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First person in your family to go to college?

Do you plan to be the first person in your family to go to college? If so, that would make you a first generation college student. Here at Virginia Tech, there are a number of things we consider when reviewing college applications: first generation student status happens to be one of them. Why, you ask? Well, we’re always looking for ways to diversify our student body, to admit students from different backgrounds and experiences.

That being said, you’re not as rare as you might think. Around 4,000 first generation college students applied to VT just last year. What does make you unique, however, is the fact that you probably don’t have as much help filling out your college applications, applying for financial aid, and just figuring out what you’re supposed to do and when.

We’re hoping the information below will help you figure some of it out. If not, remember we’re only a phone call away…

Timeline for the College Admissions Process

Junior Year

November – January: Decide what is important to you. What type of school are you looking for? Does the location or size of the campus play a part in your search? Research online schools you are interested in. Utilize available search tools such as the ones below to get started.

January – February: Begin to narrow down your list and plan college visits for spring and summer.Register to take SAT/ACT during junior year.
March – May: Visit college campuses. While on campus take pictures; make lists of pros/cons and discover entrance requirements to help decide which schools to apply to.Meet with your guidance counselor to prepare challenging schedule for senior year.

Senior Year

August: Research application and financial aid deadlines for individual schools you are applying to.
September: Complete admissions applications and submit them as soon as possible. Early Decision (binding) for VT is due November 1st.Register for upcoming October/November/December ACT or SAT dates if needed.
October: Attend Fall Open Houses in October or November if possible.
November: Complete all college applications. Regular Decision (non-binding) for VT is due January 15th.Check with guidance office at high school and plan to attend local financial aid awareness night to receive tips for filling out the FAFSA and applying for financial aid and scholarships.
December: Request FAFSA PIN. Remember: FAFSA will be available online beginning January 1st.
Priority deadline for VT is March 1st.
January: Request mid-year grades to be sent to colleges you applied to.
March – April: Plan to attend admitted student days at schools you were offered admission to for one final visit before making your decision.Make final decision and submit deposit.
National Deposit deadline is May 1st.

Glossary of Terms

College Visits

Visiting college campuses can be one of the most important things you do when applying to college. It gives you a chance to see the school for yourself, learn all about what makes it unique or special, and imagine yourself as a student there. All colleges have their own visit programs, but most center around information sessions and campus tours. It doesn’t cost a dime to visit either, save the gas and possibly hotel. Some schools ask you to sign up ahead of time, so make sure to call first.

And don’t be afraid to call the admissions office! We’re here to answer questions and help in anyway we can.

Early Decision

Many colleges and universities have early admission programs designed for students who know a particular school is their number one choice. That said, you should only consider applying to a school early if it is your number one choice, because some schools require you to attend if admitted early: this process is called binding. Other colleges and universities may have early admission programs that are non-binding, often referred to as Early Action (vs Early Decision). If you are interested in applying early somewhere, be sure to follow-up with the school’s admissions office to find out exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Entrance Requirements

Entrance requirements can vary greatly from one college or university to the other. The best way to figure out what schools are looking for in their prospective students is to ask—call the admissions office or check out a school’s website.

Also, try not to be intimidated by average GPA’s and/or average SATs/ACTs. These are just averages. Most colleges consider other things in the application process, besides GPAs and test scores. Again, the best way to find out is to ask.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

There’s no doubt that paying for college is one of the biggest concerns students (and especially parents) have when considering where to apply, or if to apply at all. While we are somewhat biased, we think a college education is worth it.


These days, there are so many options available to help you pay for your education; grants, loans, scholarships, etc. To find out if you qualify for grant and loan programs, you must fill out the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online. To search for scholarships, fill out a profile at At Virginia Tech, we have our own scholarship application, so be sure to check the school’s financial aid office, or visit their website for more info as well.

First Generation College Student

Neither parent completed a Bachelor’s (4-year college) degree or higher. Even if your parents got their Associate’s degree, you’re still considered the first in your family to go to college in our book. Likewise, if your parents attended a 4-year college, but did not graduate, we still think of you as first generation. The same goes, even if your brother(s) or sister(s) attended and graduated from a 4-year college(s).

Guidance Office

You should know where your guidance office is located—here’s a hint, it’s somewhere in your high school. If you haven’t visited yet, we highly recommend you do so, ASAP! Your guidance counselors will help you apply to college, but to do so they also need to know you’re planning on applying to college. If you haven’t met your guidance counselor yet, go down and introduce yourself. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get the help you need.

Open Houses

Open Houses are great opportunities to visit a college campus (like everything else, dates vary, so make sure to follow up). Usually every department is represented and comes out to showcase the school. It’s a sort of one-stop shop for campus visits: you can learn about your major, campus activities, financial aid, housing, and anything else you are interested in, all in one day.

Regular Decision

Regular Decision is how most students choose to apply to college. Unlike Early Decision, it is non-binding. You apply (usually around the first of the year), you’re notified of your admission decision a few months later (usually around spring break), then you have until May 1, the National Deposit Deadline (the only date colleges and universities share in common), to let the particular school know if you plan to attend.

Keep in mind that deadlines are very important in college admissions. While some schools may be more lenient than others when choosing to extend a deadline or accept a late application, all of them expect applications to be in by the deadline(s). That said, all you usually need to do is turn the application (the physical application) in by the deadline—everything else (transcripts, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, etc.) can come in later. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, so check with the school(s) to make sure that’s their policy.


The SAT and ACT are college entrance exams. Most colleges require them to be admitted. They usually don’t require both, nor do they prefer one over the other. Here at Virginia Tech we like to recommend students take both, because some people tend to do better on one versus the other.