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The Struggles Of A First-Generation College Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

Growing up, the pressure to succeed was always suffocating. Each “A” I received was never good enough because it wasn’t an “A+,” or when I was having a difficult time, I shouldn’t have been. My mom wanted a better life for me than she had, however, it wasn’t fostering a happy and healthy lifestyle. I am a first-generation college student, one who felt the need to surpass all expectations previously set for me, and one who felt the need to do the things my parents weren’t able to.

I thought getting into college was the hard part, but boy was I wrong. Now that I’m here, I have to deal with FAFSA, maintaining scholarships, registering for classes, and more. Being the first person to figure out an entire system is daunting, let alone accepting the fact that there is no one around who can directly help you. Advisors are hard to reach out to, professors don’t truly know the facets of different departments, and many other students are just as confused as you. It feels as though you’re participating in a trial run. 

After speaking to different first-generation students, these are the most common difficulties: registering for classes, managing finances, and applying for loans

Here’s some advice I can offer, now that I’ve formed my own group of first-gens to help us make it through the next four years.

Research Your Major

Most of the time, your college will provide certain class requirements for each major. I gathered a list of all of the classes required for my major and planned out which class I could take each semester, that way when it was time to meet with my advisor, I was already prepped and ready. DegreeWorks is the system my college uses, which is extremely useful in creating plans and making sure you are taking classes that actively give credit toward your major. Look into your college’s course-planning platform to get started early!

Managing Finances

Personally, I have a scholarship that covers tuition as well as different grants that cover my other costs. Many of my friends, however, do not have the same luxury. Tuition deferments are extremely important for those who need time to make sure they have the money. My friend was unsure of when her tuition was due, and ended up getting dropped from the university due to unpaid tuition. Set calendar dates for when things are due, and consult your financial aid department. The best thing to do is to stay on top of things and make sure that there is no chance of mistakes. 

Applying for Loans

Applying for loans can be difficult when there is no one there to provide assistance. There are so many different aspects to taking out a loan, and many financial aid offices do not provide guidance. They are just there to approve the loan and put it into place. Sometimes your university will provide resources to obtain loans, which allows you to contact them and figure out the details. Loans will stick with you for however long it takes for you to pay them off, that is why it is so important to do your research and know what you are signing up for. Many colleges offer financial advising services to help you manage loans, budgeting, and more, so be sure to take advantage of them!

Being a first-generation college student can be scary. The bottom line is: you are not alone. There are many people who are just like you, and they understand what you are going through. Being a first-generation college student is a blessing in disguise because you are able to show that you did this, all by yourself. You got this!

Hi! My name is Ginamarie and I am currently getting my undergraduate degree in Secondary English Education at the University of South Florida! I am a huge One Direction and Harry Styles fan who also loves to relax with a good romance novel! My cat, Sushi, and I often like to have dance parties and listen to music as well! In my spare time, I am usually writing or watching New Girl (the absolute best show ever).