Congratulations! If you’re a first gen student, you’re working toward a really great achievement. 

It’s exciting to be the first in your family to pursue a college degree, but it can also be a little confusing. Sometimes colleges may seem like they have a whole different language. As you’re trying to navigate your college search, we’re here to help you make sense of the jargon and provide a resource for what you need.

Terms & Processes to Know 

FAFSA-This stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. But what does that mean? This is the application you fill out with the federal government to see what kind and how much financial aid you’re eligible for.

Eligibility is based on your family’s income. Depending what you are eligible for, you could receive grants (money you don’t have to pay back) or loans (money you do have to pay back). You won’t know until you file your FAFSA. 

The FAFSA opens on October 1 each year. Some schools have a priority deadline for you to have yours completed, so that’s something you’ll want to find out for the schools you’re interested in. Southeast suggests completing your FAFSA by January 15. We’ve also created a whole YouTube playlist to walk you through. 

Scholarships-Scholarships and financial aid are different things. Scholarships are awards offered by colleges. You don’t pay scholarships back. There are several types of scholarships. Most schools have an academic scholarship program which looks at your academic progress to make a determination on what you’re eligible for. Southeast’s academic scholarship program is the Copper Dome Scholarship program. Few things to know about our program:  

  • 70% of students are eligible and it’s test optional 
  • The deadline at Southeast to apply for scholarships for full consideration is December 1 each year.  
  • Scholarships may be available if you apply after December 1, but it just depends on funding availability and you may be eligible for a smaller amount. 

Non-academic scholarships-Universities usually have other types of scholarships like endowed or participation. Participation means you could be eligible for scholarships based on the activities you participate in. Endowed scholarships are awards funded by donors. They can have a variety of eligibility requirements from where you’re from to what your major is.

At Southeast, when you apply for admission, we automatically see which endowed scholarships you’re eligible for, so you don’t have to search for them.

Test Optional-The test we’re referring to is the ACT or SAT. The optional means that you may still be admitted to Southeast without taking the test. You’re even eligible for scholarships with no test score. Why? Some people just don’t do well on standardized tests. We have found a student’s high school GPA is a good indicator of how well they’ll do at Southeast, so for us, your test score is optional.

Superscore-Sounds fun, right. Well, we’re still talking about the SAT/ACT, so maybe not! When you take one of those tests, your overall score is made up of subscores in each of the catetegories, like reading, math, etc. When we say we superscore, we mean that if you take the test multiple times, you can take your highest score from each of those subcategories to create your superscore. Often this will raise your score by a point and is helpful for scholarship consideration. We’ve built a superscore calculator to help. 

How do I apply for college? This will be different at every school, but most will have an application for admission. This will ask information about your high school courses and grade point average. Southeast has no application fee to apply, so you won’t pay any money to apply to Southeast. We also don’t require an essay or for you to send a transcript at the time of applying. This is all designed to make the application process simpler for you.

What happens after I apply? Our admissions team will evaluate your application and see if you meet our admission requirements. Again, each school has different requirements. If you meet the requirements, you’ll be accepted to Southeast. Then, we’ll take your information to determine what type of scholarships you’re eligible for and send you a financial aid offer, so you know exactly what aid is available to help you pay for school.

How do I know how much school costs? Each school should have its tuition and fees available on its website. At Southeast, we offer a cost and scholarship calculator, so you have an idea of your cost estimate.

When comparing costs of different schools, make sure your costs are the same type. For example, some schools may share cost per semester and others per credit hour. Making sure you’re comparing the same type of information can ensure you’re getting the full picture of which school is best for you financially. 

Tuition? Fees? What? Tuition is the cost of your classes. But, many schools have additional fees. Some fees are assessed on particular courses. Some fees are assessed for amenities or opportunities the school offers. When you’re calculating your cost, you’ll want to make sure you are taking into account tuition and fees. And, if you’re living on campus and getting a meal plan, those are often additional costs as well.

Orientation-If you decide to attend SEMO, you’ll want to sign up for orientation. Orientation (Called First STEP at Southeast) walks you through all things Southeast, and you’ll sign up for your classes at this time. Each school has different orientation schedules. Southeast runs several from February all the way through the summer. Some schools just hold orientation in the summer before you start. Tip: the sooner you sign up, the more likely you’ll get the classes and the schedule you want. 

What did we miss? You’ve probably come across more terms that maybe you’re unsure about or processes that don’t seem that clear. We’re always working to make this page more useful to all students and their families, so fill out the form below, and we’ll answer your question and be sure to add here for other families’ benefit.

What’s an Admission Counselor

These are wonderful people whose life’s work is to help students find the college that’s right for them. Our SEMO team works with particular territories, meaning you’ll have someone assigned to you based on your high school. They’ll want to tell you all about Southeast, but they’re really there to answer your questions about college in general. This is a big decision for you and senior year is going to busy! Take advantage of their expertise and let us help.

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