This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
I’m proud to say that I was the first in my family to graduate from college. Being a first-generation college student from the West Side of Chicago, Ill. was tough; however, there are things I learned through the process that I have been able to pass down to my siblings and the young people in my community. I can think of plenty of important things a first-generation college student can do to plan for college, but eight really stick out to me.
1. Make a high GPA a goal your first year. It is important to enter college knowing that your first semester can either make you academically or break you, if you don’t take it seriously. Attend class and turn in assignments regularly to start college off right.
2. Meet with your professors and/or teaching assistants. This will help you with your assignments and is also a great networking opportunity. In the future, college professors can prove to be great references for educational and career aspirations.
3. Get involved in organizations on campus that interest you. Don’t overdo it–just look into joining at least one your first semester to help you get out and get to know people.
4. Open a savings account the summer before you start school, and create a realistic monthly deposit plan. If you’re not sure about how to go about doing this, reach out to a banking specialist and talk to them about your financial goals. They will help you set up with a plan.
5. Use campus resources! Find a program for first-generation students sponsored by the university, such as student support services. This will help you academically, socially, emotionally and even financially.
6. Meet with your adviser at least once every three weeks! It will be important for you to check in with an adviser about classes and campus life. Having regular meetings will keep you accountable for your grades.
7. Try to achieve perfect time management and balance. In college, time can be your friend or your enemy. The way to be successful is to manage time and prioritize. If you don’t know how to manage your time well, reach out to your adviser or the campus student resource center for assistance.
8. Share your college life with your family and friends. Since your parents didn’t attend college, they probably don’t know what your college life is like. In addition, friendships often become distant because of a lack of understanding about what it means to have a friend in college. Share with your family and friends what activities you’re involved in and what classes you are taking. You can even bring them to campus one weekend to experience college.
BONUS TIP: Study HARDER … PLAY LESS! We all want to have a good time. Get your work done first and use that good time as a reward for studying. Once you have taken care of business, then treat yourself to a party or social event for your hard work. Remember that you have four years to party, so don’t waste it all in one semester!