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5 Pieces of Advice to Incoming First-Generation College Students

Let’s be honest- going to college is SCARY. Leaving home for the first time is a BIG DEAL. College is a big chapter in your life. Everything is new. You’re no longer looked at as a teenager, instead you are now a young adult. It’s time to start learning how to do things on your own. One of those things, navigating college. What’s even scarier for some people is the fact that they are the first generation to go to college, myself being one of them. Being a first-generation college student is terrifying. Most people grow up hearing their parent’s college stories. The classes they took, parties they attended, and the lifelong friendships they built along the way. For me, I didn’t grow up hearing any of that. I came into college completely blind-sighted. Everything was so new. Where to go, what to pack, which classes I should take… I had to figure it all out on my own. With that being said, here are five pieces of advice for incoming first-generation college students. These are the pieces of advice I wish I had heard before starting my freshman year!

1. Transfer over all AP and college course credits.

My biggest mistake my freshman year was not transferring over college courses I took in high school. My junior year of high school I took geology honors through a local university. At the time I didn’t care about putting in the small amount of work it would’ve taken me to transfer over the credits to UNH. That came back to bite me in the ass. My freshman year at UNH my advisor placed me in a geology class to fulfill my Physical Science Discovery course. Not thinking I said, “Sure, I took geology in high school so this will be easy.” Oh, was I wrong… A large lecture where all the professor did was read off a PowerPoint... Not my learning style. Exams were all short-answer and labs were the only thing saving my grade thanks to my fabulous teaching assistant. Moral of the story- transfer over any and all college credits you have. To this day, geology is the lowest grade on my transcript. I waisted thousands of dollars on a class that would not benefit me what-so-ever. Most importantly, I waisted my time and energy when I could’ve been taking a class that I was actually interested and related to my field of study.

2. Don’t be afraid to come in undecided.

One of the best parts of college is taking classes you’re interested in. For some, you aren’t sure what interests you yet, and that’s okay! Explore the different departments and classes within each. Read course descriptions and see what strikes your fancy. There are some amazing classes out there, and many you’d never even expect to like. My freshman year I was unsure what classes to take so I signed up for a class called “Theory of Coaching Basketball” within the Sports Studies Department. We held class in the gym and actually played basketball every day. As a washed-up high school basketball player, I loved this! To this day it’s been my favorite class, and I’ve continued to take classes within the sports studies department because of it. If you are unsure what to major in, start with an intro class in a department you may be weary about. You never know when that one teacher, class, or department will change what you want to do with the rest of your life!

3. Become familiar with campus resources.

On-campus resources will be a life saver as a first gen college student. These will be the organizations and people that will support and help you navigate your way through college. I’m still discovering the vast variety of resources we have at UNH and I’m about to be a junior! From psychological help, to career services, fitness classes, tutors, medical assistance and everything in between, there is a resource on campus! They want to help you! And you know what? You’re paying for them! So, you might as well take advantage while you have them at your fingertips. Get to know your college resources before coming to campus. Know the different ways and areas you can get help in while you’re here. These resources are built into your tuition and will make coming to college as a first gen student way easier than figuring everything out on your own.

4. The first people you meet won’t necessarily be your forever friends.

There’s nothing like a freshman class anxiously scrambling to find friends the second they step onto a college campus. Whether they’re the people you meet at orientation, your roommate, neighbors or just people in your classes, do not jump to count them as a forever friend. You will not leave freshman year with every person you met and considered a “friend” within the first weeks of college. Trust me, this isn’t meant to scare you. Some of them may turn out to be “your people.” But if they aren’t, don’t be butthurt. This is a universal freshman experience. Going to college, you’re trying to figure out and navigate this new chapter of your life. It’s hard enough to figure out who you want to be, let alone who you want your friends to be. Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Remember, everyone is in the same boat. You will find your forever people. It may or may not be the first people you meet, and that is OKAY.

5. Fill in your parents/guardians.

Yes, everything is new to you, but it’s also new to your parents. If you’re first gen, your parents are going through the college process for the first time, just like you. They deserve to hear about all of the things you’re about to encounter, both the good and the bad. Keep them in the loop, they’ll appreciate it more than you know!

Mel Matts Aspiring Journalist and blogger :)
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