5 Tips for First Generation College Students
The decision to go to college is a big one with a plethora of unknowns and variables. Just beginning to think about continuing your education raises so many questions. Where will I go? What will I study? What type of school do I want? And once you answer all these questions, take tests, write essays, and finally send in your application, you should feel relief. But then, a whole new storm of questions starts to fill your mind. Will I get accepted? How will I pay? Do I want to move away from home? Then when you get there, even more questions join the queue.
As a first-generation college student it can be overwhelming trying to seek out the answers to all the questions that you and your family might have. Preparing and succeeding in college with no reference point and little resources on how to do so seems impossible, but others have done it. I spoke to a first-generation student, and these are the things they wished someone would have told them about college.
1. Not everyone who enters college is a genius.
College isn’t for smart people; it’s for people who want to learn. College, while at a higher level of rigor and content, is just school at the end of the day. If everyone was already amazingly brilliant and perfect, they wouldn’t need to come to an educational institution. You’re not the only person here who has something to learn.
2. Go seek help as soon as possible.
There is help everywhere. Whether it’s office hours, peer tutoring, or online resources, there are a million ways to get help when it comes to your classes. When it comes to things like homesickness or adjusting to new social atmosphere, there are Resident Advisors, teachers, on-campus counselors, librarians, or cafeteria workers who can lead an ear and some good advice. Never be afraid to ask for it.
3. Internships are so important after sophomore and junior year for work experience.
Truthfully, college isn’t just about doing another four years of school. It’s about preparing you for the workforce and for specialized jobs in specialized fields. Make sure to start getting practice early so that you can stand out to employers and put what you learn in the classroom to use.
4. Start paying off your student loans immediately.
If you can, pay off your interest while you’re still in school. If you or your parents have taken out loans to fund your education, many don’t require you to begin paying them back until shortly after graduation. However, since the interest begins growing the second you step off the stage, it’s best to begin paying it down while it’s still stagnant. This helps you pay less in the long run.
5. If you feel unprepared for college, but you still want to go, start at community college.
You need to be an independent learner, disciplined studier, and be able to advocate for yourself. It doesn’t mean you’re dumb. Plus, you’ll save money!
One of the worst things you can do is college is waste time, because time is money and college is quite expensive. If you feel that your high school didn’t prepare you educationally or that you aren’t mature enough, jumping into a four year college may hurt more than it helps. Make sure you take your education at your own pace and never feel bad about making decisions that benefit you mentally and financially.
Being the first in your family to go to college is as big an accomplishment as it is a challenge. It’s a chance for you to not only collect valuable skills and lessons that will benefit you as an individual and in the workplace, but it also is a place to grow and mature in ways that are unique.
While the daunting task, the lack of guidance, and the feeling of isolation when it comes to your struggles can be discouraging, don’t quit! Remember why you came and think of those who you will be setting an example for. Look forward to the ways in which you will be able to repay your family and share your knowledge with them. And most importantly, believe in yourself and keep going, even when you have no idea what lies ahead. The reward is priceless.