When someone decides to go to college, a feeling of huge achievement comes from within. However, for first-gen college students, this feeling might be different. Some of these collegians have more difficulty adjusting to college than others. It might be because they face unique challenges that make it harder to excel academically.
First-generation collegians are individuals whose parents didn’t get a college education. It can be a big challenge for them because their families may not have had any experience with higher learning. Though the family may be supportive, it might not come wholeheartedly. Let’s dive into some challenges these students face and how they can overcome them.
Lack of Family Support
Unlike students from families with college-educated parents, first-gen collegians may not have parents who are familiar with the college experience or can guide navigating college life’s academic and social aspects. It can prompt sensations of vulnerability, segregation, and even the inability to acknowledge success, where students feel they are not qualified to be in school.
These collegians lack the support and direction of relatives who have already been through campus life to make informed decisions regarding their academic and career goals. They may lack access to the same networking opportunities as their peers. Thus, they may not know which majors to choose or extracurricular activities to participate in. As a result, they miss out on crucial experiences that could help them do well in school and beyond.
To overcome the lack of family support, students can seek help from faculty or trainers who have faced similar encounters so that they can guide them on how to cope in college. Career and student counselors can also offer them advice, as they are experts in handling diverse issues collegians face.
Lack of Financial Resources
Most first-gen students come from low socio-economic backgrounds and may lack financial resources. For this reason, they only find it simple to get more finances by taking multiple jobs and working when they are not in school. The part-time jobs help them pay their fees and support their households. As a result, they may lose focus and lack the energy to study, leading to poor grades.
Moreover, first-gen students lack other financial safety nets, like parents who can co-sign loans or provide financial support. Colleges are costly, and even with financial support, these students still struggle to buy textbooks and other expenses. They also hesitate to take loans as they fear long-term loan effects and how to repay them.
First-generation collegians can take various actions to overcome the difficulties of not having much money. One of them is to look for financial aid and scholarships. Another is to work part-time or find an internship to get experience and make connections. Also, be sure to find a part-time job to help pay for school.
Most first-gen collegians face stigma and negativity from other students due to their backgrounds, including racial and ethnic backgrounds. Other students perceive them as unqualified and less prepared for college. Stigma makes these collegians feel disconnected, and they isolate themselves from others. Also, stigmatization can make them develop feelings of self-doubt, making it challenging for them to concentrate in class, considering they are still facing other challenges like financial, social, and academic issues.
To overcome stigma, first-gen collegians can seek help and other resources that can enable them to build their confidence and connect with other students facing similar issues. Most institutes of higher learning have organizations and programs for supporting students socially and academically. The individuals can also seek mentorship from staff or faculty members who understand their challenges and are willing to provide help.
The pressure to succeed academically, adjust to new surroundings, and manage family and financial responsibilities can create significant anxiety and stress. Additionally, many first-gen collegians may feel like they are the first individuals in their families to pursue higher education, which creates pressure and responsibility to succeed.
Anxiety can adversely affect students’ mental wellness and educational performance. Students may struggle with focusing on their studies and engaging with their peers. High anxiety levels can also lead to physical symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches, and digestive problems.
To manage anxiety, students should seek resources designed to support mental health in their college or university, such as counseling services or support groups. Such resources can offer collegians tools and approaches for managing their anxiety and improving their mental wellness. Also, students can prioritize self-care practices, including:
- Spending time with friends and family
It’s also essential for institutions to create a supportive atmosphere that recognizes and addresses the mental health needs of first-gen collegians.
Individuals studying abroad face language barriers that pose crucial challenges. Most colleges use their native language as their first language, and international students may struggle with understanding lectures and course materials, communicating with professors and classmates, and completing written assignments. This challenge can prompt a student to hire a royal writer to keep up with schoolwork.
Due to being unable to understand notes and other learning materials, these students mostly perform poorly as they don’t understand the most important concepts. They struggle completing projects and can’t join other group discussions because of the language barrier.
Students can seek language support resources from their college or university to overcome the language barrier. Most colleges abroad offer language services such as writing centers or language courses, which can help first-gen students learn how to communicate and write in the expected language. Besides, they can seek bilingual peers to help them navigate the school’s educational and social aspects.
First-gen collegians face various hurdles that can make the campus experience more difficult. These obstacles can adversely impact their educational performance and overall well-being. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that first-gen collegians are also incredibly resilient and resourceful and can succeed in school and beyond with the correct resources and support. Despite the obstacles, many first-gen students are determined to pursue their education and achieve their career goals.