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8 Tips for First-Gen College Students

It’s not easy being the first in your family to attend college. There’s extra pressure because you’re trying to make your parents proud while working toward a bright future. After gaining acceptance into college, you may not even know where to begin. The following tips for first-gen college students will help you overcome challenges and put yourself in the best position for success!

8 Tips: Advice for First-Generation College Students

If you’re a first-generation student, then you know college can be a challenging time. With parents and grandparents who never went to college, you don’t have anyone to easily turn to for guidance when it comes to school. You’re carving a brand new path on your own!

These eight tips can steer you in the right direction to make the most out of your higher education experience:

  1. Visit Your School’s Academic Success Center

Your school’s academic success center is one of the best resources available to you as a first-generation college student. It’s not only a place where you go to get help with homework—it’s a place that will teach you how to complete assignments and get help when you need it.

Trained professionals work effectively with students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or who don’t speak English as their first language. They are also aware of strategies that benefit students from all backgrounds. So if something doesn’t work for one person, they can try another approach.

Many academic success centers offer free tutoring sessions on anything from writing papers for classes to mathematics. Whatever you’re struggling with, you can get on the right track here.

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  1. Talk to an Advisor

Advisors can assist with the college application process, financial aid decisions, and scheduling classes. They have been working at the university for years and know the ins and outs of everything from orientations to graduation requirements. Unsure of something? Ask an advisor. They can quickly become your best friend in college.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

When you’re first starting college, the sense of loneliness can be overwhelming. There’s so much to learn and so many things to figure out. It can feel like no one has time to help you through this process. But the truth is, your friends, classmates, and professors are ready to lend a hand—you just need to ask.

First-gen students may find it daunting to ask for help because they’re used to doing everything on their own. But asking for help is not only okay—it’s necessary. Here are some pointers on how to find the right people to seek guidance from:

  • Ask friends who have been in college longer than you about their experiences with professors or classes. They will advise you on which classes to take and which to avoid, based on their own experiences.
  • You’ll meet new people as you take classes for your degree. If you’re a freshman, introduce yourself to a junior or senior. Sometimes, striking up a conversation is all it takes to find your mentor.
  • Attend office hours to meet your professors personally and make sure you’re staying on top of coursework.
  1. Take Care of Yourself

There’s no denying that college is stressful at times. As a first-generation student, it’s easy to get caught up in the new responsibilities and challenges you’ve never faced before. But don’t forget to slow down sometimes and take care of yourself. Remember, it’s impossible to perform well in school without optimal health.

Here are five easy ways to practice self-love and care:

  • Take breaks when you need them.
  • Make time for people and activities that bring you joy.
  • Enjoy fresh air and sunshine daily.
  • Get eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Treat yourself to a healthy meal.

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  1. Connect with Professors Early On

It’s imperative to get to know your professors—and the sooner you do it, the better. This is especially true if you plan on asking for a recommendation letter later. Professors are excellent resources when it comes time to apply for jobs. They can also keep you accountable as you progress through school. Having a solid relationship with your professors can help you succeed in and out of college.

  1. Find a Mentor

Find your place at school with a mentor. Mentors could be anyone from a professor, advisor, and/or other students who have been through what you’re experiencing and can offer support. Seek someone that understands the challenges that come with being a first-gen college student, as this person will be able to relate to you.

  1. Apply for First-Generation Student Scholarships

Did you know that there are scholarships just for first-generation college students? Find them online on websites like Scholarships.com and at your school’s financial aid office. Scholarships are an amazing way to cover tuition costs since they can range from $500 to $5,000 or more depending on the scholarship provider. Each scholarship has different requirements. Some scholarships require applicants to have good grades and test scores, while others may request a personal essay.

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  1. Join Relevant School Groups

By joining school groups, you can see fresh faces and find your family in college. This can be comforting for first-gen students who may not feel at home on campus. Clubs provide stellar opportunities to meet people just like you—first-gen students trying to maneuver each day at school.

With countless clubs to choose from, there’s bound to be one or two that speak to you. For example, you may enjoy joining an Asian Culture Club (or something similar) if you grew up in a traditional Asian family. Before you know it, you’ll bond with others over similar music tastes, food preferences, languages, and shared struggles.

On the Road to Success as a First-Gen College Student

Everyone’s college experience is unique. But, by being aware of common challenges and reaching out for help when you need it, you can successfully navigate college life as a first-gen student. You deserve to be successful in school and beyond!

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