You walk on to the beautiful campus and see the gothic architecture, hear the yelling of all of the Orientation Advisors greeting new students onto campus, and (if you live in one of the older buildings) smell the horrid smell of mold, booze and bad decisions. Even with all of these exciting, new things going for you, the only thought running through your mind is “I do not belong here.” It is a debilitating feeling that can crush the ambition of many bright, aspiring individuals. My fellow first-generation students, I think you have a pretty good idea what I’m talking about.
Being a first-gen is terrifying. College is whole new world full of many adventures and amazing times, but it is coupled with new responsibility that some have never known, as well as challenging academics and a lot of pressure to succeed. Google and older friends who are already in college can only take you so far in how to prepare for this time in your life, and right now mom and dad’s advice would come in pretty clutch for once. Luckily, I have been there and done that, so I am here to give some helpful tips on how to put those negative thoughts to rest.
1. Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that first semester IS going to suck – royally.
Academics are held to a new rigor (buh-bye straight A’s), sickness is rampant (and mom is hundreds of miles away), and not to mention there is a sea of people at this strange new place that you just want to make a good impression on (but you just tripped and fell in D-hall dropping your tray and all of the food along with it). You are going to feel alone, scared and overwhelmed, but guess what — it does get better. You meet amazing new people to help you get through the hard times, get into the swing of academics and learn to balance your food correctly on your tray so it does not tip over and make a scene in D-hall.
2. Find a mentor. Now is not the time to shy away from being a teacher’s pet.
Need to know where any resource is on campus? Boom. Need a reference for that internship your mentor recommended to you? Boom. They are able to help navigate your university and transition into adult life because they have already done it before. It was hands down the most helpful piece of advice I had ever received, but unfortunately I never took it. Take it from me – you want to take this advice. I cannot stress enough how important this is for the now, a few years down the road, and decades to come.
3. You are here for a reason — do not forget that. Ever.
No, the acceptance letter you received wasn’t mailed to the wrong address. Someone in that admissions office saw something in you. It wasn’t only the admissions office either – it was your high school teachers, college guidance counselor, your boss at your summer job, and so many more people who have known all along you were going to make it here. All of these people believe in you, now it’s time you start to see that in yourself as well.
While you may come from a family that doesn’t have a background in academia, that does not mean that you are not suited for it. You may feel like a fish out of water at the moment, but soon you’ll be navagating those now familiar waters with ease.