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First-Generation Students Face Extra Challenges When Applying to College. What Can They Do to Overcome the Obstacles?

The college application process isn’t easy for anyone. But for first-generation students, those who are the first in their families to attend college, the intensity of this process is magnified by the fact that they must undertake this process primarily alone. Those whose parents and grandparents before them have attended college have the advantage of firsthand experience. But for many students who come from immigrant families, their parents have never filled out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) or created a Common Application account. The process is left largely up to the student, who at the time of application, is only 15 or 16 years old.

Following the American dream isn’t so easy when these young students are left only to their own devices. Having one parent who attended college is so crucial to a young student’s experience because as much as some things may have changed, many parts of the college experience could be enhanced with the practical know-how and knowledge of a parent.

Nowadays, pursuing a college degree is all but mandatory in order to secure a good job and a stable income. So, student populations who have not traditionally been college students have become applicants as well. According to the New York Times, freshmen at prestigious institutions like Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Amherst, and Cornell who are first-generation students make up the majority of federal Pell grant recipients. About half of first-generation student students come from low-income families. What does this mean? That first-generation students are also those who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and have much less access to resources than their second and third generation peers can enjoy.

Three brothers from Queens are trying to break down the obstacles and barriers that these first-generation students have faced themselves after going through the college process as first-generation students themselves. After coming to the United States alone and working his way to a biomedical engineering degree from Columbia University, founder and CEO of Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center, Kukhon Uddin Bobby, hopes to guide students who were once like him. “It isn’t easy,” said Bobby, “to get into a top-rated university. Even less so when you don’t think you have what it takes because of what society shows you is a successful student. But it doesn’t have to be like this.”

With the help of his brothers, President Tariq Hussain and Vice President Sakib Hussain, Bobby decided to make college admissions process more navigable for first-generation students with their College Application Program.

Their mission is simple: to help students get into their dream college, regardless of any other outside circumstance that could be hindering them. Over the last ten years, they’ve not only helped students score top percentile SAT scores, but also get into colleges like Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and many more. And because they know that affording college is no easy feat these days, they’ve built financial planning into their program to help students avoid taking out costly and burdensome loans.

College applicants are tasked with a number of objectives while going through the process: writing a thought-evoking personal statement and compelling supplementary essays, completing the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), creating an impressive resume or CV and adding all of the basic information to the Common Application, completing the additional information section, creating and filing a CSS Profile, and filling out statewide financial aid forms like the New York State TAP application.

According to Vice President Sakib Hussain, “Part of the college application process is presenting yourself as the best possible candidate to these institutions. They want to know not only why you are the best fit for them but also what you will be able to contribute to their organization. What clubs you’ll join, what initiatives you might support or promote, and how you’ll fit in to the campus culture.” This all begins with thoroughly researching each and every institution that students are applying to. Something that is important to keep in mind is the three-click rule. It should take at least three clicks on a college’s website for students to get to the prime information that is specific enough about the university. Mentioning a student government, for instance, isn’t enough – because all universities have them, colleges may suspect that you are repurposing supplemental essays from other schools.

College admissions rates are dropping each and every year, and with almost 900,000 thousand high school students scoring below the nation average SAT score annually, college admissions process is becoming more competitive than ever. And in light of this, colleges are beginning to take a more holistic approach to admitting students. Whereas a student’s grade point average and SAT score is still very important, they aren’t the main or sole factor that a college looks at anymore. Students who have stellar essays can make up for a lower SAT score or GPA, and these moving pieces work interchangeably. As Vice President Sakib Hussain explained, “students will be able to explain all of their circumstances in the 500-word additional information section. If a student has a lower attendance record because of poor health or family responsibilities, or their grades suffered because of poor mental health related to a life-changing event, students will be able to explain all of this to colleges. It doesn’t guarantee them an acceptance, but it can give them some hope.”

Another important part of the college application process is securing at least two letters of recommendation from teachers in the field that the student is intending to major in, and an outside recommendation as well. If a student has volunteered or interned at a hospital or academic institution, they should form a strong relationship with their supervisor. It will make them that much more likely to write a positive letter of recommendation, which will go a long way.

Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center has dedicated itself to serving the community for over ten years, and they continue to do so with the success of their SAT prep courses and College Application Programs. So, are first-generation students hopeless? Definitely not. In fact, they have three older brothers on their side.

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