First Generation College Students
10 Things Only First Generation College Students will Understand…and Resources!
1. Feeling the pressure of being an academic pioneer
As you enter OSU as a first generation college student (FGCS) many people may put pressure on you to succeed not only for yourself, but for your entire family or community. It is common for FGCSs to feel extra stress as a result of this.
It’s important to talk to family about this extra pressure and let them know how you feel. Connecting with the First Generation Student Organization can help, especially around discussing these unique experiences with others who will understand.
2. Feeling like everyone else gets something you don’t get
As you are the first one to take on the college experience, it can often feel like everyone else already understands what to do… and you don’t. The fact that other students have been able to talk to family, relatives, and friends who may have gone to college can make it feel like everyone else is in the know. This is why researching and asking questions is doubly important for FGCS. Letting your professors and advisors know that you’re a First Gen student could be a big help. They can help you out by giving sage advice on how to navigate college, especially for first years, and offer tips and tricks to a successful college experience.
3. Trying to Navigate Bureaucracy
One of the most difficult things to manage at OSU is the huge interconnected system it takes to manage 60,000+ students here at OSU. FGCS can often feel overwhelmed or lost in the shuffle during these times. This is why it’s important to not lose hope when you face barriers. Filing paperwork and having repetitive conversations is a big part of navigating a university and it is normal to feel overwhelmed. The Student Advocacy Center is a great office that is designed to help students manage the university system.
A common feeling described by OSU FGCS is self-doubt in terms of academic and social performance. FGCSs often feel like they are not good enough or smart enough or connected enough to be here, despite the fact that they have similar grades and friend circles as non-first generation students. Talking with friends about your difficulties and asking for feedback from social contacts and professors can help give an accurate assessment of how you are doing here at OSU. In addition, working with a CCS counselor can help you build up yourself esteem if you want to do some more in depth work in this area.
5. Not having a parental script to follow
Another challenge can be the inability to look to parents when making academic, financial, or social decisions. Not having parents who have already navigated college can make FGCS feel like a bit of an island in terms of decision making. Discussing your academic progress and professional development with your advisor or a mentor can help you understand where you are and where you should be in terms of academic performance. You can still talk to your parents about these issues, because even talking through processes can be valuable. You can also look to RA’s, Resident Managers, and your peers for help.
6. A feeling of losing your identity within your family/community
As time passes at OSU, you will become more and more accustomed to life as part of the Buckeye Nation and your identity will further develop and possibly shift. The problem is your family and community does not. They might not understand how confusing financial aid can get, how difficult Organic Chemistry is, or the constant balance of staying social and maintaining your GPA. Simultaneously the community and your family continue to evolve without you there. This can make conversations feel disconnected or confusing for some FGCS. This is why it is important to maintain these relationships and be patient and detailed oriented when describing things to friends and family from back home who may not know what it means to be a Buckeye. The Multicultural Center can also help people connect to each other and culturally specific events on campus that may remind you of home.
7. Managing two worlds
Often FGCS need to manage their school life while simultaneously managing family life. This can include things like helping manage things at home traveling between locations, and in some cases even sending money or resources back to your family. It is important to try to take time for self-care if you find yourself in these situations. Groups like RPAC can provide a place to exercise and relieve stress through a variety of activities.
8. Not knowing the social rules
A big part of college is knowing the social rules of how to succeed. This can include things like networking, how to talk to professors, knowing who/how to talk to people when you are struggling, etc. This is something that many FGCS are not exposed to before college and have little experience managing. Talking with professors, advisors, and getting yourself out there is a big part of college and it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. Utilizing the Buckeye’s Career Network or visiting the Career Counseling and Support Services can help you learn these rules.
9. Managing financial aid/Worrying about money
College is expensive and a large proportion of FGCSs come from lower income families. This can often mean making sacrifices and foregoing experiences other students get (the “study abroad” trip to Cancun for example). This also can add an extensive level of stress that many other student’s do not have to experience. Talking with the Financial Aid Office throughout the semester (even after you have received your financial aid) can be helpful and they often can help students secure funding for extra expenses. Some of this funding is not loan based which can be a big plus for students who are fearing high levels after school debt.
10.That being a first generation student gives you a sense of pride others will never understand!
There is something truly special about graduating college as a FGCS. It can mean fulfilling both you and your family’s dreams for yourself. You should take pride in this accomplishment and please don’t forget that CCS is here to support you in your journey.