Guidelines for First Generation Students

Are you the first in your family to go to college? If so, then you are apart of the group of first generation students.

Being the first person in your family to go to colleges comes with many benefits, as well as a few downsides.

I, myself, am the first of my family to attend college. Being the oldest of three, I was raised with the thought of going to college was just suppose to happen, not so much an option. Although my parents did not go to college, they wanted their kids to fulfill something they never had.

Having parents that never went to college can come with some challenges.

  • Your parents may not understand your motives

This varies between individuals but since they didn’t go to college, they might question your career path and why it’s necessary to obtain a degree first. If they have a set career and didn’t have to go to college, they might be confused as to where you obtained your inspiration for what you want to become.

  • Your parents may not be able to give advice or emotional support during stressful times.

Having parents not understand the stress put on us during college is very inconvenient. Of course they want to help you in any way possible, but they might not understand or be capable of saying the right thing. This is something I can vouch for. My parents have always been confused as to why I am distant and on edge during finals week. They always try to call and chat but I’m simply too busy to do that.

It’s also very difficult when you come across a break down. I’m not saying this happens to every college student, but it does occur every now and then. I’m

one who did have a break down. It was at the point where I realized I hated my major and felt like there was no hope for switching it so late in my college career. I needed my mom and told her what was going on but it’s hard to seek advice from her about this subject when she truly doesn’t understand how college is.  The might underestimate the amount of homework, the exams, how the classes and professors are.

  • Your parents may not know how to seek financial aid.

Sure, you’re parents are familiar with taking out loans for things like houses, cars, etc. But this is school, a service. There are many other ways to find held to pay for college. They might not be familiar with financial aid, or FAFSA, or opportunities for their child to obtain scholarships.

  • Your parents may not be able to help through confusing processes

Going from living at home and attending high school to being on your own and being in a very stressful environment can be very confusing. It’s nice to have someone guide you and help you through this dramatic transformation into independence. Again, if your parents never went to college then they don’t know what to tell you with what to have in an dorm room, what to expect the first day of class, how to go about pursuing your major, and much more.

How to deal with this…

  • Communicate

This is very important. Your parents won’t know how college life is every day. They don’t understand what goes on in a classroom and how there are certain requirements. Talk to them and discuss what you are learning during your time there. Don’t assume they know everything about it because they don’t; they never got to live what you’re going through.

  • Don’t forget about them

Always make an effort to include them. This goes along with communication but there are certain times where they can physically be there. Have them come visit you during “Parent’s Weekend.” My parents did and we had a blast hanging out and going to the football game and showing them where I go and where I hang out. They will love to see where their child is every day.

And remember to always thank your parents.

  • Use School Sources

All colleges offer help for anyone. First generation students might need a little more guidance because they don’t have any family members to seek advice about this area. Advisors are there to help. There is no one I could be where I am today if I didn’t go to my advisor and ask questions because I hadn’t the slightest clue of what I was doing.

Some schools even have programs specifically for first generation students. I receive emails telling me advice about how to go about college in the first couple weeks. Don’t be scared to use these resources. It won’t make you seem stupid or dependent, you’ll thank yourself later for it.

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Gina Stolzman

Gina Stolzman

Gina Stolzman is a senior at University of Iowa pursuing degrees in Journalism and English. Having a passion for food, she loves cooking and visiting restaurants. Besides cooking, you’ll find her reading, catching up on TV shows, or hanging out with friends and family. She is an enthusiastic Chicago fan. She devotes herself to “da” Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox.