As a first-gen student, you face expectations unlike any other. You’re trying to figure out how to make your parents proud, how to make new friends, how to live on your own for the first time. There’s no denying it’s tough, so we want to make it a little easier.
Get ready for campus life by reading our five tips for being a first-generation college student below.
1. Apply for Scholarships
If you’re a first-generation college student, you may have additional financial stressors others don’t. Thankfully, there are great scholarships out there specifically for you — and plenty are offered by former first-gen students.
Jasdeep Singh created a scholarship in honor of his parents, who valued education and helped their son through secondary schooling. Apply to as many of these opportunities as you can to help alleviate the financial burden college places on you.
2. Get Involved
College isn’t just about locking yourself in your dorm and studying — it’s a time to have fun and discover yourself.
Joining clubs, attending school events, and participating in campus activities will help you feel more at home. Fostering your social life is almost as important as handling the academic side of things (just ensure you find a nice balance).
3. Understand Your Limits
Chances are, you’re on your own for the first time. You’re away from your routine and juggling a schedule that revolves solely around you. There’s no denying it’s difficult figuring out what and who to prioritize.
The trick is to prioritize your physical and mental well-being. This may mean saying no, denying an extra project, or opting out of a social situation. Burnout is very, very real, and taking on too much puts you at risk.
4. Assess Your Study Habits
Don’t base your study habits on those around you. Your roommate may be able to absorb all their info from the lecture alone, leaving him plenty of time to party. But that doesn’t mean your brain works the same way.
In your first semester especially, take the time to determine what method of studying works best. You may have solidified certain habits in high school, but as college coursework is more involved and requires advanced understanding, your study sessions will need to keep up.
Some people with connections — they’re legacies, their parents were in a particular sorority or frat, etc. — and some don’t. If you’re a first-gen student, there’s a high chance you’re in the latter group. But don’t panic; college is the perfect way to make the connections you need.
Picture-perfect academics isn’t the only way to jumpstart your career. A 2016 survey concluded 85% of jobs are filled because of networking.
So, don’t be afraid to attending dedicated networking events. Have that elevator pitch in your back pocket. And, for the love of all things good, take advantage of your professor’s office hours! Before you know it, these foundational relationships may present you with a career path.
Final Thoughts & A Bonus Tip
It’s time to let go of the expectations you think others have of you. College is a time to discover your interests and explore potential career fields you’ve never thought possible. So, meet new people, join fun clubs, and explore your hobbies in full.
It’s challenging to decide what you want to do at 18, even more so when you feel the pressure to make your family proud. But chances are, they already are. Use this opportunity for yourself and see what the future holds.