Choosing what to do after high school can be a difficult decision. At the top of many students’ lists is that of obtaining a college education. But children with parents that have not attended college, the so-called “first generation college student,” may find the decision difficult.
College has its own set of social and cultural hurdles that, coupled with general uncertainty about the future, can generate fear about the prospect of attending college. Well, first generation students should not despair! The following tips will provide advice and give heart to those who may be first in their families:
- Understand how to ask questions. Whether it’s the professor during office hours, fellow students during class, or academic advisers throughout the semester, asking questions during college is a vital skill that will ensure you’ll be kept in the loop. There are important aspects to studying, taking tests, and choosing the right courses that may elude those that don’t know how to ask the right questions.
- Seek out support programs and workshops. When researching colleges, check out which colleges offer programs specifically for first generation students. First generation students may not have families with professional experience, and while there’s no shame in that, the right workshop or program can teach important and practical skills about etiquette, dress codes, and the expectations of the professional world.
- Beware of hidden expenses. Some students don’t have to worry too much about additional expenses. But for those that must worry, know that there are expenses to be aware of besides the cost of tuition. For example, books and classroom supplies required by many courses can quickly run up the budget. It’s also important to understand that social situations may require spending money.
- Get your family involved! If you have strong family ties, you’re in luck, as their love and support can prove quite helpful in dealing with any college uncertainties. Plan to keep in touch with your family while you’re away, and their pride in your journey may be just the boost you need to get through any tough times.
- Summon those survival skills. First generation students may have some skills that other students may not. Many times, first generation students are children of parents that immigrated to the country recently. They may have had to work long hours in blue collar jobs or self-owned businesses, which grant experiences not easily gained in any other way. A history of hard work and a thrifty lifestyle are assets, not embarrassments, and it’s important to remember that fact when embarking on a college education.
Although the path may be difficult, being the first to enter college in your family can bring unique accomplishments and experiences. It is a source of pride, often more meaningful than it is for those whose families may have a long history of college attendance. It is also a grand step into a larger world. Do not fear to take the first step.