Coaching helps first-generation students successfully navigate college admissions

For most teenagers, there’s nothing more annoying than an older sibling who acts like a know-it-all. Until those teenagers start applying for college, that is. On the arduous climb toward Destination: Acceptance Letter, a sibling, parent or other family member who’s already navigated the higher education journey is an invaluable guide.

What about high schoolers aiming to be the first in their family to attend college? That’s where InsideTrack Coaches step in. Aspiring first-generation college students lean on coaches to provide the mentorship and insider knowledge they may not receive otherwise. From facts about the FAFSA to soul-searching about the future, coaches provide a range of resources and support to help close the achievement gap, one student at a time.

Here are three top questions underserved high schoolers applying to college ask their InsideTrack Coaches.

How do I figure out which college is right for me?

InsideTrack Coaches help students identify what they want out of their college experience and what they’re searching for in their ideal school. But imagining the possibilities isn’t enough to secure a college acceptance. That’s why coaching also supports students in understanding what their target schools expect in terms of grades, test scores and extracurricular activities.

By encouraging realistic choices and directing students to supplement their online research with any college search resources available at school, coaches can boost students’ confidence that they’ll find the right match. Most importantly, coaches help students enjoy the process of discovery.

“Sometimes students just need reassurance that a certain amount of uncertainty is okay,” said Micah Wheeler, an InsideTrack Coach.

How do I find help paying for school?

Many low-income and first-generation students have to take a complex approach to financing college. Coaching begins the education process early and acts as a resource to families encountering the FAFSA and scholarship applications for the first time.

“Often, these conversations don’t start with a direct question,” explained Wheeler. “They begin with a student expressing uncertainty about […] whether they should proceed with things like taking out student loans.”

In addition to addressing the specific topics students bring up, coaches can help students find resources in the community or online that teach financial literacy. Understanding concepts like interests rates and income-based repayment before taking out a loan can help students manage debt later on. With support from coaching, a college budget can become a blueprint for a sound financial future.

What should I be doing now to prepare for college?

Some students prepare for college by checking off the boxes. They may already understand which courses and exams they have to take, and just need support putting a plan into action. Others may benefit from taking stock of their interests and goals before tackling next steps.

“These students need help with logistical stuff, but also with deeper, personal questions about identity-forming choices like where to focus their education and what they want to do with their lives,”  said Natalie Christiansen, an InsideTrack Coach.

Coaches work with students to pursue these bigger questions without losing sight of deadlines and requirements. As students begin to explore potential majors and careers, coaches can help students complete the necessary tasks that keep their college options open.

Supporting the transition to college success

Being admitted to college is the payoff for years of determination, effort and planning — especially for first-generation students, who may need to work harder than their peers just to find opportunities they wish to pursue. But at the same time, it’s the start of a whole new set of challenges and expectations.

Continued coaching during the first few higher education terms helps students build the skills that will empower them to succeed. For example, with InsideTrack Coaching, a four-year public institution increased first-year retention of first-generation students by 56 percent. At other programs, InsideTrack Coaching helped improved persistence of Pell-eligible students by 15 percent. Providing first-generation students with tailored support from high school through their transition to college and beyond increases their chances of graduating on time and propels them closer to a choice-filled career.

“InsideTrack has helped me make the transition from high school. My coach helped me get up to speed and acquainted with my school quickly, so that I could do as well as I possibly could.” — Student

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