Advice from First-Gen Students: Overcoming College Obstacles

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It’s no secret that getting to and through college can be a difficult task. The task is made even more difficult for first-generation college students. These students don’t have parents or guardians who have already tackled this process and are often left to figure things out on their own. 

But how do you plan for something so big without any guidance or help? Many hopeful first-generation college students get overwhelmed and forgo the college experience altogether. For any college-hopeful students looking for a bit of advice and hope as you walk the lonely road alone – we’re here to help! 

I sat down with a few students who have some tips to help you on your journey and let you know you’re not alone.

Here’s what they had to say

Climbing a mountain quote

“Not only am I a first-generation college student, but also a first-generation American. My parents were unfamiliar with the college application process and barely spoke English. Every situation felt like I was climbing a mountain in uncharted territory.

Luckily, my high school had great teachers who cared about my success and helped me through. I would have never known how vital FASFA® was or that I could get so much money to help pay for college.”

 Michael L.

Take it one step at a time QUOTE

“I never thought I would go to college. Nobody in my family had gone to college, and it wasn’t something we talked about at home. It sounds a little ridiculous, but I only applied for college because my friends did. I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t care if I went to college or not.

Throughout the entire process, I just followed what they did. If they applied for scholarships, so did I. I mirrored their every move to a point where it would have been crazy to ditch my efforts and not at least give college a try.

My advice to anyone thinking about going to college? Take it one step at a time and find a friend (or teacher or family member) to cheer you on and support you.”

Marisa S.

“When asked about being a first-generation college student, I feel everyone tries to sugar coat it. “Anything is possible, etc.”

But, let’s be honest, it’s HARD! And you’re going to have to fight to get there. But, I can also tell you this, the fight is worth it. Your drive and determination will set you apart from the rest. You’ll have a story that’s only yours.

Use that story to your advantage. Tell your story to win scholarships. I was amazed at how many scholarships were available to only first-generation college students.

Robert G.


“I always knew I wanted to go to college. It seemed like a normal life progression: elementary school, junior high, high school, college. Although I always knew I would go to college, I didn’t realize how much work it would be. My parents did everything they could for me and truly let me enjoy a carefree childhood. So it was difficult for them when it came time to apply for college.

The FAFSA® form was confusing, and they didn’t know how to help me. So, we took it one step at a time. First, we reached out to a local community college for advice and met with a nice woman in the financial aid office. She helped us with the FASFA® form and let us know where to find resources for first-generation students and their families. Throughout my college years, I discovered that someone is always willing to help – you just have to ask.”

Mary N.


You can do it

 If I’ve learned anything from speaking with these students, it’s that everyone’s story is different. Your college experience won’t be the same as anyone else’s, and that’s okay. 

At the risk of sounding too cliché, you can do anything you put your mind to. If you need help along the way, let us know! We’re happy to help you file your FASFA®, start your scholarship search, and answer any financial aid questions you might have. 

Good luck!