As a first-generation college student, I always knew that I was going to attend college. It was not an option. I always knew that I was going to graduate from college. It was not an option. It was everything else that I did not know, which included applying to colleges, seeking out financial aid (I had no idea that I was eligible to receive pell grants until I was a junior), wondering what questions to ask, meeting with an academic advisor and utilizing campus resources.
I got to experience the college navigation process yet another time transferring from a community college to a four-year public university. Never one to ask for help, I wasn’t about to start merely because I was attending college.
Additionally, I worked a full-time job while attending classes. At times, I had to take a semester off, so I could work more hours and save money. Though it was a long and daunting process, I finally experienced success. While my parents had never attended college and were not able to assist, I knew that I would always have their love, support, and encouragement, which definitely contributed to my journey towards graduation.
Reflecting upon my experience, I have some “lessons learned” and advice to share:
- Take some time to peruse the Missouri State website and see what your university has to offer.
- Unsure of what questions to ask—sometimes just asking, “what questions should I ask” can be a good place to start.
- Utilize campus resources, such as Bear CLAW, Career Center, and academic coaching.
- Apply for university scholarships and learn about the nuances of financial aid.
- Get involved with your campus and local community. Even if you have a job and have very limited time, you can gain transferable skills. Not sure where to start? Stop by the Office of Student Engagement and/or Center for Community Engagement.
- Consider working a part-time job on campus. Visit the Student Employment Office.
- All students are assigned an academic advisor for a reason—your academic advisor can help you determine your graduation path and share opportunities to help you be successful.
- Make an effort to reach out to your faculty and get to know them. Developing connections with faculty may help you find internships, research opportunities, and just start appreciating your academic discipline.
- Share your college experience with your family—the more they learn and understand about college, the more they can support you when you struggle and celebrate when you succeed.
Dr. Tracey Glaessgen, Associate Director
Center for Academic Success and Transition & First-Year Programs