first generation

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve just wrapped up Memorial Day weekend, and the official start to summer is just about here! Time to relax in your beach chair with the latest episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation. In this episode, host Beth Heaton gave listeners a peek inside the admissions office at the University of Southern California and explored the challenges and advantages of applying to college as a first generation college student. In the final segment, Beth helped parents grappling with the question, “Why should I save for college?”

USC: A Look Inside the Admissions Office

In this continuing series which takes an in-depth look at the application reading process at various selective universities, Beth welcomed College Coach expert Emily Toffelmire, to give listeners the “inside track” on how college admissions decisions are made at the University of Southern California. As a former USC admissions officer, Emily walked us through the reading process and the most important questions: who reads the applications, and how exactly are decisions made?  It starts, Emily described, with the territory manager, but it doesn’t end there. A USC admissions decision is never made by just one person.

First Generation College Students         

In the next segment, Beth welcomed College Coach expert Lisa Albro, to discuss questions and challenges for first generation college students. Lisa, who was a first generation college student herself, started the conversation talking about the advantages that first-gen students may have. They can approach the college process with a completely fresh perspective, free of preconceived notions of family members, and colleges, always looking to bring diversity to their campuses, may be welcoming to the unique stories that first generation students have to tell.

While there are definitely advantages to being a first generation applicant, there are also challenges. Sometimes students don’t aim high enough in their college choices, or are afraid to step outside their comfort zone. Lisa’s parting advice to first generation students was simple, yet powerful: Don’t limit yourself! Ask questions, do your research, and don’t let fear of the unknown limit your choices.

Saving for College

In the third and final segment, Beth was joined by College Coach finance expert Jan Combs, to talk about saving for college. Beth started by repeating a commonly heard refrain from families: “We received no financial aid because we saved.”  Based on this comment, Beth asked Jan the crucial question: Does saving for college hurt you in the financial aid application process? Jan’s response: a resounding “NO!” In most cases, what a family has in savings will have very little, if any, impact on a child’s eligibility for financial aid. The aid formula is driven primarily by income, and parent assets account for only a small percentage of financial aid eligibility. With that in mind, Jan provided some tips and words of reassurance for parents of older children who haven’t gotten the savings ball rolling yet. The good news: it’s never too late and every little bit helps.

Our next show continues this conversation, with guest host Sally Ganga asking the question, “How much should I save for college?” Also on the schedule next week: a look at services available at colleges for students with learning differences and a not-to-be-missed segment on questions you don’t want to ask an admissions officer.


Written by Julia Jones
Julia Jones is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Julia previously worked as a senior admissions officer at Brandeis University and was the director of admissions at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School. Visit our website to learn more about Julia Jones.