Finding Success in College as a First Generation College Student
Make the most of college with first generation college tips.
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
February 01, 2018
As a first generation college student, you may experience somewhat of a culture shock when you set foot on a college campus for the first time your freshman year. But do you want to know a little secret? You’re not the only one.
The collegiate life is a transition for everyone, but as a first generation college student, you may not have the same insights and support as students with parents and siblings that attended college. By taking a few extra steps when you start your college career, you can acclimate to college life just as easily as the other students.
1. Seek out student resources. Though college may be the first time you’re technically alone – or without your parents and family – you’ll quickly find that you’re the farthest thing from alone. There are a variety of resources, faculty and staff available to help you at a moment’s notice. If you’re struggling academically, seek out free tutoring services or meet one-on-one with your professor or teaching assistant.
If there’s an issue with our dorm or roommate, meet with the housing department to talk over any problems or difficulties you may be having. The student life department can also counsel you on all of the ways the campus can best serve you, from activities to get involved in to utilizing campus services like the health center or counselors. While all of these resources are available to you, it’s on you to take action and make them work for you.
2. Make sense of your financial aid. Sometime at the beginning of your college career, make an appointment with a financial aid officer to go over your financial aid package. It’s important that you have a very good understanding of how much of your package is grants, scholarships and work study as well as how much of your package is student loans. With the financial aid officer, you’ll be able to see if and how much student loan debt you may have after graduation.
At the same time, you can talk about financial opportunities that are exclusive to first generation college students. Your financial aid officer may have insight into scholarships and grants that you may not be aware of that can help pay for school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s vital that you are well informed of the financial impact your education will have on you while you’re in school in addition to after school.
3. Get involved on campus. As a college freshman, you have to put yourself out there in ways that you may never have before. Fortunately, colleges make it very easy. You’ll notice during your first few weeks on campus that there are meeting “call-outs” posted all over the place. If you see a club or organization that you’re interested in, attend their first meeting and see if it’s right for you.
Colleges also host activity fairs that feature the hundreds of organizations that gather on campus. Each organization has a table or booth, and you can meet students that participate in those activities.
4. Be proactive about finding your place. Like any college student, your first few weeks of college are going to require you to step outside of your comfort zone. That means saying “yes” to invites to dinner from dorm mates or going to organization call-out meetings alone.
It may take a while to find your true friends as well as a stable support system on campus, but the only way you’ll ever find them is to get out of your room and meet new people. You’ll also find that the deeper the relationships, the more you’ll find you can connect over the transition from high school to college – regardless of whether or not your new friends are first generation college students too.
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