Advice from a first-generation student

Megan studies BSc Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience here at Essex and in this post, Megan will be sharing her experience as the first in her family to go to university with the aim of inspiring other first-generation students.

Being a first-generation student can be tough. There often isn’t anyone you can turn to for guidance on student loans or the university application process. You will not be the first, nor the last person to be perplexed by this process but don’t worry – this blog contains information which will help you along your way!

Firstly, what is a first-generation university student?

A first-generation student means that neither of your parents have attended university and obtained a degree. Even if other members of your family went to university, you’re still classed as a first-generation student. Data indicates that this applies to approximately one in every three students.

First-generation students represent progress for the whole family because you have accomplished something which no one within your family has previously. Your achievement is likely to encourage younger members of your family to follow in your steps in the future and will become a non-stop chain which sets a standard -one which shows further education is great!

(You should take a moment to think about this amazing achievement –you really have done a great job to get to this stage! *round of applause*).

What challenges can first-generation university students face?

Parents and family who have been to university can provide plenty of information and stories about university. Although many things may have changed since their experience, the general process of leaving home and being independent is still similar.

However, if you’re a first-generation student, getting information from relatives is simply not an option. This means you may have to put more effort into your research beforehand –luckily the internet is always here to help!

Sometimes you may feel less supported as you’re not surrounded by people who went to university and these people may not understand the pressures and anxieties that come with attending university. If you want to talk to someone about these feelings, I’m First is an organisation that provides specific support for first-gen students.

It’s important to try and stay positive and remember there will be other first-gen students in the same situation.

What additional opportunities are there for first-generation students?

Being a first-generation student presents you with lots of opportunities. One of the big bonuses to being the first in your family to attend university is the scholarship opportunities.

These awards are non-repayable sums of money offered to students because your parents may not be able to provide you with the financial support required, or cannot guide you themselves. The awards vary between universities; however it’s worth doing some research to see what you can apply for. An extra bit of money could really be the boost you need to support you at university!

Top tips for first-generation students

  • Familiarise yourself with university and the application process. Research online and speak to students and staff at university.
  • Take advantage of any scholarships on offer; any extra money helps when you’re a student.
  • Get involved with everything and try new things. You will make friends and find people with similar interests to you.
  • If you’re ever feeling homesick or anxious, pick up the phone or talk to others. It’s almost guaranteed that your family will want to help you however they can.
  • Push yourself and try new things! However if you feel uncomfortable, say no.
  • Overall, just enjoy your time at university. It’ll go by in a flash so take make the most of it.