Decoding College

Decoding College: Stories, Strategies, and Struggles of First-Generation College Students

by Kallie Clark

Decoding College: Stories, Strategies, and Struggles of First-Generation College Students is a slice-of-life, college exposure guide aimed at first-generation college students and their families. Decoding College provides a comprehensive guide to the basics of the college admissions, selection and enrollment processes while specifically focusing on issues unique to students of color, low-income students, and underrepresented students. Unlike the multitude of college guides available on the market today, Decoding College utilizes students’ first-person accounts of their journey to and through college to provide readers with fresh and vibrant illustrations of each concept. Decoding College doesn’t just tell the reader about college, it lets the reader live college vicariously through the experiences of real students on real college campuses. Some stories are inspirational and some are devastating, but each and every one offers an inside glimpse into the challenges, struggles, and successes of those who dare to be the first in their family to go to college.

“My parents don’t even make $17,000 a year…It felt like I was putting a puzzle piece…like I’m jamming it into a puzzle, and it obviously doesn’t work…I started to feel inadequate, like I couldn’t be at Culpepper—like I was only there because of Affirmative Action.”
“In our group, I was the athlete…So it was sports first and then education for me…My priority needed to be focusing on college, but I didn’t realize that until the end of my senior year. And then it hit, like, ‘Whoa, you didn’t get enough scholarships!’”
“Being a first generation college student, I see a lot of people only pay attention to how much the school is. My mom was against me going here, because it was $50,000 each year. But, I had faith, and my grandmother had faith, that if I wanted to go here I would make a way.”



“There are over 5,300 colleges in the United States. For all students, applying and selecting a college is a challenge. This task is even more daunting for first generation college students. Kallie Clark, drawing on her extensive experiences in urban high schools, presents the big picture of college choice, and provides a step-by-step guide that takes students through the college application process. This book is a valuable resource for educators, students, families, and anyone who wants access to materials that will engage students in effectively navigating college admissions.” —Melissa Roderick, Senior Director at the Chicago Consortium on School Research and founder of The University of Chicago’s Network for College Success

Kallie ClarkKallie Clark is currently a doctoral student, and Institute of Education Sciences Pre-doctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Kallie has an extensive background counseling first-generation, and low-income students as a postsecondary counselor, classroom teacher, and academic advisor. Before completing her master’s degree at the University of Chicago, Kallie worked for five years as a founding college counselor and classroom teacher with the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago.

Kallie’s research interests include the impact of institutional barriers and supports on the postsecondary outcomes for low-income, and marginalized youth.


  • 978-1-939054-76-0 (softcover, perfect binding)
  • 978-1-939054-86-9 (hardcover, case laminate)

Trim Size: 8.5″ x 11.0″

Pages: 198


  • Study Aids : College Guides
  • Study Aids : College Entrance
  • Education : Counseling – Academic Developments


  • High School (Textbook)
  • Young Adult (ages 14-18, grades 9-12)

Decoding College

Decoding College

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