First Generation College Students
A first-generation college student is any student whose parents have not graduated from college. This can be a challenging position, as you may not have a clear idea of what to expect from a university setting. At Carruth, we hope to assist you in this transition and to connect you to available resources.
Some common concerns
Feeling pressure to be successful
If you are the first in your family to go to college, it can place additional pressure on you to do well. Many first-generation college students fear letting their family down. Others may feel guilty that other family members were not afforded the same opportunity. Talking about this with others, such as a friend, family member, and/or a counselor at Carruth, can help manage these feelings.
Feeling like an imposter
Some first-generation college students may feel they don’t belong in college or that those around them know more about what is going on than they do. This can result in feeling isolated or even intimidated by a university setting. You are not alone in feeling this way. Help is certainly available with many on-campus resources to assist you in navigating the challenges of transitioning to college. Remember, you have worked hard to get here and have earned your place as a Mountaineer.
Difficulty balancing school and family responsibilities
First-generation college students sometimes feel torn between supporting family and staying focused on their academics. You may need to set some boundaries for yourself to ensure you are not taking on too much. Sometimes families aren’t aware of the demands of college and it may help to talk to them about it. Many people may expect more of themselves than is achievable. It can help to get some input from others.
Lack of support from back home
Many first-generation college students get a lot of support from family and friends back home. However, this is not always the case. Some students face people of the opinion that college is a waste of time or as evidence that the student thinks they are “better” than them. Try to remind yourself that you made the best decision for yourself based on what is important to you. It’s your life and you are free to choose for yourself how to live it.
Feeling overwhelmed by the details
Student accounts, registrars, financial aid, endless paperwork, registering for classes, student loans, etc. It can be a bit much, especially if your family members don’t have experience you can draw upon. Your best bet is to talk to your advisor, professors, and/or student support services. No one expects you to figure this out on your own. If you are unsure where to go, staff at any university office will be glad to point you in the right direction. With persistence and a little help, you’ll find the answers you need.
College can be financially challenging, especially for first-generation students who are more likely to come from a working-class background. Some students work while attending college, which consumes time and can add stress. Staying in touch with the financial aid office is important to stay ahead of the game in finding scholarships and additional funding options.
Taking a different path
Many first-generation students may not go straight into college from high school. Some may have entered the work force or attended a community college. They may live off campus or are attending only part-time. Finding others going through something similar can help.
Here are some tips to help you transition to college:
College can be more challenging without social connections. Attending events, joining a student organization, and talking to others in your residence hall are good ways to build social support.
Don't try to do it all on your own.
No one expects you to figure everything out on your own. Ask other students, professors, or other university staff any questions you might have. Our resources listed below may be a good step to getting connected with appropriate help. There is much more help available than most students realize. The transition to college can be challenging; it will also be important to talk about your experiences with others. If you can find an upperclassman or another first-generation college student, they could prove an invaluable resource.
Manage your time effectively.
College requires a delicate balance of academics, socialization, family responsibilities, and sometimes work. Time management is important and it is worth noting that college requires more of an academic focus than high school. If you miss class and assignments, not every professor is going to keep you informed of this or allow you to make it up. Be sure to review your class syllabus from time to time to ensure you are on track with your work.
Resources for First-Generation College Students:
Provides tutoring, academic advising, financial aid assistance, activities, computer work stations, and general support to first generation college students.
Provides consultation as well as group and individual counseling services. Students
can drop in any weekday from 8:15 to 4:45 or call to schedule an appointment.
The Office of Student Success offers free tutoring, individual academic coaching, and seminars on topics such as time management or test preparation.
Assistance with choosing a major, job searches, resume building, and more.
Peer consultants are available to assist with improving your writing.
Register for classes.