tips for first generation college students

Posted : January 3, 2006
Last Updated : July 24, 2019

tips for first generation college students

Being the first person in your immediate family to attend a postsecondary institution may seem daunting. Without help from family members, you may not even know where to begin the college planning process, much less know what to expect once you get to college. The following info should give you a better understanding of the postsecondary route and help ease your anxiety of being a first generation college student.

College Planning

Planning for college is often more difficult for first generation college students because they probably don't have assistance from a knowledgeable family member. If you need help with the college planning process, here are some tips:

Get acquainted with your high school counselor.

As someone who wants to be a first generation college student, you will need a lot of help from your school counselor. Throughout your four years of high school, your counselor will be there to answer any questions about the different aspects of college planning, so be sure to utilize him or her as a valuable source.

Look for outreach programs.

Outreach programs can provide mentoring services to help you prepare for college. Your high school may even offer this service as an after-school program.

Get your parents involved in the college planning process.

Since planning for college will be a new experience for them as well, you should try to keep them informed about what needs to be done. Encourage them to meet with your high school counselor too. Often, a parent's biggest concern is how to pay for college, so try to get your parents to attend a financial aid workshop in your area. Keep in mind that if you are a dependent student, your parents will have to sign the FAFSA (Free application for Federal Student Aid) in order for it to be processed. The FAFSA is the form you and your parents must fill out in order for you to be eligible for state and federal financial aid. You can submit this form after October 1st of the year prior to your college start date. And remember: you must reapply for financial aid after October 1st each year that you are in college by filling out a renewal FAFSA.

Stay on track.

Make sure to do each of the following so you stay on the postsecondary path:

For a more in-depth timeline of what you should be doing to prepare for college throughout your high school years, check out College Planning Timeline: Grades 8-12.


Review all of the articles on the college planning section and the paying for college section of this website.


First Year of Postsecondary School

Because first generation college students don't have immediate family members to give them inside tips on what to expect at college, they may find it harder to adapt to campus life. Here's what you should do as a first generation college student in order to have a successful first year in college.

Attend freshmen orientation.

Most colleges have freshmen orientations during the summer before the new school year begins. There are many benefits of attending freshmen orientation, such as learning your way around school before you have to start attending classes, making new friends, and learning how to register for classes.

Look for campus programs that assist first generation students.

These programs will provide tutoring and counseling services to help you adapt to your first year.

Make friends with upperclassmen.

Having a mentor in college to show you the ropes can be a big help. Finding an upperclassmen who is also a first generation college student is an added bonus because he can give you secrets on how he dealt with his first year.

Ask for the support of your family.

Because your parents have never been to college, they may not understand some of the pressures involved. Give your family an idea of what college is like by talking to them about your daily activities. Balancing a college schedule can be extra hard for a first generation college student, so you will need all the encouragement you can get from your family.


Review all of the articles on the campus life section of this website.

Planning for college and adapting to campus life can be hard for first generation college students but still very achievable. If you want more tips for first generation students or have any questions, please contact your high school counselor or the Student Services department at your college.

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