Advice for First Gen College Students

Are you the first person in your family to attend college? While taking this step is extraordinary, and exciting; it’s also frightening and uncertain. A first generation college student faces the common difficulties of any college student like balance, and stress-management. However, there are added challenges such as lack of support, and guidance. College is a life transforming experience and not having advice readily available from your family adds to the stress. I can remember many conversations with my parents ending with frustration because I was turning to them for answers about college that they did not have. If you find yourself relating to any of the aforementioned statements, the following is some advice that I wished I received earlier on in my college career.

Find a mentor.

I did not realize the value of having someone I could turn to; whether this person is a professor, advisor, Career staff, faculty, alumni, or even classmates. This person will consistently enhance your college experience by informing you of different resources or opportunities available to you. They will also be there to reassure you if you start doubting yourself or your capabilities. While your family means well, they will not have the same advice as someone in higher ed. This mentor will have experiences that you can either relate to or learn from. Personally, I was wildly unaware of all the career choices I had until I started asking professors and career staff about my options. The purpose of attending college is to expand your horizons, and there are many people who would love to help you.

Where do I start?

In the virtual environment, there is added difficulty in developing connections. It isn’t currently feasible to physically drop into someone’s office to ask a question. Instead, try sending someone you’d like to learn more from an email introducing yourself and asking to meet with them over video or a phone call during a time that is best for them. This will closely recreate the casual chats you’d experience by catching someone in their office. During this time ask your questions. Even if they do not have an answer, chances are they can put you in contact with someone that can help you. In addition to getting answer, ask them about their journey: how did they get to their current position, what’s their background, what is some advice they wish they received? Try to keep an inquisitive eye, and you’ll walk away from the conversation with a ton of information.

Another great resource available to UConn students is Husky Mentor Network. This is a site that connects you to UConn alumni and professionals to develop a mentorship. Follow this link to register and get started. I recommend connecting your LinkedIn profile to speed up the registration process. Simply answer a few questions about yourself, and you will be matched with a mentor that best suits your goals. This site takes care of the searching!

Okay, now what?

Now that you’ve met with them once and began building rapport, MAINTAIN THE RELATIONSHIP. A thank you note goes a long way. I’d recommend sending them a quick email thanking for their time no later than a week after your meeting. If both of you want to continue this relationship, then try to meet with them periodically or check-in via email. This is building your network, and creating a mentorship.

As part of Husky nation, you are exposed to a plethora of resources. A great way to start is by checking out the Center for Career Development website. There are many helpful resources like webinars, blogs, 1:1 appointments, and platforms. Husky Mentor Network is one platform that will pair you with a UConn alum to be your mentor. This is the perfect way to kickstart your journey. Best of luck and remember you deserve to be here!

By Nicolette Niedzwiecki
Nicolette Niedzwiecki Graduate Assistant, Assessment & Technology Nicolette Niedzwiecki