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A Guide For First-Generation Students: How To Juggle Full-Time Student, Part-time Job, and Everything In Between

Slow Down

With all of the responsibilities we have to juggle, especially as someone who struggles with anxiety, I know that you can get caught up in the pace of doing things ahead of the game or get so involved in what we have to do that we forget to take a moment to just catch a breath. Slowing down to me looks like this: I’ve had a hectic day, I’m tired, but I’m aware my day is now near its end because there’s a lot on my agenda. If you find yourself in a moment where you’re freaking out, it’s hard to think clearly about the tasks you need to get done, and you are in a state of being overwhelmed, take a break. Take a 15-30 minute nap, go for a walk, meditate, do something outside of your tasks for that day that’s just for you.

Accept Help

I feel like universally, First-Generation college students believe that they can achieve everything on their own through their hard work and dedication. While that may be true- you are still a human being, and whether you like it or not, human beings need each other. Whether it’s an advisor, your parent/guardian, family, or friends, they’re reaching out to you because they see the tremendous work you’re doing. A big part of adulting is accepting that we do not accomplish everything on our own. It takes a village.

Create Boundaries

Make realistic goals, not perfectionist ones. Creating boundaries not only applies to those around you, but also to yourself. A difficult part of being a first-gen student is realizing you can’t always do the things your other non-first-generation peers are doing, because their responsibilities look different from yours, and that’s okay because you’re not here for them. Understand your goals, and acknowledge that you have to curate clear boundaries for yourself regarding what activities steer from your goals, and make peace with not always being able to participate. With that in mind, if you want to prioritize your schoolwork over your job if you’ve had a crazy school week, and going to work isn’t within your capacity for the day, the answer is always to do that. You are a human being–take care of yourself first. Your job will most likely be there, and if they aren’t, maybe find a new job.

Make Sure You Have a Clear Understanding of What’s Necessary and What Isn’t

I get it; you want to be dedicated, you want to be an overachiever because overachieving feels like the only way your efforts are recognized. Trust me, I see you. With all the pressure that we face being first-generation students, it feels like it makes sense to show our dedication to success via the various groups, activities, organizations, and classes we take part in. Still, we don’t have to put more onto our plate that isn’t productive. If some things can wait, then let them wait. I understand that we are here to accomplish so many things, but we also have to take time to enjoy our college experience.

The truth is, I have difficulty managing my home responsibilities, my work, and my academics and extracurriculars, but recognizing that I have to take things day by day has been really helpful for me, and I think it will be helpful for you too. There’s a quote that goes, “if you can’t fix it in a day, don’t stress like you can” and it’s stuck with me.

Stephanie Sika

CU Boulder '24

Stephanie Dzidzor Sika is a Ghanaian-American first generation college student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her hobbies include dancing, cooking, and writing. Stephanie is currently working actively towards informing, sharing, and loving by way of her work as much as she can.
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