You might be hearing the words “first generation college student” get thrown around a lot as you apply for colleges. According to Brown University, a first generation college student is a student whose parent(s) haven’t earned a college degree. This includes those whose parents attended college outside of the United States. Being one of the first in your family to attend college is a huge accomplishment. Attending college as a first generation student means progress for the family and a future full of opportunities. According to Northeastern University, 57% of college graduates have more job opportunities.
Being the first in your family to attend college, while exciting, can also be challenging. You are about to embark on a journey that no one in your family has been on and navigating it can be tricky.
Here are a few tips to help you adjust to your new and exciting life as a first generation college student!
Surround yourself with a support system
It can be isolating for a first generation college student to attend college. There are feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy. For this reason, it’s important for first generation college students to be aware of the support avenues that exist on their college campus.
Nearly every school has a campus organization designed specifically for first generation college students. These clubs typically put on events like potlucks, slam poetry nights, and more! It’s a great way for students with similar backgrounds to connect with each other. The University of Texas at Austin puts on events such as College Celebration Day for their first generation students to celebrate their successes.
Most first generation college students also come from international backgrounds. There are a plethora of clubs and organizations on campus for students of all backgrounds. Some examples are the Black Student Union and the Asian American Society. Wherever you are from there is likely a club for you.
First generation college students can often feel lonely or unsure of their path. They sometimes might feel “imposter syndrome” and like they don’t belong. On-campus counseling is a great resource for someone who needs someone to talk to.
Take advantage of financial aid
Oftentimes first generation college students (and college students in general) are intimidated by the sticker price* of attending college. Getting a degree can be expensive but there are many financial opportunities available.
Ask for help when you need it
College classes can be difficult. Between homework, essays, a job, and trying to maintain a social life, college can be overwhelming. College campuses are overflowing with help centers for first generation college students. Asking for help is the first step.
The biggest piece of advice that can be given to first generation college students is kind of cliche but important. Do your best. This is new territory for you and giving yourself room to grow and make mistakes is the best way to learn. There is no secret formula to success for college students. But if you use the resources available to you, prepare ahead for your classes, and have a strong support system around you, success is in your future.
Be proud of yourself. You’re the first in your family to go to college. This comes with inevitable uncertainties but, should also be a time for self-exploration, fun, and excitement.