Tips for First Generation College Students

Published on September 19, 2016 by arothstein

All college students feel pressure to succeed. Perhaps no group of students feels this pressure more acutely than first generation college students. Regardless of the situation that led to a student’s relatives not obtaining a college degree, once a student with this background has enrolled, they feel an overwhelming sensation that if they fail, they are letting down their entire family. Instead of caving, there are many ways first generation college students can set themselves up for success and ensure that their journey ends with a degree:

When a student enrolls in college, and his parents and siblings have already been to college, he already has a basic understanding of the ropes. Through the experiences of his family members, he knows a little bit about financial aid, registering for classes, grading practices, professor expectations, etc. Anything he isn’t sure about, he can make one quick phone call and ask about. First generation students are entering another planet. They don’t know how any of these processes work. While colleges offer amazing support systems, first generation students can shy away from these. Don’t fall into that trap. Find a mentor, preferably before you begin classes. This person can be someone on campus, a recent graduate, or even a college graduate from another institution. The idea is to give you the same sounding board that students whose relatives have already matriculated have readily available.

The life experiences that you have had with parents who did not graduate from college are likely very different from the life experiences that other students have had. Instead of thinking of your background as a weakness, think of it as a strength. You will offer new perspectives on topics that you study and have a different outlook on life as a whole.

Again, if you are struggling with an assignment, but no one in your household has graduated from college, they may be unable to offer you assistance at the academic level where you are currently working. In that case, it is important that you reach out to your college for assistance. Virtually every college has a tutoring program or a list of tutoring resources available. Don’t fall behind out of pride. If you need help, ask for it.

Instead of sticking close to home and only visiting campus for classes, spend as much time on campus as possible. Immerse yourself in the full college experience. Join clubs. Make friends. Take trips. Take a work study job. Sign up for an internship. Make every second of your college career count.

Whether you have siblings or cousins that are old enough to start considering their plans for life, start encouraging them to consider obtaining a college degree. Spend time with them explaining how college has been a great experience for you and how it could change their lives. Soon, you will have a family full of college graduates.

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