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Common Challenges for First-Gen College Students & How to Overcome Them

If you are struggling with your mental health or find yourself in crisis, please get yourself the support you deserve. Check out First Gen Journey, an amazing site for resources and helplines, whether it be for yourself or someone you may know.

😬 Big Challenges First-Generation College Students Face

Along with opportunities, there are challenges for first-generation college students, which we acknowledge and hope to help support you through. Remember you are not the only one who may be feeling some of these stressors, and that you will get through this! Make sure you are speaking with fellow first-gen students, as well as reaching out to get the proper mental health support you may need.

1. Lack of Knowledge About the College Experience

  • Parents and families who went to college have plenty of information and lots of stories about their college experiences to share with their children. For many first-generation college students, that information is simply not available. You may feel a lack of motivation to attend college when neither of your parents has done so. It's difficult to fit in around students who may seem like they know exactly know what they are doing. Remember though, it's hard facing any new experience, and college will be the same way! Never assume that someone may not be going through something themselves.

2. Guilt

  • Leaving family behind to attend college far from home isn't easy for any freshman student, but for first-generation students, homesickness and loneliness are often intermingled with guilt. Some of you may be the sole English speaker in your household, feeling the unnerving and difficult feeling that you have abandoned your family. Remember, you are allowed to do something for yourself, and a lot of times you may be going through this experience for your family and a better life.

3. Finances and Social Life

  • Your tuition, room and board, and books may be covered by scholarships, grants, and other sources. However, participating in campus social life can often cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more. Whether it be through an active Greek community or students' weekends and vacations, there are many ways that first-generation, lower-income students may feel left out of the college experience.
  • There are plenty of ways to still have fun and spend time with friends without spending money. Think out of the box for fun activities and focus on forging friendships based on trust and happiness. Some entertainment venues and businesses offer student discounts. Taking advantage of these discounts can help you save money.

4. Support from Home

  • Lack of support from family and friends at home, as compared to other students around them, can make you feel abandoned and without encouragement. Remember that those who did not attend college may not understand the pressures and anxieties you are facing.

🧘 Self Care & Wellness

Managing college alongside personal factors can be really hard, but remember nothing is more important than your personal well-being.

  • Crisis Text Line offers free 24/7 Crisis Counseling. Text HOME to 7 4 1 7 4 1 and you will be linked with a Crisis Counselor who will guide you through any distress.
  • Minding Your Mind works to co-create interactive tools and innovative resources to build capacity and resilience. They provide a wide range of resources to assist you during difficult times.
  • Yasmine Cheyenne Trauma & Grief Resources has provided a free resource guide to help start or continue your self-healing practice. It is readily available to assist you as you process and learn how to release your pain and shift your energy. It can also help you deal with collective trauma & grief.
  • Inclusive Therapists Mental Health Resources

👉 Immigration Resources

Student Resources

  • Many college campuses also have resources available through Student Affairs or dedicated “Dream Centers”

Legal Resources

Check out these other guides that you might need.
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