Part 2: Top tips for first-generation college students

Starting college can be an intimidating experience. If you are a first-generation college student – meaning your parents didn’t graduate from college, then you may be feeling overwhelmed as you explore your own college opportunities.

Here are four more things to remember as you think about pursuing a college degree:

Create a flexible work schedule

To cover the cost of college, which in addition to tuition may include rent, utilities, textbooks, and food, you might need to work while taking classes. Don’t let that stop you from pursuing your degree. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 70 percent of college students work while in school – 25 percent balance a full-time work schedule with full-time enrollment.

Earning while learning is possible. However, as a student, school should be your top priority. Try to find a job that offers flexible hours and doesn’t interfere with your class and study schedule. An on-campus job might be more accommodating than working for a private business, but keep an open mind. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Apply for several different jobs to maximize your options.      

Find a mentor

College will expose you to new ideas and perspectives. College is also a great chance to meet people who have succeeded in your desired career field. Introduce yourself to these people – during office hours or after class – and ask for their advice. Professors and lecturers are passionate about helping students learn and grow. Don’t feel like you’re bugging them by asking for help.

Get the most out of your investment

Choosing a major and career path that you are passionate about is incredibly important. But in order to get positive returns on the investment of a college education, consider a career path that will lead to a growing professional field. Research which industries are growing, have the most jobs, and offer the highest wages. Visit moscores.mo.gov to look at Missouri colleges, majors, and career outcomes. 

Remember, you belong

Even if you are the first member of your family to pursue a college degree, you have just as much right and reason to be there as anyone else. You don’t need to come from a long line of lawyers or doctors to succeed in college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than one-third of undergraduate college students reported being the first in their families to attend college. There are millions of students just like you, blazing a trail, pursuing their dreams, and improving their lives.

Don’t think of being the first in your family to attend college as a disadvantage. As a first-generation student, you have a unique perspective. Understand that these few years, where you’ll have access to technology, professors, and other resources, is a great opportunity that won’t last forever. Attend class, ask questions, get involved, and make the most out of your time at school.