First Generation College Student Challenges

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A common goal for many parents is sending their children off to college. Quite often, those students are the first ones with that opportunity to do so. Despite the upside, there are many first generation college student challenges that kids face on their journeys.

If you’re the first child in your family with a chance to go to college, then be aware of these first generation college student challenges.

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first generation college student challenges

General First Generation College Student Definition

Let’s define what a ‘first-generation college student’ is.

The general rule is that these students come from families where neither parent/guardian earned a four-year degree. While many students have parents with associate degrees or other certifications, the general consensus is that one parent must have completed a four-year degree program.

Common First Generation College Student Challenges

Guilt Over Upward Mobility Potential

Many students deal with an acute feeling of guilt.

This guilt comes from having access to become more upwardly mobile (both financially and socially) than one’s parents. It’s important to remember though that parents want their children to succeed in life.

A college education is often the key to achieving that better career path and parents recognize that fact. While the short-term stress and financial pressures are real, so is the chance for a better job and economic opportunity.

Lack Of Financial Aid Understanding

Students often deal with all applications themselves.

Because they’ve never dealt with them, most first-generation student parents don’t know what documentation is needed to request federal financial aid. As a result, their children are forced to tackle the paperwork largely themselves.

Trying to make sense of the red tape for funding can be stressful. Students in this situation though have options for help:

  • Working with your high school guidance counselor
  • Checking out online tutorials from government agencies, including the Office of the U.S. Department of Education

This paperwork can be handled once you understand where to start and what specific information needs to be provided.

Inability To Visit Multiple Campuses

Many first-gen students end up applying to only one school due to travel problems.

It was common for many first-generation students to apply to one school alone because they were unable to visit other campuses. Their parents may be unable to take off enough time to travel with their children to multiple campuses and compare options.

Thankfully, many schools offer virtual campus tours now, where you can check out the surroundings and ask questions to people attending classes. Nothing beats an in-person visit, but there are viable options to get around that problem now.

Students Are Intimidated By College Costs

Don’t let the high price tag stop you from applying to dream schools.

Students from low-income households often worry about the cost of attending college. It’s a realistic concern but for many students, it can dissuade them from applying. The good news is there are various funding options available.

Besides generic scholarships and federal aid, many organizations offer grants and scholarships specifically designed for first-generation college students. The best thing to do is go online and research scholarship and grant opportunities for first-generation applicants.

Students Are Afraid To Seek Out Help

Many teenagers don’t know how to apply and are afraid to ask for help.

If you, or your child, are facing the college application process for the first time without precedent, then don’t be anxious about it. There are many available resources to provide information and help you along the way.

Besides your high school guidance counselor, there are many online resources offering step-by-step assistance on college planning. For example, the ACT organization has a comprehensive resource guide covering this topic.

Make online research your friend and look up available websites to walk you through the application process.

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