My Experience as a First-Generation College Student

Gannon Fridley / Walsh University »

For any college freshman or high school senior, attending or getting ready to attend college is one of the most exciting times in a young individual’s life. I think what makes attending college so special is that each person is coming from a unique background of some sort. For me, part of my background is being a first-generation college student. There has been an increasing number of college individuals that I have met who are first-generation like me, and it is really exciting to meet and learn from each other about our experiences.

A lot of our parents grew up at a time where there were many well-paying jobs that did not require a college degree. I remember my dad telling me stories about his first job where there would be college professors who had teaching degrees that decided to leave their craft and work in the steel mills and automotive plants because the pay was a lot more than being a teacher. However, those jobs only stayed for so long, and a lot of the plants shut down. This was when getting a college degree became of high importance, as both of my parents stressed to me at a young age about going to college.

As I am going into my third year of college at Walsh University, there have definitely been some obstacles of being a first-year college student that I have come across and, throughout this article, I want to give advice that I was given throughout my college journey that I think is very valuable for other current high school seniors or first-year college students to hear. 

Stay Calm

One of the biggest pieces of advice that was given to me about starting college is to  stay calm your first week on campus. For first-generations like myself, you may not understand everything that is going to happen at college. This can leave you feeling anxious and leave a sort of uncertainty inside you. I can tell you that it is ok to feel anxious, because that means that you care about college and are excited to get started. Also, I can guarantee you that every freshman, whether they are first-generation or not, is feeling a little nervous about starting their college career. 

Just because someone may have more college experiences than you, that does not mean you are not bound for success in college. With that being said, make sure that you are calm and collected, because everything is going to work out. My dad always told me that the best remedy to help out with a new change is time. Time will make everything better and, before you know it, you will be going into your last year on campus wondering where the time went. College will seem new at first, but as time goes on the newness starts to fade away.

Make Friends

My next piece of advice for any first-generation college student is try and make as many friends as you can on campus, especially older students. At Walsh, we had a system called the Maroon and Gold Mentors where, during our freshman year, we got paired up with a junior or senior. During this time, we were able to learn and gain college experience from a student at the university, which was really helpful before starting the first week of college. 

I strongly encourage new students to make friends with people in your incoming class, and having older friends that are juniors or seniors can really be helpful. I remember obtaining advice about living in a dorm for the first time and also about how college classes are actually structured. Hearing advice from a student is really special, because they felt exactly the same way whenever they were a freshman.

Ask Questions

Finally, as you start your college journey, never feel that you are ever alone, and always ask questions if you are ever uncertain. College is going to be very new, especially for first-generations that have never had this experience, but you are never alone on campus. By asking simple questions to students and teachers, I was able to form relationships with them. There are always going to be people on campus that are willing to lend a helping hand. Never be afraid or feel out of place to reach out if you ever feel unsure about something. 

I wish the best of luck to all of you on your college journey, and I know that you will do great. Being a first-generation college student may not always be the easiest at times, but it is definitely rewarding. You all have a special opportunity, so take full advantage. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience.