Advice for First-Generation College Students
Being a first-generation college student is a huge accomplishment, Unlike your peers who are following in the footsteps of parents and grandparents before them, you are blazing a new trail. With that comes certain difficulties – and who do you turn to for advice? Because you're the first in your family to attend university, you have to find answers to your questions on your own. Today, we want to offer a few pieces of advice for first-generation college students!
Don't get discouraged.
This can be hard, but it's so important. It can be easy to feel like a sore thumb, and like you don't have a place on campus. Here's a little secret: deep down, everyone feels like that, whether they are first-generation or hundredth-generation. The first semester – heck, the first year – of college is often rocky. You earned your space in your class for good reason. Things will get easier, and you'll get stronger.
Rely on the resources provided to you.
There are people all over campus who want to help you. If you are struggling in a class, take advantage of your professor's office hours. If you aren't sure what classes you need to enroll in, go talk to your counselor. If you feel lonely, get involved in an organization on campus to create a feeling of community. It might not seem like it all the time, but there are people all around you that want you to succeed. You aren't doing this alone, and don't be afraid to ask for help!
Keep reminding yourself why you're there.
When you're in the trenches, studying at 3am for a 8am final, it can be hard to remember why you're doing it. Visualize walking across the stage at graduation and framing your college degree. Imagine getting your first post-grad job. Finally, remind yourself that one day, your own children will be able to lean on you as they navigate college themselves. Everything – every hour spent studying, every flashcard, every stressful midterm week – will lead to a priceless outcome.
Reach out to peers who are also first-generation.
This might be the most important piece of advice for first-generation college students. You are not the only one on campus! Put yourself out there and try hard to find friends, study partners, and classmates who are in the same boat. By creating a support system in this often crazy time, you'll feel empowered and supported. After all, they are the only ones who know what it's like to be a first-generation college student.
The website ImFirst.org is an online community for first-generation college students, and can offer plenty of wisdom and support.
Let go of guilt.
According to a study in the American Journal of Education, first-generation college students face a unique predicament called "breakaway guilt." While you likely enrolled in college to create a better future for you and your family, it's not uncommon to also feel isolated from your loved ones, and even guilty for abandoning them. You've chosen a new path, and it likely involves sacrifices from the people around you. It's crucial that you release that guilt and instead focus on the advantages you will have upon graduation.
To learn more about this breakaway guilt, check out this fantastic article from the Washington Post.