This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
Welcome to Campus! Prepare Yourself for the Unexpected…
As a first-generation college student, you may not have a clear idea of what college will actually be like. Many students arrive on campus and struggle with the new-found freedom, a demanding course load, and an array of clubs and organizations to join. Not to mention that many first-generation students don’t have a parent who has been-there-and-done-that to provide guidance, and they may feel pressure to earn money to pay for their college fees or even contribute to their family’s income. Preparation is key. It’s important to be aware of the potential pitfalls prior to arriving on campus, so you don’t find yourself struggling to adjust mid-semester.
In this section, we have a load of tips, suggestions, resources, and advice on everything from where to look for support on campus to finding and even changing your major. Read on to start your preparation for becoming a bona fide college student!
What to Expect at College
You’ve researched and planned, applied and been accepted. But do you really know what being a college student will be like? It’s likely that you only think you know. And you may have a pretty good idea, but one thing is certain: there are bound to be aspects of being a college student you didn’t count on—like making yourself get up for an 8 a.m. class when you were up until 4 a.m. finishing a paper. What about doing your own laundry? Surprise, surprise! These are just a couple of examples of the scenarios you’ll need to be aware of as a new college student.
Read on for more information about what to expect on campus!
Academic Catch-Up: How to Get College-Ready in Writing and Math
It’s a well-known fact that classes in college are tougher than those you took in high school. Many students aren’t prepared for college-level work and test into transitional (also called remedial) classes in order to prepare them for college. So, how do you bridge the gap between high school and college? Getting a tutor and allocating extra time for the courses in which you’re not as confident always helps, but don’t forget the hidden resources found on most college campuses. Find out where to look for academic help in our Academic Catch-Up article.
You’re Not Alone! How to Find Support While in College
It’s important to recognize that attending college will be a new chapter in your life—one that can be daunting at times and sometimes frustrating. But colleges are one step ahead of you. Many offer an array of tutoring centers and support services like counseling centers where advisers are ready and willing to ease your transition between high school and college. But only you can recognize when you need help, so don’t let a bad grade turn into a failing grade. Most likely there’s a support system already in place for you. Check out our suggestions on where to look for that extra boost of encouragement and guidance to keep you on track to earn your college degree.
The Perfect Schedule
Choosing your schedule in college is nothing like registering for high school classes. Unlike high school where you likely have pretty limited offerings, the average college catalog boasts a wide variety of classes and times. So how do you choose what to take? You want to meet with a college academic adviser who can give you a good idea of what you need to take and when. Advisers also are trained to recognize which courses have prerequisites you need to meet prior to enrolling. Get tips on how to create your perfect schedule while balancing study, work and personal time.
How to Find Your Major
First-generation college students are by definition driven. You’ve worked hard to get where you are and it’s likely that you think you know what major best suits you because you’ve not only planned for college, but you’ve planned for your dream career. Nevertheless, be open to exploring other subjects. For those of you who are still undeclared, plan on settling in to a major by your sophomore year in order to complete the major’s prerequisites and the major course work without having to be a fifth-year senior.
Keep reading for tips on how to go about finding the perfect major for you.
The Value of Internships
Pursuing an internship can offer you a number of valuable experiences you won’t get in a college classroom. Though internships are often unpaid, it IS possible to find an internship that pays an hourly wage or perhaps a small living stipend. Depending on your academic program, it’s also possible for your internship to count for college credit (potentially qualifying as one of your major prerequisite courses).
Internships can offer you an array of contacts in the field you hope to pursue after college and help you build your professional network while completing your degree. Though they don’t necessarily lead to job offers, they do provide valuable professional experience that can give you an advantage when it comes to your job search after graduation.
Check out our advice on How to Find—and Get—a Great Internship.
How to Change Your Major or Even Transfer Schools
Changing Your Major
Changing your major is something almost every college student wrestles with from time to time. But before you rush off to the registrar’s office, make sure you consider what changing your major may mean for your future career prospects. You also want to have a good idea of what it could mean for your graduation timeline—more classes to take means more time and money (in the form of tuition dollars being paid).
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when transferring schools is whether or not the school you are transferring to will accept your credit hours, enabling you to remain at the same academic level. Be sure to get in touch with a transfer adviser at the new school and discuss your academic major and how your course work at your old school will transfer to your new school. You want your course work to have course equivalencies at your new school, so you can graduate on time.
Keep reading to learn more about both options.
Studying abroad while in college may seem like the stuff dreams are made of, but there are many resources available to ensure qualified students get the chance to go abroad. Studying abroad is often the highlight of many students’ college days because of the chance to see another culture and live independently while soaking up a new language. Many campuses offer scholarships within their international affairs office (sometimes also referred to as the education abroad office). Make sure you qualify by maintaining a high GPA (at least a 3.0 in most cases).