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My Top 5 Tips For First-Gen College Students

As a first-generation student, my freshman year of college was nothing like I expected. It was hard keeping up with deadlines and finding the motivation to go to classes multiple times a day. Thankfully I lived in the dorms freshman year which made it easier, but even then, adjusting to the quarter system was something else. 

Once I started taking my classes, I felt incompetent many times. I compared myself to my peers and felt like I didn’t belong. It took time to enter a place where I felt confident, but I’m here to say this is normal. After three years of schooling (one pre-pandemic and one virtually) and as a current junior with a hybrid schedule, there have been a couple of lessons I’ve learned that have helped me grow as a student and an individual. Here are some tips to help ease the process: 

  1. Don’t hesitate to ask questions!

When I first started, I was afraid to ask questions or build a professional relationship with my professors. I had really friendly and encouraging professors but I felt that if I asked questions for elaboration, I would look stupid. The thing is, we are here to learn and if we don’t take action to increase our knowledge, we miss out on the opportunity of higher education. You are paying tuition as a student so professors are hired to support you.

  1. Find resources & opportunities yourself

Career opportunities are not going to find you, unless they’re Hiring Managers, so seek them out yourself because when you are actively looking, you’ll eventually run into many. Look at the emails your major’s department sends out. Most of the time, they send information regarding career-building opportunities such as speaker panels or networking events. If you are currently undeclared, I suggest taking courses in anything and everything.

  1. Join student organizations to meet people

Quite frankly, I was afraid of joining clubs to meet other students, but I eventually realized that its actually pretty enjoyable! Campus is full of welcoming and friendly people, and making friends will help in the long run because they can provide a support system to get you through the tough days, weeks, and quarters. 

  1. Work hard, play hard!

College is the perfect time to make mistakes, and to work to the best of your ability and have fun on the days you can. Plan outings with friends or have self-care days. Have something to look forward to each week so that you can re-energize and get back to productivity. 

  1. Healthy body and mind = less falling asleep in lecture

You may only need five or eight hours of sleep to function during the day, but try to get enough rest and eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Everyone has different eating habits that feel good for them, so find what works for you. During midterms or finals week, you may not be able to sleep your regular set hours or eat home cooked meals, but try your best because your body needs nutrients, and eating at University Tow Center every day isn’t going to help in the long run. What I’ve done is to try to eat my meals during a specific time frame, and to stick to it as much as possible. 

As a final reminder, it’s going to be different to navigate college. Sometimes you’re going to fail, but the only way to succeed is to get through it. You deserve to be a student at UCI, and even if you don’t see it now, your hard work will prove it and pay off.

Mayra Sierra

UC Irvine '23

Mayra is a third-year studying Art and Film & Media Studies. In her free time she likes to watch movies, dance like no one's watching, spend more money than she has shopping and take nature walks when it's time for her social battery to recharge. Mayra currently has a coffee AND boba addiction she can't get rid of, but is working on it.
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