Advice for a First Generation College Student

How do you stay afloat, updated, and on track? Going to college is a challenge on its own, but to go to college and have no family member to rely on for college experience questions makes it even harder.

I am a first generation college student, and sometimes I feel like I blend in to the crowd, but many times I feel like I am out of the loop. I’m not going to lie, trying to figure out how college works on your own is hard. There are going to be times of shock where you learn something that everyone else just seems to know. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

My advice to you is to get involved and meet with as many advisors and professors as you can.

Getting involved in student organizations, Greek life, or even volunteering will give you a sense of community. Just like Greek life, many student organizations assign newcomers a “big” or a “parent”, which is like a student mentor for the organization itself, but these are also people you will grow close with and be able to ask a variety of questions to.

However, you are not limited to just asking questions to this mentor figure. Joining any community or group on campus of any sort will provide you someone to talk to. Just find someone you bond with. Don’t be afraid to be outgoing, and if needed, start the conversation yourself. “Hi, I’m new here,” is not a bad thing to say, and in fact that’s how I got pointed towards some of the best and most knowledgeable people I have met. It seems like everyone will excitedly talk about themselves and their college experiences, so learn from this. Even if they are a freshman, maybe they know a fun fact about the university, a neat program offered, or a cool study spot that you don’t know about. Take knowledge from anyone.

The University of Iowa offers a Living Learning Community for first generation college students. This means you will live on a residence hall floor with people just like you. You will learn together about the college experience. To learn more about the First Generation LLC, click here.

Also sponsored by the University of Iowa is the Iowa Edge program. This is an orientation to campus and college life.

As for meeting with advisors, this is crucial for first-year college students. Academic advisors will keep you on track to graduate and provide you with various opportunities that you may have never known to exist. This can range from first generation college student support groups, scholarships, or even simply something your advisor believes you may find interesting. Your academic advisor will be your greatest asset to guiding your college experiences. Of course, schedule however many meetings you are required to have, but schedule a few more. Really get to know your advisor so they can help you in the best way they see fit. After all, they are the one person on campus who seems up to date and knowledgeable on everything.

As for other advisors, this can range from professors to program mentors. Really, anyone can be an advising figure, you just have to meet with them regularly and ask them to share their knowledge. I have found going to professor office hours and just having a conversation with them has provided me a lot of knowledge about the university that I would have not otherwise gained, so don’t be afraid just to talk. It doesn’t have to be a formal advisor-advisee format.

Overall, my advice to you as a first generation college student is to be outgoing and meet with as many people as you can. You learn through experience, so don’t let an opportunity pass you by.

If you would like to learn more about being a first generation student at the University of Iowa, click here.

For resources to look into, click here.