College Search

Advice To & From a First-Generation College Student

“When I was applying for college, I did not have my parents to go to for advice or guidance. I had to show initiative and have the self-determination to achieve on my own.” – Third year student studying Finance and Management Information Systems with a minor in Sustainable Business Practices at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. After her acceptance into Northeastern University, this first generation college student found her passions and interests through courses and organizations on campus: Latinx and women empowerment, sustainability, and women in technology. She has become a mentor to other Latinx and first generation students and exudes confidence.

This story makes evident how first generation college students face different challenges throughout the college process. But along with these challenges also comes opportunity.

Here is a list of challenges and opportunities from the perspective of a first generation college student: 

Challenge: First generation college students often have the pressure of family expectations and the lack of mentorship and guidance that so many of us take for granted. One example of this is many students come into college with an understanding of why liberal arts requirements are important or what it is like to live in a dorm where first generation college students may not be able to call their parents this information. Those who did not attend college may not understand the pressures and anxieties these students are facing and may not know the right words to say to keep them on track and focused. There is less mentorship which means you have to self-advocate and take on many of these responsibilities on your own; leading to strengths of self-assurance because you feel confident in your ability to take risks and manage your own life as well as belief because you believe in yourself and your ability to make positive change.

Opportunity: As a first generation college student, you have the chance to diversify your campus, provide a unique voice and perspective in discussion, and become a role model for your family and community. You get to carve your own path. There are no alma maters you have to apply to or traditions you have to uphold. You get to decide what you want to study and where you want to go. 

Challenge: The lower levels of familial financial support that first generation college students have access to. The median income for the families of first generation college students was reported at $41,000 in 2019, whereas continuing generation college students reported a median familial income of $90,000.

Opportunity: There are many scholarships and grants available for first generation college students. You can ask about your guidance counselor – or a teacher or mentor in your community who was a first generation college student – about the different scholarship opportunities. One example is College Greenlight which was built for both first-generation and low-income students. This free online platform gives you access to a searchable database of more than $11 billion worth of scholarships.

Many colleges and universities work to provide the first generation student community a platform to express its voice and to advocate for themselves. At College Trips and Tips, our goal is similar: to provide incoming college students a platform to make the process less overwhelming and stressful. Whether a first-generation college student or not, we are here for you and we want to make your voice heard! Check out our social media to stay connected with us.