First Gen College Advising


    Watch our First Gen Video.


    We provide specialized assistance for First Gen students and students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. We work closely with each student to identify the best career and college-going path for them that is affordable for their families. Information for First Gen Students is also available on the Acalanes Union High School District’s First Gen website.


    Our advisors are in the College and Career Center during Academy periods and can be available during other times upon request.


    Make an appointment with Carol Thompson or Elaine Chan, see their bios below. 


    We assist students by:


    • Providing a “roadmap” to college, explaining resources, areas to focus on, and 
      opportunities for building resumes 
    • Conducting career assessments to help students identify possible career and academic areas of interest
    • Identifying low-cost extracurricular opportunities
    • Discussing affordable college options
    • Helping students apply for colleges, including essay brainstorming and review
    • Identifying and helping students apply for scholarships
    • Assisting with financial aid applications (including FAFSA)
    • Reviewing financial aid offers to assist with decision-making
    • Instilling self-advocacy skills for college and beyond
    • Creating a network of first gen students so they can support one another.


    Since the program’s inception in 2017, we have helped over 200 students. Past students have said:


    • “I’m beyond grateful for all the help I received from the CCC. From helping me fill out the FAFSA to guiding me through the process of filling out applications, I felt the counselors truly wanted me to succeed and be the first in my family to attend college.”
    • “The 1st gen advisors have helped with navigating the terrifying world of requirements and financial burdens of college, which I was not familiar with. I think first gen students are pretty much on their own and don’t have the privileges other kids have, so the guidance I received helps 1st gen students ‘keep up’ with other students.”
    • “Ms. Chan and Ms. Thompson are very helpful to the students of Las Lomas and me for anything college-related... They can help with everything! I personally feel reassured in an easier stress-free process in applying to colleges with their help.”
    • “I’m not one of the kids that has someone at home to guide and help me through the application process, and everything that comes after. Without the help of Ms. Chan and Mrs. Thompson and the First Gen Club, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Ms. Chan and Mrs. Thompson are two of the most compassionate people I know and I appreciate their efforts beyond what words can describe.”



    Carol Thompson

    Carol Thompson Carol has been an educator for over 20 years and loves working with students of all ages. She holds a B.S. from San Francisco State and holds certificates in College Admissions and Career Planning through UC Berkeley Extension and Nonprofit Management through Harvard College Extension. 


    Carol has extensive experience with scholarships, assisting students to earn over $850,000 in free money, and coordinates workshops and presentations to share her knowledge. She is a regular speaker at YMCA’s YScholar events in the East Bay and presents to high schools and community groups about the journey to – and paying for – college. 


    Her passion is working with underrepresented students and families and serves as an interviewer for The Gates Scholarship. Carol is an enrolled member in The Chickasaw Nation, and loves to work with the Native American community, as well. She is active in her neighborhood, serving as a Planning Commissioner, serves on the boards of local organizations and is Co-Chair of the Eagle Board of Review for the Boy Scouts, Herms District. When Carol isn’t working, gardening or hiking, she thoroughly enjoys traveling the country, including tours to college campuses and visits with inspiring former students.



    Elaine Chan

    Elaine Chan After a successful career designing and managing customer research projects to improve product and services for high-tech firms, government agencies, and educational institutions, Elaine is now applying her research and customer-focused skills to help students access and succeed throughout college. Elaine holds an MBA from San Jose State University, and her professional work has been recognized by Dun and Bradstreet for providing excellent customer service.


    Elaine became interested in helping students through the complex college admissions process after volunteering at Berkeley High and seeing the varying level of need among the diverse student body. As the first in her own family to graduate from college and recalling her experience of having little guidance, Elaine felt compelled to help others navigate the complex process of career and college planning.  Since completing a certification program from UC Berkeley in College Admissions and Career Planning, Elaine has been helping students through what can be a stressful process. In addition to working for the Acalanes Union High School District, Elaine maintains a private practice in Berkeley. She also supports her Berkeley community as the coordinator for Berkeley High School's volunteer college essay reading team, and as a volunteer at both the YMCA's Y-Scholars Program in Berkeley and the East Bay College Fund in Oakland. In 2018, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling awarded an Imagine Grant to Elaine for a community-based project to educate youth about exploring career options and understanding affordable college options.



    Success Stories

    A male senior with a strong academic record, whose father passed away suddenly nearly two years ago and whose mother works as an in-home caregiver for elderly people, initially planned to apply only to Sac State and St. Mary’s. The student did not consider himself UC-eligible, nor did he understand the process for obtaining financial aid, and was prepared to take out high-interest bank loans to finance his education. With our guidance, he applied to a broader set of colleges. This student applied for and won a $3,000 scholarship from the Rotary Club of Walnut Creek for his senior project on minimizing air pollution. He was accepted to UC Merced. Prior to committing, the student wanted to attend an admitted student event and to visit the campus. With no family able to help, we accompanied him by Amtrak to an admitted student event and he learned how to use public transportation to get himself to and from UC Merced. We connected him to a 1st gen graduate from last year for peer support. The student is enthusiastic about the opportunities at Merced and is receiving enough financial aid and scholarship support to make his college journey possible.


    A female senior from Iran came to the US in her junior year. This student has a 3.75 GPA and is well versed in multiple languages. She has a passion for empowering women and girls and an interest in global studies or pre-law. This student sought guidance on extracurricular activities as well as developing her college list. We pointed her to a number of volunteer and job resources, and she found a job at Rossmoor as well as volunteer opportunities to educate youth about Persian culture. We also helped this student with her college and scholarship applications. To date, she has won a CAP scholarship and Rossmoor scholarship, valued at $28,000. This student will attend UC Santa Cruz.


    A senior male with a 3.5 GPA sought guidance with college applications and was initially focused only on applying to competitive UCs. As a pastor’s child, the student has spent most of his time outside school involved in church-related activities. Knowing that UCs want to see a high level of engagement from students as well as strong academic performance, we helped the student think about his key experiences and talents so that he could bring forth his strong individual qualities of service and caring in his personal insight question responses. This student also needed guidance interpreting his financial aid awards and understanding the nuances of subsidized versus unsubsidized loans and parent PLUS loans. We developed a spreadsheet outlining costs as well as the financial aid line items, spread over four years so that the student could compute different financial scenarios. With our guidance, the student has determined that UC Riverside is affordable for his family.