3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Attending University as a First Gen College Student

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Written by BriAna Lopez

7 years ago, I walked into my freshman dorm room, and I was unprepared. Not necessarily in-terms of academic preparedness, but for everything else in between. As a first gen college student, it can be tough navigating a college campus as the first in your family. For so many first gen college students, you go to college with the heavy weight of expectations. As someone who made it through, here are three things I wish I knew before attending college.

There are Resources for your Resource’s Resources

Colleges have so many resources that are underutilized. Make use of the tuition you pay! Sometimes it feels like you are navigating your experience completely alone, but remember there is a whole school of professors, mentors, peers, and campus resources. Familiarize yourself with the financial aid office and stay informed on your tuition and housing costs. Stop by the career center and learn about local job trends or make new connections in your major. Introduce yourself to your professors or TA’s and attend office hours when you need help. Locate your health services and learn about their offerings for students. Every campus has unique resources, so explore these early and often.

Find Your Place

The school I attended was in a completely new state on a campus with 20,000 undergraduate students. I was afraid to lose my way and honestly, I did at first. Within the first few weeks of school, there were career fairs, free events, and people constantly handing me pamphlets, business cards, and flyers. I hadn’t fully grasped that I was a college student, and I felt like I didn’t have room to explore extra-curriculars. My advice? Research all the different organizations and clubs on your campus before school starts. Pin-point certain organizations you like and plan out who you want to connect with. Remember to keep your mind open because you never know what group you’ll find. If there’s a first-gen college student organization or club, try it out. It will make a campus, no matter how big or small, start to feel like home.

Be Kind to Yourself

Initially, failure was always at the top of my mind. If I could tell younger me to take a step back and be kind to myself, I would. There will be times when you are overwhelmed, make mistakes, and possibly question if college was the right choice. Always remember, you are walking a completely new path, and that is admirable. Think about some ways you can show kindness to yourself every day. Set real expectations for yourself, be your own advocate and give yourself recognition. Ultimately, you are investing in yourself by taking the leap and attending college. You have already overcome so many obstacles just to be able to say you are a college student. Be kind to yourself.

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