Every year, young people from all corners of the country embark on a journey that marks a significant milestone in their lives: attending college. While some enter this phase with a sense of preparedness, others find themselves struggling to navigate the complexities of semi-independent living. Furthermore, a substantial number of first-generation students are stepping into the halls of post-secondary education for the very first time, facing unique challenges due to the absence of familial guidance. According to Forbes (2023), a staggering 56% of all undergraduates are first-generation college students, highlighting the pressing need for adequate preparation. First-generation students, those whose parents did not attend college, often face a unique set of challenges as they navigate the higher education system. These challenges can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:
Lack of Familiarity: First-generation students may not have access to the same level of information and guidance about the college application and enrollment process that students with college-educated parents do. This lack of familiarity can make it difficult to know where to start.
Imposter Syndrome: First-generation students may experience imposter syndrome, feeling like they don't belong in a college environment. This can affect their confidence and academic performance.
Mental Health and Stress: The combination of academic pressure, financial stress, and the feeling of being an outsider in the college environment can contribute to mental health challenges like anxiety and depression.
Preparing for college should ideally commence long before one sets foot on campus. Embracing ARMS Inc. recommends that emerging college students begin their preparation as early as their high school freshman year. This proactive approach can make the transition from high school to post-secondary education smoother and more manageable. So, what can young individuals do to better equip themselves for this transformative journey?
First and foremost, establishing good study habits early on is paramount. High school freshmen should focus on honing their time management skills and cultivating a strong work ethic. These foundational skills will not only contribute to academic success but will also help students manage the newfound freedom that college life offers. Additionally, seeking guidance from high school counselors and mentors can provide invaluable insights into the college application process and scholarship opportunities, especially for first-generation students who may lack family experience in this realm.
By building a strong academic foundation and seeking guidance, college-bound freshmen can set themselves up for a successful and fulfilling college experience.
Danielle Y. Hairston Green, Ph.D., CFCS-HDFS