Trudging Through the Turmoil: 5 Tips for First-Generation College Students

College enrollment has been on the rise, which means more students are the first ones in their family to come to college. In the last 20 years, enrollment at public colleges in the United States has increased by nearly three million. That is about three million more students confused and worried about everything that it takes to become a college student. Even to this day, I am still confused and nervous about some things. However, to make it easier for others, I am going to share five tips that I have learned while being a first-generation college student!


1. Understanding College Jargon

During my first year at college, I had so much to learn about loans, tuition and things my parents had no clue about. From Accreditation to Work-Study, I was completely lost. I am still learning what a lot of this stuff means. My point is that you don’t need to be too worried about understanding these right away; you have time, and there are websites with helpful definitions and people on campus that are paid to answer your questions. 

The Lalastack Of Old Books And Glasses


2. Applying for FAFSAⓇ

FAFSAⓇ is an acronym that stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The first step in paying for the astounding thousands of dollars it takes to attend college is to apply for Federal Student Aid. If the government considers you of need, they will offer grants, scholarships, and government loans. Grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back, but government loans do need to be paid back. The good thing about taking out government loans instead of private loans is that the interest is lower. Don’t be too stressed out about taking out loans; most students have to take out some type of loan. My only recommendation when taking out loans is to be smart and only take out what you need because, again, you do need to pay these back plus interest.

wallet peaking out back pocket with credit cards


3. Apply for Scholarships

Most schools have  foundation scholarships. Foundation scholarships are provided by using money from donors or money set aside for schools from tax-paying citizens. By applying through your school, these scholarships are another way to get free money to pay for your college expenses.

Pink piggy bank with pink background


4. What Do You Need

Honestly, this was one of the biggest challenges I faced as a First-Generation college student. What did I need to bring to my dorm? What documents do I need to provide on the FAFSAⓇ? I had a very long list of questions that neither myself nor my parents could answer. I brought an abundance of stuff with me to college that I didn’t need. Each and every person is different, but I found myself having more difficulties like these than my friends who had parents that attended college already. My recommendation for these random questions is to Google them or maybe even consider asking a friend’s parents who attended college. I’ve found that most people are willing to help you whenever they can because every college graduate, to some extent, knows the stresses of college.

Anete Lusina


5. Staying Calm and Stress-Free

The biggest stressor in my life has been college and most likely will continue to be until I graduate. From paying for college to knowing the layout of the campus, it is all tasking. The key to successfully managing all of this is to truly understand that you are not alone! On my campus and many others, there are clubs and organizations specifically designed to help First-Generation college students. Reach out to them with any questions or concerns that you have, and they will be more than willing to help you. It is also important to create and maintain a healthy self-care routine. Take some time for yourself (like drawing, reading a book, watching Netflix, etc.) to get your mind off of the stresses of college otherwise you may fall down a deep rabbit-hole. 

Skincare morning routine


In case I haven’t said it enough, remember that you’re not the only one going through this. There are millions of other First-Generation college students across the nation. It is always okay to ask your college campus for resources or to reach out to whomever you can to answer your questions. From applying for the FAFSAⓇ to planning your packing list, there are resources out there for everybody. Most colleges offer tours of the campus for incoming freshmen, and I highly suggest going there to get your questions answered and to receive necessary resources.


Being a first-generation college student is stressful—I won’t deny that—but there is a certain satisfaction you can gain from knowing that you are the first in your family to attend a university. I wish you all prosperity and success on your college journey! You’ll do great, my fellow First-Gens!