College Tips for First Generation Students

Here are a few things that parents who have gone to college know to tell their college-bound kids…

  1. Go to all of your classes and take notes. Even if there’s a guest speaker or a film, chances are good that you’ll be tested on the content of that class. The process of taking notes will help you remember the material that seemed so obvious when it was presented in class.
  2. Keep a weekly planner and schedule time for classes, meals, traveling to and from campus, laundry, studying, etc. Be sure to make note of the dates that projects are due and tests are scheduled. Your time won’t be structured for you like it was in high school, so staying on top of all the things you need to do is important.
  3. Budget some time for the activities and people that you love. You won’t have a lot of spare time, but do use some of it to keep up with friends, play your sport, or practice your favorite hobby.  As you go through transition periods in your life (like going from high-school to college or from college to the workforce), you need some continuity to stay physically and mentally healthy.
  4. Take group projects seriously, and make your best contributions. The other students you have to work with may be your colleagues, contacts, employees or employers some day. Take these opportunities to start building a good reputation with them.
  5. Good students get help as soon as they need it. If something is bothering you, get to the Student Success (Counseling) Centre right away. If you don’t feel well, go to the Health Centre. If you’re having trouble with a subject, talk to the professor. Don’t be ashamed if you are having mental, emotional or physical trouble. Taking the help that is available isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom.
  6. Don’t spend your OSAP money on “stuff.” It might look like a lot of money, but it will only partially cover your school and living expenses It won’t cover the cost of a new fashion statement, vehicle, or electronics.  Go on your shopping spree when you’ve started earning serious money from your career after college.
  7. Consider your part-time/ summer/co-op placement/volunteer work a step toward your long-term career. Even if the work looks completely unrelated to the “real” job that you want after graduating, you’ll need references from your college-year employers to prove that you will be a good choice for a future employer.   When you’re on any job you need to be punctual, reliable, and act like a professional.
  8. Connect to your campus. If you can afford to, live on or close to campus, and don’t rush home or to work as soon as your classes are over. Read Blackboard and the student notice boards around campus to find out what’s going on, and get in on some of the activities that are available to you.  You will enrich your experience and possibly develop some new networks. Consider getting involved with a Co-Curricular Record.
  9. Don’t be afraid to change majors or programs, but do it wisely. If you really don’t like what you’re studying, it might be best to explore other options. It’s not worth worrying about the time or money that you’ve already spent when you consider the bigger picture of your lifelong career. The key is to do your research before you make a change, so you aren’t making random choices. The college has people to guide you through that process. Meanwhile, keep working hard in your current courses – you may be able to use credits from them toward your new program.
  10. The years that you are about to invest at college are just the beginning. As a professional, you will need to keep learning and growing in order to stay marketable. Develop good self-management and study skills now, and you’ll benefit throughout your career