This article is published in the 2014 I’m First Guide to College
Being the first person in your family to go to college is a pretty amazing accomplishment. It’s a new journey. As you prepare to step foot on campus, you’ll experience a whirlwind of emotions.
Excitement. Nervousness. Joy. Hesitation. And that’s cool. Those feelings are completely natural. Let’s be honest. No one really preps you for how to maneuver the college life, especially as a first-generation college student. As you transition from being a high school student to a first-generation college student, you don’t have the opportunity to ask your mom or dad what their college experiences were like and what to look out for. That doesn’t mean that you are at a disadvantage. It just means you will have to work a bit harder to make sure you get the support you need. You will inevitably face some obstacles and hiccups along the way, but the right support systems are there on campus, and it’s in your best interest to find and use them! Here are some tips for taking advantage support on campus:
Identify Supports Early
Most colleges and universities have support systems and programs designed to help first-generation college students (and other populations) acclimate to the college life, assist you academically, socially, professionally, emotionally, and mentally, and help you persist to graduation. Seek out these programs and resources as you’re researching and applying to college. Don’t wait until you show up on campus to figure out what supports are available. All of the colleges and universities on this website have these programs.
Leave No Stone Unturned
So, your school doesn’t have a support program specific to first-generation students? No worries. You can definitely find support elsewhere! You know your amazing Into to Philosophy professor who you think is the smartest person on earth? She may have been first in her family to graduate from college. You never know unless you ask! Be sure to talk to your professors and seek out their encouragement and advice about what college was like for them and how they dealt with certain issues.
Lean on Your Peers
Okay, so maybe you are freaking out about not being able to register for that 8 a.m. class you really wanted and you have no idea what to do next. Chances are, if you call home your family won’t understand where you are coming from, and you may not feel comfortable venting to a professor. This is where making friends comes into play! Being able to connect with other students who are also first-generation (and maybe from the same city, state, region, etc you’re from) will give you an outlet and a peer support group. You’ll have a place to vent to peers who are facing the same struggles and obstacles as you and can help come up with solutions to your unique challenges as first-generation college students. As a first-generation college student—just like any college student—you will have ups and downs. There will be days when you question if college right for you. However, if you surround yourself with the right supports, handling the ups and downs and the second guessing will be a lot more manageable. Remember, take advantage!