Q&A: Am I Considered First Generation…and Other Questions


Am I first generation?

Q: My mom didn’t go to college, but my dad did and graduated with an Associate Degree. Both of my siblings have graduated from college with engineering degrees. Does this mean I’m not first-generation?

A: Not exactly. For most universities, you are considered a first-generation student. Levels of education can range from “Did not graduate high school” to PHD or professional degree. Anything less than a completion of a bachelor’s degree by your parent or guardian typically equals first-generation college status for you. This differs by college, however, so check each school’s website or contact the admission’s officers directly.

State School vs. Private Colleges

Q: What benefits are there for going to a public state school if you have the test scores and grades to get into an elite, private school?

A: There are multiple benefits to choosing a public, in-state school over a private one.

Here are a few I can think of off the time of my head:

  • Cost of tuition – ($9,100 for public schools vs $23,000 for private schools)

  • Size – larger student body and variety of degrees at public schools. Public schools might also offer a larger variety of clubs and extracurriculars for students to participate in.

  • Diversity – public schools tend to have more racial and religious diversity; while private schools have more geographic diversity

  • Funding – access to government funding for scholarship and research opportunities is available through public institutions which can result in public schools having better facilities and resources


Should I mention specific professors in my personal statement?

Q: I am applying for a MSW program and am wondering if it’s okay to mention potential research advisors in my personal statements. I've contacted a few but have received no replies. I'm very conflicted because some people say that it shows you understand the work of the department (a good thing) but some say to avoid it and name programs or specific research groups within the department instead.

A: I typically tell applicants to avoid mentioning professors by name, especially if they haven’t worked with them in the past. Consider the following: What if the professor you list in your personal statement recently took another job at a different university and you’ve listed them as a reason for attending? What if someone on the admissions committee really doesn’t like the professor you mentioned? Your compelling reason for being admitted just went out the window.

I think it’s fine to mention the specific research the department engages in, but I don’t think it’s ever necessary to mention professors by name unless you’re applying for admission at the PhD level. Focus on the school, not individual professors.  


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