First-generation students offered guidance

Matthew Mercado, Staff Writer

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First Generation Foundation, a site dedicated to first-generation students, reported, “An estimated 50 percent of the college population is comprised of people whose parents never attended college.”
First generation college students include students whose parents never attended a college or never earned their bachelor’s degree. First generation students have many challenges to face, such as not knowing how to start their application process or filing for financial aid. Due to the struggles of thinking that they are alone in this process, unhealthy stress levels arise among first generation teens.
Many first-generation high school students do not know where to begin in the challenging college process and are not confident to ask for help. Schools are now having one on one discussions to give the students a comfortable environment and the kick start to help them start their college applications.
Affordable Colleges Online states there are many resources that students could use such as speaking to their guidance counselor or do online tutorials like the U.S Department of Education. Counselors report that many first-generation students are more skeptical than students that have parents that went to college to apply to financial aid.
“Seeing what my students are encountering I think one of the biggest struggles is the FAFSA, completing the FAFSA and like feeling comfortable enough to complete the free application for federal student aid I think [it is] super overwhelming for parents especially to fill out the FAFSA because they don’t know why they’re putting in this information and they don’t completely understand the financial aid process,” said Paige Buttels, a school counselor at South and leader in the first-generation group.
A large majority of first-generation students’ families do not have a sutable income to apply for colleges or not know the superfluity of funding options available to them. Most or all colleges have their generic scholarships, but there are a vast variety of organizations that offer grants and scholarships specifically targeting first-generation college students.
According to First Generation Foundation, as a nation, 89% of low-income first-generation students tend to leave college within six years without earning a degree. More than half first- generation students tend to leave after their first year.
“I think that a lack understanding of the whole financial aid processes is a huge barrier from attending college [due to] not quite understanding different types of loans, grants, and scholarships, how to find those things and how to apply to them. I think financial aid and paying for college in general is like the biggest barrier struggle that students encounter,” said Buttels.
Many high schools are now helping students apply to or seek colleges that many students can’t reach out to them. According to Souths home page, many college fairs are offered that can benefit first-generation such as, Seniors & Parents (September 5) Senior College Night or)  District 202›s College Fair & Financial Aid Presentation which allows students first generation or not to visit 140 colleges and university representatives from around the country.
South also has a college career center that is best known as CCC, which helps and allows student to search up colleges or join college visits in their study halls.
“The college and Career Center offer students many resources including my one-on-one assistance. It allows students to research any options they have after high school whether that be going to the military, going to college, going to the workforce. I can assist them with that in here with financial aid assistance, FAFSA, and scholarship searching,” said Nicole Ursetta, who also manages the College Career Center.
Many colleges will visit South for students that cannot participate in a college visit to talk about what that college is like or to how to apply.
“We also have college visits two days a week where up to three school’s come each of those days students can sign up those visits, and they have the opportunity to meet with a college representative from that school and answer any questions they have about whatever the campus has to offer administered in scholarships thing of that nature,” said Ursetta
Students can also sign up to South’s first- generation group, which help first generation students that can’t get the help at home. Buttels, who as a first-generation student was herself, now tries her best to give students the help in an extremely stressful part in their life’s.
Colleges are making programs for first- generation college students in their process in apply or attending that university. According to Accredited Schools Online “Rochester Institute of Technology offers programs like “I’m First”, which works to ensure success for students who are the first in their families to attend college.”
University of Illinois admission representative says University of Illinois offers programs to first-generation college students that will help them apply to colleges at ease by providing students with a admission member that speaks their language.
College is a very stressful part in a teens, especially among first-generation college students who don’t have no one to turn to but colleges are aware of that, and is now making it easier for first-generation students too progress in applying to college.

Editorial Cartoon by Juve Angulo

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