The Challenges of First-Generation College Students

Written by: 
Daymar College

Navigating Financial Aid for First Generation College Students

Financing college may seem like a no-brainer to some, however for a first-generation college student navigating the world of scholarships and financial aid can be truly overwhelming. Depending on your individual situation, your parents may or may not be a factor in your financial decisions regarding college, thus adding another layer of complication to the process.

Filling out the paperwork, the FAFSA: what is it and why do I need to fill one out?

From the FAFSA website (www.fafsa.ed.gov) “To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study, and loans, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.”

In a nutshell, FAFSA is the form you fill out to qualify for financial aid. In order to complete the FAFSA you will need:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically (your login and password).
  • If you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s).

In addition to filling out the FAFSA, there are other resources for finding scholarships like the Scholly app (www.myscholly.com), available in the iTunes App Store, plus these additional resources provided by USA Today College.  

Some students opt to live with family members during college so they can pay for school while working part-time or full-time. One of the best ways to plan for the success of your future is to have financial plans for how you will pay for school.

Taking care of financial planning before starting school is truly imperative to success.

Source: www.fafsa.ed.gov

Fitting In As A First-Generation College Student

So many of first-generation college students put off college over the concern of not fitting in. The great thing about college is that you will always fit in! Your peers feel the same pressure as you do, when it comes to attending college. Once you begin classes, you’ll realize that everyone in the room has one thing in common, they are choosing a better life for themselves through higher education. Soon you’ll have a support system with both your classmates and quite often with faculty and administration depending on the student population of your school.

At Daymar College, we offer small class sizes and a truly intimate learning environment where students have access to instructors, admissions staff, and administration. We create a family environment where our students can thrive, learn, and achieve their goals.

Managing Work Schedules & Lack of Time As A First Generation College Student

One of the most difficult things about getting through college is getting everything done and managing your time. The most successful college students plan ahead, keep a planner with notes and deadlines, make sacrifices and make deadlines.

Managing a busy schedule of classes, homework, and an outside job or other responsibilities like parenting, or taking care of a parent, can interfere with a student’s ability to complete coursework, but planning ahead can make this chore less overwhelming.

Get a day planner, and use it - or use an app like EverNote - but use something. Make note of deadlines and complete them early when possible. Use your spare time wisely. Take breaks when you need them, but always keep your goal top of mind and remember why you started college.

Break large projects into smaller, more digestible steps, and don’t let long deadlines creep up. Staying on top of your workload will help you feel less overwhelmed when more gets piled on – and it will! Break large projects into daily or weekly milestones to stay on track. You’ve chosen to take on this challenge, so when it becomes challenging, be ready to go full force.

To help free up time finish things early when you can, and use any available class time for studies rather than for socializing. When your instructor gives you extra time use it wisely.

When Life Gets In The Way

The one law that always applies during college is Murphy’s Law. Whether it’s a broken down car, a crashed computer or a family emergency – things can and will come up. Communicate with your instructors and your school. Your instructors want you to succeed and they know that life happens! Communication is key to getting through the challenges.

Never make major decisions during a crisis and remember that a bump in the road doesn’t mean the end of the road. Resilience and grit are two of the most valuable traits when it comes to getting through college.

With that being said – if its finals week the above will apply even more. Be prepared to through a crisis when it arises, and know that others may come up.

Summary

Nobody sets a goal with the intention to fail, but sticking to long-term goals can be difficult and often stressful. Stress can be defined as the gap that exists between expectation and reality. The larger the gap, the more we feel stress. The best advice I was ever given as a college student was “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.” – remember that your goals take work, and while challenges may arise, being prepared for them will make it that much easier to stay on track.

If you’re ready to start your educational journey, or just want to explore your options get in touch!