Being a college student is already tough but being a first-generation student can be even tougher. Yes, there are high expectations for you to succeed but remember you are also carving the path for others in your family. Here are four things I learned no one tells you.
1) You Need a Mentor.
First and Foremost, seek a mentor. As a first–generation college student, its most likely that none of your family members have gone to college, hence the term, first generation. So who do you ask for advice? Or simply, who do you go to for answers on the college topic?
I recommend finding a mentor. This can be a teacher, a principal, or a guidance counselor (that is literally part of their job). You just need someone who can help guide you through what will be a very important chapter in your life. And don’t be afraid to ask! If you choose the right one, a mentor should be someone who wants to teach you.
2) How Lonely Orientation Can Be
Okay so now you are anxiously waiting for the fall semester to start the next four years of your life. Orientation is the first taste. But no one tells you how lonely you feel at orientation.
In my case, I did not know parents came to this sorts of things. I just got dropped off and kissed my mom goodbye. But every parent was there with their kids. It is also the first time most of you do not know anyone. So I had no family or friends with me and I just felt so alone. Plus all this information is being thrown at me to digest, and trust me, It’s a lot! All of a sudden I started to wonder if this is what college is going to be? *eek*
If I could go back to little freshman me, I would, of course, have brought my parents along but also I would have told myself that this is not how college is. Eventually, school will start and there will be other students just like you with no one familiar around. You will make friends and college will not be as scary as it seemed. So don’t be afraid, orientation is just an information session. Take it in and write down notes and breath. Everything will be great.
3) How do Internships Work?
Everyone keeps saying, get that experience, you need x amount of internships so your resume can look good, etc. Again going back to the being a first-generation student, I had no one to ask how internships work and honestly, how do I even get one in the first place?
Well first, internships should be like a job. You work within an organization or for a person in your field of study to gain real-world work experience outside of college. Sometimes these are not paid and sometimes they are. So how do you get one?
Well, first research to see if your school provides a career resource center. At these centers, professionals can help guide you on resumes and cover letters that help you obtain an internship.
In my school, we are fortunate to have a newsletter that sends out internship and job postings in our field right to our email! Research to see if similar resources are offered at your school.
Also, do it the old school way. Look up companies or organizations that you would like to work for and see if they are looking for any interns. If they are, what are the requirements or qualifications needed for that intern position?
Once you have that figured out, you can begin to tailor your resume by finding on-campus resources to help you gain the skills you need for that internship. I know how crazy that sounds, you need the experience to gain experience! But don’t worry, many skills can be learned in class or through on-campus clubs. You just need to find out where.
Once you have all those skills mastered, you are ready to apply for the internship! And even if you don’t have all those skills down, still apply. Internships can help you obtain these skills.
4) You Will Feel Left Out of the “College Experience.”
Remember when you were graduating high school and everyone said the next four years of college will be the best years of your life? Well, that is not always true.
College is typically made out to be partying every night and football games. But that is not always the case for everyone. Sometimes it’s easy feeling like you are not getting the college experience everyone raves about. But everyone’s experience will be different. Do not feel pressured to do something you would not normally do just for the sake of having that so-called college experience.
Remember this is your college experience so you make it how you want it to be. If you want to go out every night and attend every football game, by all means. But if that does not sound interesting and instead you want to stay home, go ahead and binge on Netflix. Again, it is your experience and not anyone else’s. As long as you are happy, you are doing just fine.
Lastly, you are the first in your family to go to college, and that is something to be proud of. By you being the first, you can help other family members, and friends navigate through this highly stressful, sleep-deprived time. Just remember, always do your research and take it one day at a time.