9 Tips for Navigating College Life as a First-Generation Student

Jun 27, 2023

It’s exciting to be the first of your family to go to college. But it’s also much harder if you don’t have someone who knows what to expect with classes, financial aid and how to get the most of the experience. William Peace University has many first-generation students, and we hope to make the transition as easy as possible. 

Here are our top nine useful tips for first-generation students.  

  1. Seek financial aid and scholarships: As a first-generation student, you may be eligible for specific scholarships or grants. Research and apply for financial aid opportunities that can help alleviate the financial burden of college. Reach out to the financial aid office for guidance and explore external scholarship opportunities as well. (And yes, the FAFSA is confusing, but it’s critical to fill it out. It’s OK to ask your admissions counselor or financial aid office for help if you need it.) 
  2. Develop a support network: Surround yourself with supportive friends, classmates, and mentors who can provide encouragement during challenging times. This network will be invaluable in helping you navigate the ups and downs of college life.
  3. Take care of your well-being: College can be overwhelming at times, so it’s essential to prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercising, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy. Seek support from campus counseling services if needed.
  4. Embrace opportunities for growth: College is not just about academics but also about personal growth and exploration. Take advantage of opportunities to try new things, join clubs, participate in internships, and engage in community service. These experiences can help you develop new skills, expand your network, and enhance your overall college experience.
  5. Take advantage of academic advising: Meet regularly with your academic advisor to ensure you’re on track with your degree requirements. They can provide guidance on course selection, internships, and opportunities for research. Seek their advice when planning your class schedule each semester and discuss any academic concerns or goals you have
  6. Explore internship and career opportunities: Take advantage of internships, co-op programs, and career fairs to gain practical experience in your field of interest. These opportunities can help you build your resume, develop professional networks, and increase your chances of finding a job after graduation. Attend career workshops and utilize career services to improve your job search skills.
  7. Embrace cultural and diversity resources: Many colleges have centers or organizations dedicated to supporting students from diverse backgrounds. These spaces can provide a sense of belonging, cultural events, and opportunities for engaging with your heritage. Explore these resources to connect with students who share similar experiences and celebrate your cultural identity.
  8. Stay resilient and seek support when needed: College life can be challenging, and it’s essential to take care of your mental health and seek support when needed. Reach out to campus counseling services, student support centers, or hotlines if you’re feeling overwhelmed or struggling with stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, and there are resources available to support you.
  9. Connect with other first-gen students: Building a community of peers who are also first-generation students can be incredibly helpful. Seek out student organizations or clubs that focus on supporting first-gen students. These groups can provide a sense of belonging, shared experiences, and valuable advice.

By using these tips and staying proactive in seeking support, you can successfully navigate college life as a first-generation student. Remember to be proud of your accomplishments and stay focused on your goals. Your determination. Remember, it’s normal to face challenges as a first-generation student, but with perseverance, a support system, and using available resources, you can thrive in college and achieve your goals. Good luck with your college journey!