Best Advice For First Generation College Students: 13 Tips
First generation college students are in unique positions as they start their studies. That’s true from both academic and personal standpoints. They have resources available financially that other students and perhaps their own family members never had. At the same time, they have the pressure of living up to familial and self-expectations.
It’s not an easy place to be in, but it can certainly be an exciting one. In the following article, we share 13 tips for first generation college students who want to make the most of their college experience. Let’s begin!
1. Know Where to Find Academic Resources
Academic resources can be found in a lot of different places, but the most obvious place to look is the university or college where you’re getting your degree. Most universities, especially in the US, have online databases that have access to a lot of academic journals and magazines that are usually only available to students or professors.
You don’t want to just google stuff, because then you’re just getting random information from random people on the internet. You need to know exactly what’s available to you, so you can find the best sources of information.
2. Be Proud of What You Have Accomplished
It’s not easy being the first in your family to go to college. Some family members might start to feel uncomfortable around you or look at you differently. They could assign negative traits to you that aren’t really there simply out of their insecurities. Don’t let it get to you.
Take a moment as you start your university run to appreciate all you’ve been through to get where you are. You might even think about rewarding yourself in some way as a proverbial pat on the back. Not many people are able to do what you’re doing, so be proud of it.
3. But Do Not Be Satisfied
There’s a thin line between being proud of one’s achievements and being complacent in your journey. You want the former, but avoid the latter at all costs. Complacency is how you cease to grow. When you’re not growing, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re going to find it extremely difficult to get out of college with your degree.
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to set goals for yourself. You should have short-term goals that you can achieve in a relatively short period of time, and long-term goals that you can work towards over the span of a few months or even years.
4. Find Your Accountability Buddies
The best way to hold yourself accountable is to tell someone. When you tell someone about your goal, you’re committing to them that you’re going to achieve it. It’s much harder to let someone down than it is to let yourself down.
So tell one friend, your partner, or your parents. The easiest way is to get someone to hold you accountable for your actions. Sometimes the best way to do this is to get someone else involved in whatever you’re trying to do.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, try getting someone to go on a diet with you. Unfortunately, there are times when you can’t find an accountability buddy and you’re forced to go it alone. That’s fine. You’ll just need to start a rewards system to keep yourself motivated.
5. Seek Out Financial Resources
If you’re a first-time college student, there are a number of federal and state grants and loans available to help you pay for school. The College Board estimates that the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year college is $9,410. That can be hard to come by if you’re the first in your family to attempt higher education.
Scholarships are a great way to cover the costs of your college education and can also be a great way to help you stand out from the crowd. There are a number of student loan and financial aid programs available to help you to fund your college education. The first place to start is to visit your school’s financial aid office. You also might look for specialty scholarships or grants in your community, state, or field of interest.
6. Be a Citizen of Your School
There’s a saying that goes “A rolling stone gathers no moss” and this is extremely true when it comes to college. In terms of getting involved, this is very true. And really, it all depends on your interests. There are so many different clubs and organizations to get involved in at college. If you’re a business student, you may want to get involved in the business club or start your own business club.
If you like writing, then check out the different writing clubs and find one that seems like a good fit. The best place to start looking is on your school website. You can usually find a list of all the clubs and organizations a few clicks away from the homepage. It’s a good idea to check out all the different clubs and organizations, even if you don’t know what you’re looking for yet.
7. Manage Your Schedule
It’s important to find a schedule that works for you and your body. That might mean waking up early, taking a nap in the afternoon, taking time to exercise, taking time to relax, or any other combination of things that gives you the results you’re looking for.
It’s important to find a schedule that works for you and your body. That might mean waking up early, taking a nap in the afternoon, taking time to exercise, taking time to relax, or any other combination of things that works for you. Most students have some kind of system for managing their time. One of the most popular methods is Kanban, which works by categorizing tasks into three columns: To-Do, In-Progress, and Done. It helps students focus on what they have to do at any given moment and not get distracted by anything else.
