First Generation College Students - 5 Tips for Success


You did it! You have graduated from high school, met your goal of being accepted into college, and now you are ready to embark on earning your college degree. This can be an exciting, yet intimidating time in your life. Navigating living arrangements, financial aid, class schedules, degree requirements, part-time employment, and work loads can be daunting to any college student, particularly if your family does not have the knowledge base to answer your questions or give you the guidance you need. You are not alone! There are many resources available to you - you just need to know where to find them.

  1. Find a mentor. A mentor is a guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of the college and career planning experience. This may come in the form of peer-to-peer mentoring or establishing contact with an older person who has the skills to assist you. Most colleges offer mentoring programs to students, and a shocking number of students ignore this service. Everyone in college needs help and guidance, so ask for it. During orientation, intentionally seek out what your school has to offer and follow through as soon as you arrive on campus.
  2. Get to know your academic advisor. Academic advisors are required to help you select your courses and design your schedule, but they have much more to offer. Because they are employees of the college or university, they know the programs, resources, and collaborative advising opportunities. Sometimes this service is offered online, but the face-to-face advising sessions will help you develop a relationship and a solid resource for your entire college experience.
  3. Make sure you understand financial aid. Very few students attend college without some form of financial aid. The financial aid office has counselors that help you navigate this maze of opportunities. They support you in meeting deadlines, finding grants and scholarships, and even securing part-time work possibilities.
  4. Get involved. The college experience is so much more than taking classes and studying. Clubs, organizations, seminars, guest-speakers, and even first-generation community groups exist on campus. This will help you develop relationships and expand your horizons. Exploring your campus and the surrounding community will help you make contacts that will improve your chances of success.
  5. Don't be afraid. Some days you will likely feel overwhelmed and question yourself "Can I do this?" This answer is an astounding "YES!" All college students feel this way at some point, and you should too. You are not expected to know how to do everything your first day, first week, or even your first year. If you need help, ask for it. Your professors, counselors, and even the college administrators want you to be successful. Remember - your success is also their success.