From One First-Generation College Student To Another, Here Are 6 Tips To Help You Through Your First Year
Start writing a post

From One First-Generation College Student To Another, Here Are 6 Tips To Help You Through Your First Year

Coming into college as a first-generation college student, I felt a lot of pressure and uncertainty. Here's how to overcome the unpredictability of going to college when it's unchartered waters.

From One First-Generation College Student To Another, Here Are 6 Tips To Help You Through Your First Year
Matese Fields / Unsplash

Last summer, as I started to prepare for my first year of college, I realized that I completed the college admissions process almost entirely by myself. I had completed the essays and the applications for scholarships and honors programs by myself, navigating my way through the ins and outs of Common App.

It dawned on me that for the next four years, I was going to be alone in doing almost everything college-related because I was the first one in my family to do so. I found myself without a lot of the resources and connections that other students had. Nonetheless, within the first year of being a university student, I have been able to maneuver through the difficulties of being a first-gen. Here are some of my tips!

1. Find students that come from similar backgrounds and learn from each other

Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

This semester, I'm in an Intergroup Dialogue class and in the class, I often mention that I'm a first-generation college student, coming from a low-income family. This week was different for me though. As I was sharing my experience of having a small social network in college because I'm a first-gen, one of my peers agreed with me. Although she was just agreeing to my statement about how it's difficult to form connections in the world of university, where most of my family has never ventured, I felt affirmed in this part of my identity.

At my university, where the phrase "Daddy's Money" is used to describe students and the median family income of a student from the university is $119,000 and 54% come from the top 20 percent, I felt assured in my identity, knowing that at least someone in the class could relate. Finding someone you can relate to, whether you're a first-generation college student, someone from a low-income family, or a person of color, is incredibly important.

2. Seek out financial assistance and resources right away

NORTHFOLK / Unsplash

At my college job as a barista at a cafe under the campus library, I've been asked multiple times by my coworkers how I found the job during my first year. It's a niche part of campus, the entrance hidden on the side of the library and in the basement level. I recently looked back at when I applied and realized that I had applied four months before the fall semester even started.

Being proactive about potential job positions at college is essential, especially if you're a first-generation college student or come from a low-income household. I noticed that my university recently added a new Financial Wellness Center, which I think is a great resource for those seeking financial assistance. Actively looking for scholarship and grant opportunities is also crucial.

3. Get involved, but don't overwork yourself

William Fortunato / Pexels

In college, I think there's a fine line between grinding hard and overworking yourself. It's important to be active in college organizations, where you can gain potential leadership experience, get volunteer hours, and meet great people! But I would recommend recognizing the workload that comes with each organization, taking into account the expectations of each position you hold.

As a first-generation college student, you might be surprised with the amount of work you have to complete for your classes, nonetheless the potential positions you might gain through organizations. The work-life balance of college has to do with time management and your time commitments, you will find this balance through trial and error.

Personally, I leave my Fridays relatively open so I catch up on sleep and work ahead on assignments, readings, and organization commitments like research and planning. Leaving this time for yourself will benefit you in the future, so I recommend having an "off day" where you plan the week ahead and focus on any classes you're behind in.

Look into getting involved by going to career and organization fairs that showcase hundreds of organizations that you might be passionate about and interested in. As I mentioned before, getting job and internship experience is important, but so is being socially involved on campus. Build connections and have fun!

4. Take care of yourself

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

The pressure of being a first-generation college student can be overwhelming and burdening at times. By taking care of yourself and monitoring how your body and mind are feeling, you can overcome this hurdle. Going back to not overworking yourself, be able to recognize when you need to take a step back from certain situations or responsibilities. Make sure not to fall into the hole of burnout, the concept of becoming exhausted from overwork. Take breaks from your long hours of studying and focus on yourself!

5. Don't doubt yourself, be confident

Keira Burton / Pexels

I have fallen into this problem many times between this semester and last semester. Looking at your peers, it can be easy to doubt yourself and your abilities. But being confident in yourself is key in these situations. As a first-generation student, you must have worked hard to get into the university you are in at the moment, it's important to focus on the abilities you have developed over the years.

It's natural to feel nervousness when jumping into a new environment, one that can be so unknown to you and especially your family, but your ambition has brought you to this point. Your hard work has led to you being accepted into university and being the first in your family to do so, be confident that you can work through this as well! It's important to find a support network in this situation, for me, my family has been incredibly supportive and encouraging.

6. Your perspective matters, embrace it!

MoniQue Rangell-Onwuegbuzia / Unsplash

As I mentioned before, I have spoken about being a first-generation college student in one of my classes this semester. Many of my peers in this class have mentioned that they come from families who are of high socioeconomic class, that their parents have gone to college, and that they have their college tuition paid for.

By speaking out about your experiences, you can not only find connections with other students as I mentioned earlier, but you can change someone else's perspective. It's important to embrace this part of your identity, along with the other parts of your identity. By being proud of your identity, you'll be able to motivate yourself and others, as well as engage in your course schedule more effectively.

Though I can't sit in the front row of my classes (because they're virtual) I have found that as I became more comfortable in the university environment and as a first-generation student, I was able to participate more and engage more in discussions.

Being the first person in your family to attend a four-year university can be a daunting task, but seeking out helpful resources and connections throughout your college experience is crucial to your success. If you're going to apply to college soon or are entering your first year of college next semester as a first-generation student, I applaud you! Remember to look back on your hard work and let it empower you in the future.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Olivia White

"The American flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies from the last breath of each solider who died protecting it."

Keep Reading... Show less

Separation Anxiety in Pets

Separation anxiety in pets is a real thing and recognizing the warning signs is important.


Since March, Covid-19 required most of the world to quarantine in their homes. Majority of people ended up working from home for nearly five months. This meant pet owners were constantly with their pets giving them attention, playing with them, letting them out etc. Therefore, when the world slowly started to open up again and pet owners began returning to normal life work schedules away from the home, pet owners noticed a difference in the way their pet acted. Many pets develop separation anxiety especially during this crazy time when majority people were stuck inside barely leaving the house.

Keep Reading... Show less

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.


The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers


Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments