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3 Ways to Help Students To Be the First in Their Families to Attend College

Alma Lopez, the 2022 American School Counsellor for the American School Counselors Association and Principal School Counsellor at Livingston Middle School in Livingston, California, went to college as a first-generation student without important information that could have helped her, such as the fact that there are different ways to pay tuition that don’t Including getting loans.

The pandemic has now upended the future planning of current high school students, with 2021 graduates reporting growing stress along with financial hardship while attending college, starting full-time work, or taking on caregiving roles. This was among the key findings from a nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey Conducted in August and September 2021 for approximately 1,500 high school graduates who excelled.

The survey also found that more than 1 in 5 low-income 2021 graduates said they had changed their college or career plans to care for a family member who was infected or at high risk of contracting COVID-19, and nearly 14 percent of respondents said they had “never” instance.” Receive support from their high school with questions regarding financial aid.

When working especially with students who will be the first to go to college in their family at this turbulent time, Lopez offers some tips to best meet their needs.

Don’t assume what information a student can access

Lopez grew up in the home of a Mexican immigrant where she was unable to seek advice from her parents on how to apply for college.

“Many families are similar to my parents who came to the country in adulthood, wanted a better opportunity, and trusted the systems in place to guide [their children] But it’s really limited in their understanding of a lot of those systems,” Lopez said.

When working with students in a similar situation, Lopez strives to provide as much information as possible to students and their families about all pathways available after high school without assuming that students already have a family member they can turn to for advice. This includes, for example, an explanation of the scholarships students can apply for and what the work and study programs entail.

Involve the parents

Lopez found that the more parents who did not attend college themselves could learn and be part of their children’s education journey, the better the relationships school counselors could form with students.

That’s why when Lopez takes her students on field trips at state and community colleges, parents are involved as companions to share in the learning experience. She’s even curated events and field trips specifically to create a space where parents can ask all kinds of questions, like how scholarships, work and study programs work and what exactly is the living situation on college campuses.

Demystifying Your College Experience

Students also have questions about the college that go beyond the application process.

That’s why Lopez School in Livingston, California, works with the Advancement Via Individual Selection Program that partners middle school and current college students to help them learn things like study and communication skills. Knowing how to study effectively, how to communicate and how to organize are skills that help students succeed in school and truly in life, Lopez said. The program also provides its students with an opportunity to ask all kinds of questions about university life such as the activities available, including sports; do they have to pay for meals; Do they have to live on campus?

The more school counselors can help demystify the college experience for students, the better college planning can be with students being able to ask more specific questions about the process.

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