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14 Tips to Know as a First-Generation College Student

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What tips to know as a first-generation college student? Being the first member of your family to attend college is thrilling. But without someone who understands what to anticipate with regard to academics, financial assistance, and how to make the most of the experience, it’s also much more difficult. Many first-generation college students attend their desired universities, and we want to make the transition as simple as we can.

Without a doubt, first-generation college students encounter some particular difficulties from their classmates who have parents or grandparents who went to college.

In order to directly assist first-generation college students in succeeding at California State University, we approached CSU professionals for some wise suggestions.

Both April Grommo, Ed.D., director of Enrollment Management Services at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, and Maria Estela Zarate, Ph.D., professor of educational leadership at CSU Fullerton and a former first-generation college student, offer their opinions on the behaviors that have proven to be most beneficial to first-generation college students.

14 Tips to Know as a First-Generation College Student

Here are our top 14 advice-giving suggestions for first-generation college students.

1. Create a network of supporters

Be surrounded by encouraging friends, classmates, and mentors who can offer support when things are tough. You will be able to negotiate the ups and downs of college life with the assistance of this network.

2. Take good care of your health.

The importance of prioritizing your mental and physical health cannot be overstated because college can be stressful at times. Find appropriate coping mechanisms for stress, such as regular exercise, mindfulness training, or interest-based hobbies. If necessary, get assistance from the counseling centers on campus.

3. Obtain financial help and scholarships

As a first-generation college student, you could be qualified for particular grants or scholarships. Look into and submit applications for financial aid programs that might lessen the cost of attending college. Consult the financial assistance office for advice and look into available external scholarships.

4. Participate from the front

Do take a seat in the front of the classroom and participate in conversations. One aspect of doing well in class is paying attention during lectures. If you want to optimize your learning, it’s also critical to participate in the debate. Dr. Zarate advises students to think of one to three remarks or questions they might pose in class while reading for their upcoming lesson. “Come prepared to class so you won’t have to come up with something last-minute.”

Of course, it helps to be organized and give yourself adequate time to prepare for each lesson. “Don’t try to wing it; be very intentional about putting time in your calendar to prepare for each class,” Zarate continues.

4. Embrace chances for development

In addition to academics, college is a time for self-discovery and growth. Take advantage of chances to branch out, join organizations, do internships, and volunteer in the community. These opportunities can broaden your network, help you learn new skills, and improve your entire college experience.

6. Regard the registration process

DO NOT disregard the registration and financial aid processes and deadlines. Every campus notifies you of significant deadlines via email and regular mail. According to Zarate, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for those conversations and reply as quickly as you can.

Aside from that, don’t assume you won’t be eligible for financial assistance or other kinds of scholarships. According to Dr. Grommo, it’s crucial to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (CADA) in order to comprehend your financial situation.

7. Take benefit from academic advising

To make sure you’re on track with your degree requirements, schedule regular meetings with your academic adviser. They can offer advice on choosing courses, internships, and research possibilities. Ask for help while creating your semester-by-semester course schedule and bring up any academic issues or objectives you may have.

8. Investigate internship and employment possibilities

Use career fairs, co-op programs, and internships to your advantage to obtain real-world experience in your area of interest. These opportunities can improve your chances of landing a job after graduation by helping you enhance your résumé and professional networks. To enhance your job-hunting abilities, participate in career workshops and make use of career services.

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9. Look for several mentors to help you

According to Zarate, “Some mentors will listen and support you, while others will give you access to networks or useful information.” Don’t count on one mentor to meet all of your needs.

a reliable starting point? Make friends with seniors who can share their experiences juggling school and social life.

You may also speak with an academic adviser, says Grommo, who explains that doing so will assist the student remain on track with the coursework required for their degree and make sure they graduate. You can also get assistance from counselors in Student Affairs and in the career center on your campus.

10. Utilize resources for diversity and culture

Many institutions include departments or groups that serve students from various backgrounds. These places can offer possibilities for interacting with your heritage, cultural events, and a sense of belonging. Investigate these tools to connect with other students going through similar things and to celebrate your cultural identity.

11. Stay strong and confident

College life may be difficult, so it’s important to look after your mental health and get help when you need it. If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues and are feeling overwhelmed, get in touch with university counseling services, student support centers, or hotlines. Always keep in mind that asking for assistance is a show of strength and that you have access to support services.

12. Contact other first-generation college students

It may be quite beneficial to create a network of peers who are also first-generation college students. Look for groups or organizations on campus that promote first-generation college students. These organizations may offer a feeling of community, common experiences, and insightful counsel.

13. Establish a rapport with your lecturers

Zarate advises students to get in touch with their instructors via email or in person during office hours rather than only in class. Even if your teachers seem busy, keep in mind that everyone has the right to contact their teachers.

Zarate advises talking to your professors about a range of issues, including the class you’re taking with that professor, worries about your career, and asking for their suggestions for upcoming classes. “Faculty are usually very open to having those discussions,” she observes.

14. Ask for any help

The most crucial fact that any first-generation college student should be aware of is the abundance of services available on campus that are intended to both help your academic endeavors and you as a person.

Many CSU campuses have established student success centers that offer academic coaching and workshops, and most feature math and writing centers (two subjects in which many students struggle).

But in addition to academics, leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle is crucial. Zarate concurs that seeking mental health help is acceptable. Your success depends just as much on how effectively you handle stress and how often you engage in social activities.

Final Thought

Being the first person in her family to graduate from college wasn’t easy for Zarate, but she claims she had no choice but to do it.

You may effectively navigate college life as a first-generation student by adopting these suggestions and being proactive in seeking help. Keep your eyes on your objectives while remembering to be happy with your successes. Your commitment.

Remember that it’s common for first-generation students to experience difficulties, but with persistence, a network of support, and the use of available resources, you may succeed in college and meet your objectives. Good luck in your collegiate endeavors!

There was no other choice. Having radically different life and health outcomes was a need for earning a bachelor’s degree, she emphasized. You must do all in your power to finish that degree because it is imperative.

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