Admissions Blog Posts

Advice for First-Generation College Students from an Admissions Counselor’s Point of View

Last updated May 28, 2024

Navigating the transition from high school to college is already difficult, but what makes this transition increasingly more challenging is when students do not have a parent or guardian who has gone through the college process to turn to for guidance. This is the reality for many first-generation students, including the nearly 300 first-generation students at Furman University. 

I understand these challenges, because I was a first-generation student as well. I say this to give you comfort in knowing that if you are facing one of the many challenges that are thrown towards this specific group of students, you are not alone. My hope is that after reading this blog, you will have helpful pieces of information and advice from a Furman Admission Counselor’s point of view that can help ease your struggle no matter what stage of your college career you are in.  

What to know during the Admissions Process:

Applying to colleges can be intimidating because there is so much that goes into the admissions process and every school operates somewhat differently. If you do not understand the ins and outs of admissions procedures, you may feel like others have a leg up in their application. Keep these frequently asked questions and general tips in mind when applying for colleges. 

Q: What is the difference between early decision, early action, and regular decision application rounds?  

A: Early Decision (ED) is an application round for students who are confident that they will attend Furman if they are admitted. This is a binding round,

Here is Furman’s application round dates and deadlines for the 2023-2024 application cycle.

meaning that if you are admitted, you agree to withdraw your application from all other institutions and commit to Furman. I would recommend applying in this round if Furman is your first choice. Keep in mind that students who apply ED do not always have a full view of their financial aid package at the time of enrolling.


Early Action (EA) is our most popular application round because it is not binding, but you will still receive your admission decision early. I would recommend this application round to anyone who is interested in Furman as well as other schools and are able to have their application materials ready by the early action application deadline.


Regular Decision (RD) is our latest application round which is a non-binding application round for any student who needs the most time preparing your application materials. The only downfall of applying RD is that you will have less time in between finding out your admissions decision and making your college decision.


Furman has four different application plans consisting of ED, EA, ED II, and RD but application rounds will vary from school to school.  

Q: Do I have to submit my test scores? 

A: Some institutions that you are planning to apply for may require test scores, and others may not. Furman does not require test scores, meaning that if you do not believe that your standardized test scores accurately reflect who you are as a student and you are prouder of your GPA, you can apply as test optional. Applying test optional to Furman does not hinder your ability to receive scholarships. Although Furman is test optional, my advice is to still take the SAT and ACT and then determine afterwards if you would like to submit your test scores or not.  

Q: What is demonstrated interest? 

A: Demonstrated interest is an institution’s way of tracking how involved you are throughout the admissions process. You can show interest in a variety of ways including visiting a school’s campus, attending in-person or virtual admission events, stopping by an institution’s table at a college fair, keeping in touch with your admissions counselor, etc. While not all institutions take demonstrated interest into consideration while reviewing applications, many do. Because of this, I would encourage you to stay as active as possible throughout the admissions process to demonstrate your interest to us.  

Q: How many schools should I apply to?  

This is up for debate as high school seniors are beginning to apply to more colleges than ever. My personal recommendation is to apply to anywhere between 4-8 colleges to optimize your options but not overwhelm yourself with options. When applying to school’s, be sure to do your research on what the institution’s average academic profile is to get a sense of how you compare to their most recent class of enrolled students. You can usually find this information on an institution’s website, and you can find Furman’s here. 

For more application tips, be sure to attend our Furman Fundamentals virtual event: Tips for Building a Strong Application. 

Advice on making your college decision:  

Once you have heard a decision from the colleges that you have applied to, you will then have to start narrowing down your list of potential colleges you could see yourself attending. If you have not visited the colleges that you are interested in yet, this is a great time frame to do so if you are able. Taking advantage of tour add-ons for schools that offer them such as having lunch with a student, sitting in on a class, or scheduling a meeting with a faculty member will allow you to get a better feel for the atmosphere on the campus. 

During your college decision process, I would encourage you to interact with as many current students, alumni, and faculty members as possible to gain a better understanding of what it would be like to be a member of that institution’s community. Your admissions counselor will be a great resource for connecting you with these individuals, as well as answering questions you may have about the institution.  

Image from The Fairfield Mirror

Another factor that will likely play a big role in your college decision process is finances. Be sure to use FAFSA and CSS Profile as a resource to potentially explore federal and state aid options.  

There are many components that will go into making your college decision, but my advice is to do your research on all the institutions that you are considering, create a pros and cons list, ask as many questions as you need to, and trust your intuition on what feels like home.  

Advice for when you are on campus:

The biggest pieces of advice that I can give first-generation students once they are on a college campus is to stay involved, find your community, and lean into others for support! There is no doubt that being the first in your family to navigate college will have its challenges, but I hope that following this advice will make your college experience more enjoyable.

Tips on staying involved:

This is what SyncDin looks like.

It is likely that the college that you choose to attend will have some sort of student organization fair towards the beginning of the semester. This is a great opportunity to join organizations that you find interest in, and meet new friends. I would encourage you to have an open mind and try new things through these organizations, but also remember to find a healthy balance of being involved, because you do not want to over involve yourself to the point of burnout. You can also use online resources to sort through what organizations different institutions offer. Furman’s student organization data base is called SyncDin, and it can be used as a tool to help you find ways to get involved.

Tips on finding your community:

College is a great time to find the people in your life who mean the most to you. In order to build this community of friends, surround yourself with like minded individuals who may be facing similar challenges as you. If the institution that you choose to attend has a first-generation student organization, this is a great way to connect with other students like yourself. Furman’s First-Generation Student Alliance is a perfect example of this!

Tips on using your support system:



It is important to know that you do not have to navigate your college experience alone. When on your college campus, work towards finding mentors who will support and challenge you throughout your college career. Good mentors will make your life easier by supporting you through your hard times and cheering on your successes. You can find mentors by engaging with faculty and staff during their office hours, participating in networking events, reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn, or even through connecting with individuals through the institutions alumni network.

Final Thoughts:

Being a first-generation college student is an achievement in itself, and you have already shown determination and drive just by reading this blog! Your unique experience and perspective will be a great addition to whichever institution you choose to attend, and I am confident that you will thrive and accomplish amazing things in your future.

If you have any questions or want to seek additional advice from a former first-generation student, please reach out to me through email: I hope to connect with you soon!