8. Know Your Risk Tolerance
Risk tolerance is different for everyone. Don’t try to make decisions based on how someone else does it. They might be more comfortable taking bigger risks because they might have less to lose or a loss won’t affect them as deeply as it will you. If you’re a first-time college student, you should tread cautiously.
There are many financial predators looking for students to apply for credit cards or enter payment plans. Friends might try convincing you to sink all your tuition money into Bitcoin or some other volatile investment. Don’t be swayed. Be true to yourself, and make smart decisions with your money, time, and energy.
9. Take Time Picking a Major
You’re definitely not the only person starting college without a major. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know what they want to do with their lives until they graduate college. Figure out what you love, what you’re good at, and what you’re passionate about. Your major may be a combination of all three of these things or it may be just one, but they’re all important when it comes to figuring out what you want to do with your life. You can always change your major. It’s not a huge deal.
According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, only about a third of students have picked their majors by the time they’re a sophomore. If you’ve gone through high school and are about to enter college or university and don’t know what you want to study, it’s perfectly OK to not have a major. It’s important to know that the major you choose has nothing to do with how successful you’re going to be in your career.
Your major has to do with your interests. Some of the most successful people in the world are doing jobs that have nothing to do with their college majors. You may want to explore your options before you make a major decision. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case your first choice doesn’t work out. For example, if you’re a communications major, you might want to take some computer classes or business classes as well.
10. Live By Budgeting
The most important thing to do is to stay on top of your finances and get organized from the beginning. Don’t wait until the end of the month to figure out how much money you have left.
Make a list of all of the things you want to do and all of the things you want to buy. Make sure you’re realistic about the things you want to accomplish and the money you have to do it with.
If you’re a first-time college student, then the best financial advice is to keep your expenses low. College students are at a great advantage because they don’t have rent, they don’t have car payments, and they don’t have a mortgage. It’s best to keep it that way for as long as possible and to not finance anything.
11. Squash Your Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome is very real. You end up convincing yourself you’re not good enough to play at the level that you’ve been able to rise to. How ridiculous is that? You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t capable of it!
It’s important to note that opportunities change over time, so you being the first to go to college in your family in no way means that other family members you have weren’t capable of it. They just chose different paths or had fewer opportunities available to them.
To sum up, you belong here! You have what it takes inside your skull to start, excel, and finish college. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, including yourself!
12. Ask Plenty of Questions
One way to break through the things you don’t know and the self-doubts that you’re harboring is to ask plenty of questions both inside and outside the classroom. Be bold about it. The chances are very likely that others in your class have the same questions you do, including third- and fourth-generation college students.
The only way that you can grow and learn is to confront the questions that you don’t know and to internalize those answers for future use. So, whether it’s a question you have about a homework assignment, upcoming test, financial aid, or some other aspect of student life, find people to guide you and get you the answers you’re seeking.
13. Pick Your Tribe
You could probably make it through college as a total longer, but you aren’t likely to have a lot of fun doing it. Be outgoing. Be willing to engage. Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, and you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to do so.
But you’re not just doing it to do it either. All of us, from the most outgoing extrovert to the most extreme introvert, needs to be able to function in and with the world around us. When you go beyond your comfort zone, making friends and acquaintances and learning how to deal diplomatically with your enemies (God forbid you have any), you’re learning a soft skill that will be ever-so-valuable in life and work.
Therefore, make it a priority to pick out the people in your tribe. Introduce yourself. Shake hands, bump elbows, or ask them about themselves and truly listen to them. This will help you grow your network, which is one of the most valuable things you can have as a human being.
First Generation College Students Are As Good As Any
We hope these tips will help you if you’re among the first generation college students starting university next fall. If you’re not, feel free to send them to someone you know who is or has a family member who will be. We want the best for you all. Good luck, and have a great summer!
[Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons]