Navigating School as a First-Generation Student

Written by Irene Ortega
Published on
July 26, 2023

Being a first-generation student means that your parent(s) did not complete a 4-year college or university degree, regardless of another family member’s level of education. Because of this, many hardships arise for a first-gen student coming from a background that lacks knowledge or information regarding the education pathway. Students are usually left with anxieties, concerns, worries, or all of the above when they are unaware of how to successfully navigate through school. These issues, however, arise the most for High School and College Students. As they are considered to be the most significant to shaping the success for one's future, high-achieving students obviously hope to excel in all ways possible throughout their high school and college journeys, and first-gen individuals need the most assistance they can receive. 

Common Tips First-Gen Students should follow include:

  • Embrace the first-gen identity 

As a first-gen student, one may feel reluctant to share about your family's educational history. Instead of doing so, it is important to embrace it, as leveraging your story will give you the opportunity and privileges to become involved in resources tailored exclusively for first-gen students.

  • Find Your Support System 

Forming a support system that are of the same experiences is crucial for first-gen students as it brings more comfort to navigating the unknowns of high school and college life. 

  • Plug into a network

Getting involved in student organizations and clubs is a useful way to start building connections and networks of support. These connections could last a lifetime and can offer a large source of help later on.   

  • Build Connections with Professors/Teachers

Make the most of office hours with Professors and Teachers. It is crucial to cover topics you are unsure of and that you know are hard to receive additional assistance from outside of the classroom setting. Office hours can be a productive time to ask questions, and if the task itself is very intimidating, one can try to prepare in advance by making a list of questions or topics they'd like to cover. In addition, attending office hours is also a great way to help professors and teachers get a real sense of who you are. This relationship will become very useful if you ever need assistance with things such as a letter of recommendation. 

  • Be Smart in terms of Finance

Because the financial process of College is quite unknown for a first-gen, it is important to become as aware as you can of the availability of resources such as the FAFSA and other financial aid assistance offices. Educate and Research as much as you can in regards to money, and apply for eligible scholarships as well. 

Good luck from all of us at Simple Studies!

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