Dear Harlan: I’m the first person in my family to go to college. I’m scared of failing and ending up dropping out. How do I take that fear away? How can I make sure that I’m successful in college? I don’t want to disappoint my family or myself.
— First Gen Student
Dear Set Up: You’re already successful. What you’ve already done to get here is extraordinary. You just need to figure out how to continue to be successful. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 30% of all entering freshmen are first-generation college students. This means there is a lot of support for you. Some schools even have departments and programs dedicated to supporting first-generation students. There are so many people in your corner. You just need to find them. In fact, the most important thing you can do is look for first-generation students and mentors. Find juniors and seniors who have been there and done it. Make them your real-life heroes. Follow their paths. Find teachers and staff who can support you. Ask them for help before you need it. Get involved in groups and organizations where first-generation students hang out. Take on leadership roles that will connect you with staff who want you to win. Lean on your mentors and stay on track to graduate. BEWARE: The BIGGEST mistake first-generation students make is not getting help. They keep the fact that they need help a secret because they get embarrassed. They are afraid that people will judge them. What they don’t understand is that these people want you to be successful. They want you to win. They want to help you. And I do too.