Navigating Your College Career as a First Gen

Being a first-generation student is tough, but exciting. It was tough for me because I did not have people to help me with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). My family did not understand the struggles I was enduring during college and at times, imposter syndrome got the best of me. At the same time being first generation was exciting because I was able to gain new opportunities, help my family to understand different things, and I was able to find my passion. What helped me to have a successful college experience despite being first-generation were my support systems and campus involvement. There are multiple programs at UConn that are committed to the success of first-generation students such as the McNair Scholars Program, Student Support Services (SSS), First Year Experience (FYE), First Year Programs such as FirstGen Student Group. 

The McNair Scholars Program and SSS are a part of TRiO programs that UConn offers which help low-income, first-generation college students or those from populations underrepresented. The McNair Scholars Program is a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program for rising sophomores and juniors that are interested in pursuing a PhD in the STEM field one day. Being a McNair Scholar sets you up for lifelong success by providing faculty mentorship, internships, funding, research opportunities, GRE preparation, and fee waivers for future higher education applications. With SSS, a lot of students start their journey by participating in their summer program which is a 5-week program to prepare students for college rigor right after high school. Students are paired with a counselor, provided one on one tutoring, and given the opportunity to participate in leadership and study abroad programs.

FYE supports all first-year students, but as a first-generation student, you may benefit from a class that helps you get acclimated with the university, understand college life, or helps you to learn more about a topic you are interested in or have little to no experience with. The overall goal of FYE is to foster learning, help with the transition to college, and create leaders. In the past there have been FYE courses offered on topics such as Privilege and Possibility, Personal Finance, Aiming for the A+, Challenging Social Norms, Black Women Voices in Higher Education, etc. The instructors for the courses can be anyone from program directors, seasoned professors, or upper-class graduate students. Students who participate in FYE also gain a mentor who is a student at UConn so that students can gain a larger support network.

The programs mentioned above are not an exhaustive list of opportunities for first-generation college students at UConn, but they are a stepping stone for other methods of support and success. The First Generation UConn website provides opportunities and support groups for students. One program in particular is the FirstGen Student Group which allows students to gain support from different campus members that could potentially be upperclassmen, professors, or staff. First Generation UConn also hosts panels and events that specifically cater to the needs of first-generation students. Whether you need a mentor, a tutor, a friend, or an opportunity, UConn has provided a large number of opportunities to help you soar and unlock your full potential. Remember that you are not alone in trying to navigate college and be successful, you just have to find your community to excel with.

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

By Dominque Moore
Dominque Moore Graduate Assistant: Career Development