Adjusting to College as a First-Generation Student

College can be an exciting, stressful and confusing time, especially for first-generation students.  They must contend with the thrill of being away from home and the weight of expectation, all within an environment that's wholly unfamiliar to them and to their families.  Indeed, certain experiences, knowledge and cultural norms that are taken for granted by other students might be unknown to them.  And that can sometimes make the transition a little rocky.

If you're a first-generation college student, consider the following advice.  It should help ease your shift into collegiate life!

Keep your family updated.  After college begins, it's sometimes easy for first-generation students to feel as if a divide has been created.  Your parents will be better able to support you if they have a stronger idea of what's going on in your everyday life.  Recognize that they can appreciate your opportunities even if they are a bit foreign to them.  The more you keep the lines of communication open, the less room for hurt feelings, alienation, resentment, etc.

Befriend an upperclassman or two.  Adjusting to college can be difficult for anyone.  And there's greater potential for first-generation students to feel overwhelmed.  Upperclassmen can act as mentors, showing you the ropes and providing advice for how to best navigate this new collegiate terrain.

Don't be afraid to self-advocate and/or ask for help.  Colleges want their students to succeed.  Oftentimes, first-generation students are reticent to reach out.  Don't be scared.  Take advantage of office hours, tutoring centers and/or mental health clinics.  Realize that you're never alone and you will never be the only person on campus struggling.

Keep an eye out for organizations that exist specifically for first-generation students.  Many schools have clubs or programs for the newbies.  It really helps to meet and befriend peers who have a good understanding of what you're going through.

Budget wisely.  A lot of times, when students finally reach campus, they are hit with expenses they hadn't anticipated - bus pass, fees for the recreation center, additional books, etc.  Moreover, pocket money will be needed for various excursions and social outings.  Keeping close track of your expenses will reduce your stress and ensure that you're able to participate in the activities you desire.

Have a post-graduation plan.  Unfortunately, first-generation college students tend to graduate from college at lower rates.  Establishing clear goals and professional plans are good methods for helping students stay on track and for keeping their eyes on the proverbial prize.

It's important to realize that all undergrads have ups and downs, no matter their backgrounds.  Moreover, recognize that first-generation students are certainly as capable as any at thriving in their collegiate lives.  Hopefully, heeding the advice listed above will help see you through any rough patches.

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