Neither of my parents went to college, not because they didn't want to, but because they were unable too.
When I began to look into college and deciding on universities, I began to feel so overwhelmed.
Not knowing how to fill out applications, scholarships, or the FAFSA, and seeing the cost just for tuition at universities I was a little worried that I may not even be able to attend college. My parents tried really hard to help me out with university applications, scholarships, and FAFSA, but they did not understand the applications, not only because they had not attended college, but also because English was not their first language. Which made it harder for them to help me. I don't blame them though, overall they are the reason I have even made it this far. I didn't give up, I began to do my own research and in the end was admitted into the University of my choice.
Trust me when I say I fully understand how scary, overwhelming, and time-consuming it is to figure out all the details in something this big. Don't let it scare you though.
Speaking from experience, being a first-generation college student and succeeding is possible.
So here's some advice from one first-generation college student to the next.
1. Before you go, plan, plan and plan some more
Make a list of universities you might be interested in, take into consideration the programs they offer, the cost of attendance, the location, and extracurricular activities they offer. If possible, visit the campus. You will be at this university for at least four years, you want to make sure you will enjoy it and it's the right fit for you.
2. Speak with your counselor
Get more information from them about the different options and opportunities you may have. Remember, you do not have to go straight to a four-year university. Community college and trade schools are an option as well, so look into it and ask. This is a new chapter in your life and you want to make sure to touch on all your options. Also make sure to ask about local scholarships, how to fill out college applications, and make sure to ask about FAFSA.
3. Apply, apply, and apply some more for scholarships
A lot of money goes untouched because students do not fill out scholarship applications. So be sure to fill them out, plus there are specific first-generation scholarships just for you so look into those and apply. More money, live better.
4. Be confident
Just because you do not have a background in the college realm does not mean you will flunk out. Be confident in your decision and be confident in yourself. You got this.
5. Realize that college is different from high school
You won't have anyone telling you to attend class, professors will not care if you show up, you won't have anyone nagging you to study for exams. This may sound ideal, but just remember you are paying a lot of money to attend. Be responsible, make the right move, surely have fun, but overall stay organized and on top of things. You are only affecting yourself and possibly your parents pocket if you decide to slack.
6. When you get there, because trust me, you will get there, don't doubt yourself
I know it can be hard, especially when you see your friends that have background knowledge of college and watch them breeze through. You obviously are just as smart if you are at this point in your life. Do not doubt that you will not be able to figure it out or that you will flunk out. In reality, everyone is a little afraid of college even if they have background knowledge of it. So be confident, ambitious, and stay positive. You are smarter than you think.
7. Seek academic support
Whether it be advisors, professors, or any other support services on campus. Don't be afraid to seek help whether it be in assignments, exams, study tips, or anything in between. There is no shame in utilizing these resources they are all there for YOU to utilize. Might as well since you are paying for it all anyway.
8. Choose a major you are passionate about
Try different classes, test the waters, don't just choose a major because someone has told you that it will make you big bucks. College is a time to find yourself and figure out what you personally are truly passionate about. You are more likely to succeed in a major that you are truly passionate about and will be more willing to put the time and commitment needed to achieve your degree.
9. Choose your friends wisely
Make sure you have fun and enjoy yourself in college, but be wise about who you surround yourself with. College friends are huge influencers be sure to surround yourself around those who are positive, goal-oriented, encourage you to do your best, and full-heartedly care about you.
10. Get involved
It is scary at first to start new and begin to make new friends, but getting involved in sports, clubs, internships, and so on can help you meet and network with many like-minded people. Not only that, but being involved looks great on your resume, plus will make your college experience that much more fun.
11. Embrace it
You're the first of your family to attend college and yes there is a lot of pressure to do well and succeed, but overall you set an example for your younger siblings and others that may be wanting to attend college. Be that positive role model and help others realize that they too are capable to achieve what they truly want to achieve in life.
12. Have fun, be bold, and enjoy this time
These are undoubtedly the most fun years yet!