Tips for First-Gen College Students: My journey choosing a college

An illustration of the student author of the blog.

What do you do after you’ve found a major? I recommend reflecting on your future plans and finding a college that can best support your journey and goals. Luckily, two fellow Ready WA storytellers have an excellent activity to find what type of college is right for you! I highly suggest completing their very entertaining quiz to get a grasp of what you should be thinking about when deciding where to go for college. In this installment of “Exploring The College Process,” I will dive into my own personal experience deciding where to attend college and explain what I’ve learned.

Consider a pros and cons list

When it came to choosing my college, I had a few appealing choices. I created a pros and cons list for the institutions in question, and most of the factors were based on financial aid, location, and what the community there was like. This helped a lot, as I was able to visualize which college would best fit my needs and interests. I knew location was important to me, as I would prefer staying on the west coast, closer to home. Financial aid was another factor I heavily considered. As much as I love learning, I did not want to have massive student debt, especially since I am interested in pursuing graduate school. Lastly, I wanted a community that had many opportunities to socialize and collaborate with peers. In the end, the University of Washington fit my interests and needs the best.

A photo of the student author.

But wait, did my major have anything to do with deciding my college? Well fun fact, I actually entered the University of Washington as an undecided major! You might be thinking “har har, you were an undecided major yet you wrote a whole blog about finding your own major.” And that’s true, but throughout high school I used the resources and tips that I listed in my previous blog to narrow my major search immensely. This also helped me decide what college to attend. The other colleges I was accepted into placed me in a major that I thought would fulfill my interests and goals at the time. Yet, after lots of sleepless nights before the college acceptance deadline, I realized I picked that major more as a default than a passion. I realized it wasn’t something I truly wanted to do. Therefore, I went to the University of Washington with an undecided major.

Isn’t going to college undecided scary?

It is definitely a more complicated path, especially at institutions where you need to apply to be in a major – like UW. Despite this, I knew I would have more time to explore different interests and industries, and there is certainly an abundance of areas to investigate! I did not mind the extra steps, especially if that meant finding a major that I truly loved. From previous experience, I knew I wanted a major that was STEM-related but also fulfilled my need to create. With this in mind, I got involved with different organizations, clubs, and classes to find the majors that spoke to me.

I hope my own experience can help you and other soon-to-be college students understand that the college process isn’t linear or the same series of steps for everyone.


In the end, some people might go through the college decision process and find that they might not want to go to college just yet, or they might realize they don’t really want to go to their “dream school” after all. Maybe some are also considering going down the undecided route, which is totally fine as well. In the end, everyone’s college journey will be different, but I hope my own experience can help you and other soon-to-be college students understand that the college process isn’t linear or the same series of steps for everyone.

Hannah Phanitchob is a graduate of Ellensburg High School, a first-year student at University of Washington-Seattle, and a 2023-24 Ready Washington storyteller.