Making a College List, First-Generation Student Edition
A first-generation student provides tips on how they stayed organized during the college application process
So You’re Applying to College?
Being a first-generation US citizen myself, I understand just how daunting going to college may be. I can recall my feelings of uncertainty when I first began compiling my college list. There were so many factors to consider, such as distance from home, affordability, and location. Thus, to help ease any potential stressors you may experience during the college application process, I present you with the tips I picked up along the way for how to make a good college list.
A good college list requires organization. Therefore, I created a spreadsheet in my notebook containing main factors I valued in my future university. It may be easier to create a digital spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. The factors (in no particular order) were the following:
- SAT/ACT score
Feel free to incorporate more or fewer factors. In the end, you should select qualities that are specific to you. Ask yourself, “What do I value? What can I not be without?” These two questions should be your guide. In the next few sections, I will describe the previously mentioned factors in detail.
Most institutions require some type of standardized test. For example, SAT, ACT, IB, or AP scores. NYU has one of the most flexible testing policies of any college or university. What’s more, it even adopted a test-optional policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. When compiling your college list, make a note in your spreadsheet of the universities’ standardized testing policies and deadlines.
While you do not need to apply to NYU with a decided major, when picking a university, it is quite helpful to research what majors or academic programs are offered. More importantly, it is important to determine if they align with your interests. My major is Global Public Health and Sociology (you can read my article on what it was like to study global public health during a pandemic). It took me a few semesters to declare this path. My biggest tip? Write down a few academic-related interests you have and put them in the search bar next to your school of interest. For example, you could search “game design program NYU” or “public health NYU.”
College is known as the home away from home for a reason. You should spend the next four years in a place you feel comfortable. Some of us will find comfort no matter the distance from family and friends. Others will find comfort living very nearby. Are you someone who wants to be within driving distance from family? Or a plane ride?
We have heard it all before, college is expensive. It is critical that you discuss how you will pay for college with those you trust. And use this guide to inform your college list. Keep track of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadline. The FAFSA is a form college students complete to apply for federal financial aid, grants, and loans. Also keep track of the CSS Profile deadline. The CSS Profile is a form to apply for nonfederal financial aid. There are also plenty of external scholarships you can apply for using a simple Google search.
NYU is a global university with three degree-granting campuses: NYU Abu Dhabi, NYU Shanghai, and NYU in New YorkCity. The University is rich with diverse minds, cultures, and experiences. In choosing a school, I knew I wanted to be immersed in a community where I could find belonging and growth. And I have found that here at NYU. When researching universities, make note of their equity and inclusion resources. Here is a snapshot of NYU facts, from scholarships and aid to postgraduation outcomes.
This is probably one of the most important sections on your college list spreadsheet. You should highlight admissions deadlines, financial aid deadlines (FAFSA and/or CSS profile), scholarship deadlines, and portfolio submission deadlines if necessary (at Tisch, for example).
You’ve Done It!
Wasn’t so bad, was it? I must emphasize again that this list is only one example of what you can incorporate once you begin your spreadsheet. Be sure to tailor your college list to your interests and your needs. Also be sure to reach out to individuals you trust in your circle for advice such as counselors, teachers, and relatives. Finally, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the “perfect” list. This process isn’t meant to be perfect. Along the way, you may make many revisions and that is OK. Trust the process!