Tips for First Generation College Students
As a first generation student, you might not know what to expect as you start the college process. From phrases like “liberal arts” and “matriculate” to a seemingly endless list of majors, the world of higher education can be confusing – and it’s even harder when your parents don’t know how to guide you.
To help you through the process, here are six tips for first generation college students.
1. Apply for Financial Aid
When you go to college, you’ll want to make it as inexpensive as you can, but you may not know where to start when figuring out loans, scholarships, and financial aid.
It is important that you know how to fill out the FAFSA. You can submit it as early as October 1 of the year before you attend college, and it is recommended that you fill it out as soon as you can. Many colleges offer awards on a first-come, first-serve basis. You will need to submit a FAFSA form every year because the FAFSA will give you access to federal aid such as loans, grants, and work studies.
Your college will also send you a financial aid package containing information about what scholarships you apply for and how much you will owe. If you don’t think you have enough, reach out to the financial aid office before you decide not to attend that school. Many schools have emergency funding so they don’t lose students.
2. Get a Job
After you receive your financial aid information, you can get a better feel for how affordable college is for you. Whether you need more money for groceries or to hang out with friends, it could be a good idea for you to get a job in college.
Getting a job is a good way to both make money and get connected to other resources for first generation college students. A job at the library could give you insight on the best ways to study, or a local internship could help you get experience in your intended field of study. Choose the best job for you, and don’t be afraid to change jobs if one is not working out for you.
Maybe you already have a job in town. If that’s the case, feel free to stay in that role to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst all of the change. The most important thing is to find a job that works around your class schedule and fosters a good environment.
3. Meet With Your Adviser
If you aren’t sure what major to choose or you need help scheduling classes, talk to your academic adviser. They will be your go-to source of help for all your academic needs. Your adviser will be able to give extra support as you transition to college and navigate your new course load.
If you choose a major but aren’t sure if it’s for you, or if you narrow it down to a school of study but don’t know which major to choose, your adviser will be able to help you make a decision. Many college students change their major, so don’t be afraid if you realize your major isn’t the right fit.
4. Seek Out Resources for First Generation College Students
One of the best tips for first generation college students is to attend social events with other first gen students. There, you will be in community with students who understand the challenges you may face, and who can support you.
Your campus will have academic resources, like the writing lab or tutoring services, to help you in your classes. Whether you’re stuck writing a paper or wanting an extra set of eyes on the final draft, the writing lab can help you figure out what to do next.
5. Find a Mentor
When it comes to college, your parents won’t have all the answers, so you’ll need someone to talk to when you have an important question. The best thing is to find a mentor who has been through the process before.
When looking for a mentor, it’s important that they understand your priorities and goals. They could be currently in college or already graduated. If you can find someone who was a first gen student themselves, that would be ideal! But what matters most is that they understand the college process and can guide you through it.
6. Get Involved
One of the most important tips for first generation college students is to get involved on campus. When you arrive at your new home, you might not know what to expect. The best way to get the full college experience is to participate in campus events and join a new club.
Although you should be studying and doing homework in college, don’t let academics take up all your time. One of the best tips for first generation college students is to go out and make memories with friends. Those are the times you’ll remember the most, not the hours you spent pouring over your textbooks.
The college search doesn’t have to be confusing. Our admissions counselors are available to answer your questions and guide you through the process. Request more information about Grace College.