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8 Tips for First Generation College Students Wanting to Survive College & Graduate

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Graduating from college puts a lot of pressure upon young adults. There’s an underlying intimidation in this idea of “becoming an adult.” But for those students who are the first in their family to even attend college; this pressure seems to be exemplified. It often turns into more than an individual journey but a collective experience for the entire family which adds additional pressure on these first generation college students.

Most times, being a first generation college student isn’t easy. There is no path forged for them, they do not have family members to learn from, and they have a continuous internal and external pressure to succeed. This can become overwhelming and cause first generation students to have a negative experience in college.

In order to soften the first-generation college student’s transition, we have come up with 8 tips for first generation college students wanting to survive college and graduate.

  • Office of Student Life

Most universities have taken it upon themselves to create a program focused on first-generation college students. Students must do research ahead of time and see if their university has something similar. If not, the next best step is the Office of Student Life. They will have the resources and knowledge to connect students with the right program, professors, and peers.

  • Research available resources

Big undertakings for first-generation college students are the financial burdens. It is important to do in-depth research on financial, emotional, and intellectual programs that are offered. Many times, there will be scholarships for first-generation college students, programs focused on the success of these students, and support groups for similar students.

  • Build relationships with Professors

If professors are given the platform, they will be a student’s biggest advocate and it is even more important for first-generation college students to provide this platform. By building a relationship with each professor from the start of the semester, these professors will root for students even when they aren’t grasping it. As long as they are trying their hardest and giving assignments their all, more often than not, professors will work closely with students to help them succeed.

  • Find a mentor

Whether this is a tutor, a peer, or a graduate assistant, being able to build a solid relationship with an older student helps build a solid support system for the first-generation college student. These types of relationships provide first hand advice and tactics for maneuvering through the college lifestyle. But students must be mindful that a mentor and mentee relationship takes continuous effort. Students must find someone who balances out their interests and aspirations. Someone that challenges yet supports them. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for first-generation college students to look into a mentorship program that is already in place by the university.

  • Get involved in campus organizations

As a first-generation college student, building a solid support system is incredibly important. The best way to do this is by joining various campus organizations. The college experience is much more than just the educational experience. This is an opportunity for students to build lifelong relationships and friendships and it starts early on. By joining a campus organization, students have the opportunity to meet and foster relationships with peers who have similar interests. For first-generation college students, this is especially important, for it gives them people to push them and fall back on when they don’t believe they can succeed. Having others root for them is one of their biggest motivators. Plus, it provides students with additional opportunities to network and learn skills they haven’t needed in their life thus far.

  • Take preparatory courses

In addition to general education courses that are offered for each major, it is a good idea for first-generation college students to take additional preparatory courses. These can be classes focused on interview skills, communication techniques, personal finance, entrepreneurship, and more. Even if these courses don’t follow a student’s major, they are important for their successes throughout college and thereafter, especially for first-generation college students who may not have been taught these skills while growing up.

  • Build relationships with alumni

As touched on in sections 4 and 5, a student’s support system can make or break their college experience. And in addition to campus organizations and mentors, college alumni make for some of the best support. College alumni have already experienced most of what current students are going through and also have a bit of knowledge from their post-college experience to help forge a path for college students. This is especially helpful for first-generation college students who may not have yet experienced such guidance.

  • Capitalize on the skills they currently possess

First-generation college students must give themselves credit. They have made it to this point in their life because they are capable and willing. If it weren’t for the skills they have learned in their past 18 years, they wouldn’t be where they are. Whether it’s their writing, the speeches they deliver, their emotional intelligence, or networking intuition, they have certain skills that they already possess that will help them navigate throughout college. It’s important the first-generation college students hone in on these skills and use them to succeed.

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