For most people, college is just another step in their life. They knew from an early age they were going and had their parents/grandparents/etc to encourage them and help them complete all steps needed to get there. When these students get to college, their parents know what it is like, because they were once there. They know the stress classes bring, the pressures of joining organizations, and the urge to make new relationships. They understand it is a big step in growing up, learning to be on your own, and becoming independent.
This is not the case for first-generation college students. Our parent/s are just as clueless as we are. They have no idea what a syllabus, RA, or credit hours are. They are unaware that we will spend countless numbers of hours studying for just one class a day. They are unaware we will have outside responsibilities with the organizations we are a part of. They are unaware of resources campus’ provide for students (writing centers, printing dollars, free counseling, etc).
Being a first-generation college student has another stress factor added that other students do not have to experience. As the FIRST in your family to make it here, you want to go above and beyond expectations to prove you belong here. This turns you into a high-achiever that can sometimes be stressful when you want that B+ to be an A- or you spend a few more hours on a paper to make sure it is an A+. You put in more work than an average student to prove yourself.
Some of us first-generation students might start to panic, and we cannot always turn to our family for help. At the beginning of this semester, I was not achieving the grades I should have been. I was telling this to my mom, explaining to her how I was not able to motivate myself for some odd reason. Her response was, “you better raise those grades to all A’s.” Since she did not go to college she could not relate to what I was going through and did not know what else to tell me. She only knows that she wants me to do the best I can. Eventually, I found the motivation to get on the right track and the inspiration to write this article to share
5 tips to other first-generation college students who, at some point, will feel clueless, helpless, and confused. This advice might not relate to everyone, but it has been proven helpful in my personal experience:
Do NOT work unless you must. I know you might be used to always working to provide for yourselves and your family, but college is A LOT different than high school. College, alone, is a job; to do your best at the job, we need all the time possible dedicated to our studies. Juggling a job, relationships, schoolwork, and you-time are almost impossible! If you have extra financial aid, budget it! Get your books, save some, then budget the rest to the bare minimum you’ll need each month. You can always work on breaks throughout the year and save that for when you are in school! You do not need to live the lavish lifestyle in college, you will get to live comfortably after you begin your career! Then you can reminisce on the good ol’ days of running out of toilet paper, wearing dirty clothes, and using dish detergent sparingly. An extra job will add unnecessary stress to your already stressful life!
Join CLUBS AND STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS! Clubs and student organizations are a fantastic way to form relationships, to grow personally, and to perfect your resumes. Colleges offer a variety of clubs and even allow you to create your own with basic requirements, so you should easily find a club you like! I would start with joining just ONE. The reason I say one is they do involve extra time, and you do not want to overwhelm yourself. You can always join another club if you realize you have the extra time to do so. I am in Guarantee Council and interning for Guarantee. This takes up a lot of time, so I do not have time for another club. However, everyone is different. There are superhumans out there that can effectively manage school, a social life, and clubs very well! If you are one of those people, join as many clubs as your body and mind can handle!
Go HOME when you need too! Personally, I had some friends who would criticize me for wanting to go home a lot. Now, you do not need to go EVERY weekend, because college is about growing and gaining independence. However, once or twice a month is good if it works for you! I am extremely close with my family. Especially my mom, brothers, grandparents, and certain cousins. If I do not go home at LEAST once a month I will have an emotional breakdown. For me personally, when I go home I get refreshed, and reminded of why I am in college. This keeps me motivated to achieve the highest success I can.
Find a SUPPORT system on campus! We are special being Guarantee Scholars in the sense that we already have a support system here for us! If you do not feel comfortable with other scholars or staff, you should find another support system. Yes, family is there, but sometimes with distance, there can be conflicts with family. Mom and/or Dad may want you to come home more, and make you feel bad if you don’t. With a support system, they can help you with situations family can’t. Especially with classes; a family who has not been to college cannot give you effective advice because they never went through what you’re going through. Therefore, you NEED a support system! Such as Guarantee 🙂
Do not be afraid to GROW! Test your potential. This is an important step in your life. You are discovering who you are, without the pressure of family and friends telling you who to be. If you have always been into fashion, but your high school did not encourage or offer anything dealing with fashion, now is the time to see your potential as a fashion designer! Join a club, take some classes, attend workshops, and talk to directors or professors in the program. Never refuse an opportunity (unless it is something you are in no way at all interested in). You never know what each opportunity has in store for you! Learning comes in different shapes and forms. One small workshop could inspire you to write a book! One internship could inspire you to be a doctor! You never know unless you give yourself the opportunity to GROW.