What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a First-Generation College Student?

Getting ready to attend college is a very stressful stage in a young person’s life. We think the stress will disappear once we actually start the classes, but the truth is it stays there. Some students have their parents, or their older siblings, to give support and guidance during these hard years filled with new and different experiences. But for a first-generation student, the situation is a little bit harder. They are the first person in their family going through that type of situation, which has advantages and disadvantages.

A student sitting at a desk, reading a book.


You’ll learn more than just academics.

At first, you may feel like college is pointless. If your parents and other family member have survived without going to college, why waste your time trying to get a degree, right? Well, I urge you to think about it again. When we attend college we are not only getting an academic education, we also learn many practical skills that will come in handy during our careers. Things like: communication, time management, prioritization, organization, and critical thinking. These, as well as the academic specializations, will equip you for a career. Having a college degree is more important now than it ever has been, with about 66% of all existing jobs requiring a degree.

You’ll be an example to your younger siblings or cousins.

Maybe they didn’t see college as an option because no one in the family ever attended one. But now that they see you attending, and learning new things that you actually enjoy learning (not like high school where you had to learn a little bit of everything even though some subjects didn’t attract you), they are considering the idea of doing the same. Once they do it their younger siblings or so will want to do it too. You’ll be the first family member who attended college, the one that started the chain of education.


You don’t have an example to follow

Even though you might be your younger siblings’ example to follow, you don’t have a guide to copy. Your parents and grandparents may have an idea of what you’re going through and may know it isn’t an easy thing to do, but the truth is they don’t know how to help or advise you because they didn’t go through the same situation. They will always be there to offer their support but won’t always have the right answers for you.

But don’t panic yet, universities and colleges think about this type of situation a lot, and that is why college academic advisors and counselors exist. Depending on your major you’ll be assigned a person that will be able to help you figure out your class schedules, minors, and even career paths. Find out who your advisor is, email them to make an appointment, and meet them. Believe me when I tell you they are the best helpers you’ll encounter in your college years–take every advantage of them as you can.

Financial need.

Maybe the reason your parents didn’t attend college was because of the money, they didn’t have enough to cover the expenses. But they are trying to pay it for you, they want to try and do what their parents couldn’t and that’s something you should be thankful for. Sometimes you’ll have days, weeks, or maybe even months, where you’ll be short in money. If that is the case talk to your school’s financial aid office about paying for college–like loans, scholarships, or federal work-study programs. Many options are offered in order to help students pay their tuition, you just have to find the one that’s perfect for you.

There are pros and cons to every situation, and being a first-generation student is no different. It’s an exciting venture, one that unlocks new opportunities in life.

Another valuable resource for a first-generation student is College Raptor! With our free college match tool, students are given a list of potential colleges that are fit for them–based on their academic interest, financial situation, location preferences, and many other factors. You can also use it to discover your acceptance odds at schools around the country, and discover what financial aid you could receive from those schools.

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