5 Ways to Help First Generation College Students Find Success

mixed race college students

Going to college for all young adults presents situations and issues that are completely unfamiliar and sometimes overwhelming. For first generation college students, these challenges are compounded by the fact that they are doing something no one in their family has done before, often in an environment that seems less welcoming than it does for students who have one or both parents who have gone to college before them. 

Finding ways to stay motivated and positive when faced with obstacles such...MORE as financial restrictions, language barriers (for those for whom English is a second language), isolation, social challenges and more can get in the way of success for many first generation students, but with the right support, information and patience, students can make the college years a positive and enriching time.

  • 01 of 05

    Find a Role Model

    Michelle Obama

    There are many famous and highly successful people who were the first in their families to go to college. Looking to these people as role models and inspiration can give young adults the confidence and impetus to continue on their path towards a college degree.

    Among those in the public eye who were first generation college students include former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, actress Viola Davis, CEO and founder of Starbuck's Howard Schultz, and former First Lady Michelle Obama....MORE Each of these individuals succeeded in life in very different ways, but one thing they all have in common is that they changed the course of their lives by doing something no one else in their families had ever done - they went to college.

  • 02 of 05

    Find a Mentor

    mentor program

     Parents of first generation students may not be able to give their children the kind of support they need to adapt to college, since they are unfamiliar with the experience. While a call home to mom and dad can usually life the spirits of an overwhelmed freshman, having someone to help with the practical matters and give advice about learning the ins and outs of being a college student can be a huge help. There are many organizations that offer mentor services for young adults in need of some...MORE extra help who are first generation.

    On campus, many schools have peer-to-peer mentoring programs. These have been found to be very helpful for students who need everything from academic support to social introductions. 

  • 03 of 05

    Connect with Other First Generation Students

    mixed race college students

     Even before beginning college, it's a good idea to seek out others who are going to college as first generation students. Starting senior year of high school, find support groups online or through community centers or other organizations. Imfirst.org is one online community that is available to offer all kinds of support, information, and inspirational stories. This YouTube video is also interesting and motivational. Before choosing a school, first generation students should make sure there...MORE is a strong support system on campus for them to give them a place to feel comfortable and safe during the transition to college. 

  • 04 of 05

    Financial Aid and Grants

    financial aid

     Fortunately for first generation college students, there are many organizations and government resources available to help with the financial aspect of going to college. The United States is a wonderful place for those who are trying to improve their lives through education, with both public and private universities and colleges eager to enroll first generation attendees. Be aggressive and thorough in researching the opportunities for money for school to find the most funds available. Be sure...MORE to look into Pell Grants, Financial Aid, private scholarships and alumni groups. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Consider Community College

    community college classroom

     First generation college students may benefit from transitioning slowly to a large university, whether near their home or far away, but attending a community college first. There are many reasons why this is a great option for some students, including less financial burden, the ability to live at home for longer, maintaining close ties to their community while experiencing something new and challenging, and more. 

    Community college is also convenient for those who will be attending school part...MORE time, as it offers the flexibility needed to keep a job and attend school at a slower pace, including summers and online.

Whatever else students need who are heading off to college, the support and love of their parents is always important to their sense of well-being and self-confidence.