Getting started as a first generation college student

June 25, 2019

So you’re the first in your family to go to college. Congratulations! But all the excitement you’re feeling probably comes with some stress and anxiety. How do you start looking for a college when you don’t have resources or advice from family members to fall back on? What’s all this talk about fit? Where do you even begin?

Here’s some advice from one first-generation college student to another: listen to your heart. You’re probably worried about cost, student loans and 100 other things, but don’t let those worries distract you from picking the right experience. 

Here are some things to think about as you start your college search.

Distance from home

For a lot of first-gen students, it’s important to easily be able to go back home fairly often. Whether you need to help babysit siblings, work a couple shifts at your old job or just see your family because you miss them, drive time and distance is important. Be honest with yourself about how often you think you’ll need/want to come back home before choosing a school on the other side of the country.

Campus culture

Knowing how current students spend their time on and off campus can help you decide if you’ll fit in and enjoy your time. Take time to check out each school’s campus activity calendar and talk to current students about what they do for fun. You might also want to look into campus clubs and groups. This will give you a good idea of what students are into.

Course load and expectations

If you’re planning to hold down a job while you’re in college, knowing the school’s expectations for time spent on assignments etc. outside of class is important. Current students and admissions counselors can give you an idea of how many students have jobs, what kind of hours they work, and how much time you should expect to spend on school work after hours.

Scholarships and financial aid

I know I just said not to let cost distract you from the right experience, but it still something you need to consider. You don’t want to graduate with a lifetime of student loan debt, so you have to make sure it’s within your budget. Some schools even offer scholarships specifically for first-generation students. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s available!

Augustana offers a wide range of scholarships for all kinds of students. Learn more about what scholarships might be available to you by visiting our scholarship page.