First-Generation College Students: Everything You Need to Know

First-generation college students are individuals whose parents or legal custodians have not obtained a bachelor’s degree. As such, they may not fully understand the guiding principles of higher education, as there’s no one to give them the requisite tips. These students typically come from poor backgrounds, which means they probably work and go to school; just to be able to pay for their schooling. Many of these students are members of minorities and lack the knowledge of how higher education works. They can’t get help from their parents and legal custodians as they have little to no experience navigating the monetary, academic, and cultural barriers to higher education. Starting from navigating the complex application process to not knowing where to get financial or academic help, first-generation college students have to face a lot of problems. Some of these students may sometimes feel socially isolated as well due to the elitism prevalent at several institutions.

As expected, the stresses of work-schooling begin to tell on them, and they often perform subpar compared to their classmates, and up to 90% of first-generation students end up remaining in school for more than six years! However, it shouldn’t be an uphill battle for these students.

To fulfill their academic objectives and succeed in college, first-generation students can do the following:

·         Take advantage of free resources: These students should talk to their guidance counselors and professors to know about what free resources they can use and leverage them. There are many such resources that will help them with financial aid, entrance exams, applications, etc. For instance, the IFSA Diversity Scholarship and the Choose Your Future Scholarship Fund are two of the scholarships first-generation college students can apply to. Some other useful resources include American Needs Yourself, RFY (Re-Imagining The First Year), and the YouTube channel named “I’m First.”

·         Leverage educational opportunity programs (EOPs): Many colleges offer these programs to bridge the gap between high school and college for first-generation students. Students can enroll in these programs and academic bootcamps to understand the course expectations and become equipped to meet them.

·         Learn the academia’s unwritten rules: First-generation students often lack the knowledge of how to interact with their professors, seek help from guidance counselors, utilize the college network, and navigate the unspoken campus rules. Many colleges run introductory programs to help them become familiar with these expectations. Such programs could also help students understand the college’s cultural setup, guard against impostor syndrome, and stay motivated to complete their degree.

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