me across the globe to Hong Kong, where I worked at a competitive international high school helping students with their college applications to the world's best universities. My international experience offered me the opportunity to work with extraordinary students and see extraordinary places.
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Labor Day has come and gone, and that means two things: summer is (sadly) over and it is officially college application season! Beth Heaton returned to host last week’s episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, covering a range of topics. In the first segment, first generation college-bound students were given advice, recommendations, and things to consider as they begin their college career. Many families need help building a college list that is affordable, and the second segment on the show offered tools for researching colleges from a financial perspective. And the show wrapped with an Office Hours discussion focused on the “Why this College?” essay that many colleges ask applicants to write. Challenges Faced by First Generation College Students Lisa Albro, former admissions officer and high school guidance counselor, joined Beth for a follow-up discussion of their previous conversation on first generation college-bound students applying to college. But now Lisa and Beth wanted to discuss challenges these students face as they arrive on campus and navigate their first year in an unknown environment. As Lisa points out, “You don’t always know what you don’t know, “ and that’s particularly true for students who are the first in their family to go to college. But as first gen students make up around 20% of students at 4-year colleges, there may be more help and support than you imagine. Tune in to the full segment to hear Lisa’s advice on what to expect, how to handle uncertainties, programming to look for, and other great insight. Building an Affordable College List The second segment of Getting In brought college finance expert, Tara Piantanida-Kelly, to discuss affordability when building a college list. Many families do not ask the important questions until after submitting applications, which could really be too late if finances are a major consideration for where your student will attend. Are merit scholarships important? Do you need a college that meets 100% of demonstrated financial need? How can you know what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be at particular college? What is the average net price vs. the listed sticker price? Tara walked through helpful tools to answer these questions, highlighting what you can find on a college’s own website, what the CollegeBoard website offers, and why the US Department of Education’s College Navigator site is her absolute favorite resource! How to Write the “Why This College?” Essay Finally, the “Office Hours” segment last week covered “Why this College?” essays with College Coach colleague, Mary Sue Youn. Many colleges ask applicants to write this particular essay as part of their supplemental essay requirements, and, as former admissions officers, we have seen too many students fall into traps when answering it. Mary Sue and Beth help students avoid the obvious response and point listeners to resources that can be used to help write this essay. And if you have already written one of these essays for a particular college, you might be wondering if you can recycle it for another school—you should definitely listen to what Mary Sue and Beth have to say before hitting copy and paste! On our next episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, Ian Fisher will dispel many “I heard that….” myths, discuss supporting documents for applications, and offer an inside peak at the Boston University Financial Aid Office. Getting-In-CTA

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