If you’re the first person in your family to go to college—congratulations! There’s something wonderful and very special about being the first in a family to accomplish this, so be proud of yourself. Very proud! This is a new chapter in your life that will set the stage for a bright future. We hope the following tips will provide some helpful insight as you embark on this exciting journey.
1. Aim High
For many students, the top concern about going to college is how to pay for it! Don’t assume that college is beyond your financial reach. Financial aid is available to nearly every student in some form, and as a first-generation student, you may even qualify for scholarships or grants. So, don’t let the concern about cost stop you. Apply now to all of the schools you are interested in, then enlist the help of the schools’ admissions and financial aid departments to explore all available resources. There are many options to help make even a private education more affordable. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find out!
2. Look Beyond the Classroom
When looking for the college that’s the best fit for you, don’t simply consider classes – consider life beyond the classroom. Check out the school’s campus life, philosophy, atmosphere, support system, mission and vision, reputation, and success rate. As a first-generation student, you must think about every aspect of the school that is important to you. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I receive meaningful guidance and direction for my life and career here?
- Does this school reflect my faith and convictions, and is that important to me?
- Are graduates of this school successful?
- Are there campus activities I am interested in?
- Does this school understand and support first-generation students?
- Is this school committed to my success in the classroom and beyond?
You’ll find that a campus visit and conversations with admissions counselors will help answer these questions and others that you may have.
College is a different level than high school, and that can seem a little overwhelming, especially if no one else in your family has had a college experience. You may need a little extra support along the way. Here are some resources that could be helpful to you on your journey, and you should consider asking about these at schools you’re interested in:
- Tutoring or Other Academic Support: This can take many forms, but does the school you’re considering offer some type of academic assistance when needed? Is tutoring available? Are your professors available and approachable? How does this school support your academic success?
- Career Resources: You’re not just preparing for a career; you’re preparing for life. Most schools will provide services like job placement support, résumé reviews, and interview preparation, but does this school go beyond that? Do they help you figure out how to turn your gifts and talents into a career you’re passionate about?
- Spiritual Resources: If deepening your faith walk is important to you, what does this school offer that supports that? Is faith integrated into the classroom? Are instructors people of faith who can support your growth? Are the chapel services vibrant and engaging? What opportunities will you have for personal, spiritual growth on campus?
4. Check Out ImFirst.org
I’m First! is an online community for first-generation college students, their families, and their supporters. It’s a great place to learn from people who have been there, to find answers to your questions about higher education, and to learn about colleges and organizations that want to help you reach your goals. Hear inspiring stories and share your own, discover colleges that care about first-generation students, and receive guidance on the road to, and through, college.
Remember, this is a celebration! As a first-generation student, exciting new opportunities are opening up. You’ve come a long way, and you have an exciting path ahead of you.