10 Tips for Parents with First Generation College Students

I want to start off by mentioning that these tips are from my personal experiences as a first generation student moving to college on my own. This is a compilation of things that I felt would have been helpful to have during my time in college.

  1. Try to be there, especially for important days like Move-In Day or try to visit once in awhile.  I don’t blame my parents for not being there physically a lot. I know that work is a priority for my father, and my mom is afraid to drive on freeways. But I’ll admit that it made me sad when my friends’ families would visit them, take them to lunch, and then took them grocery shopping. It’s normal for students to get home sick and having family around once in awhile can be comforting.
  2. Look at the school’s important dates with your child. Set aside time to help your child look at the school’s important dates, universities usually have these dates listed on their website, here’s an example of UCI’s. Good keywords to search are application dates and deadlines for [name of school]. There you can find when fees are due for classes, housing, or when move in day are.
  3. Be open to understanding mental health struggles. Mental health is something that students will most likely struggle with in college. We may struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. Although many of our communities have trouble believing in this notion, this is even more crucial for first generation college students who are learning a lot of this road on their own.
  4. Try to be understanding that they probably won’t be as present when it comes to family gatherings. College becomes a hectic time for a lot of us, with all the pressures to be good even when we don’t know where to start. We’re pressured to have good grades, work, be involved in campus organizations, do volunteer work, internships, research, and take care of ourselves all while learning how to be on our own. It can get stressful, and with the free time we do have, we need to spend it doing our best studying because being a full-time student is basically working a full-time job.
  5. Check in with your children. This might mean calling to check up on them after they’ve moved, but not too much because it can get overwhelming with all of the new lifestyle changes coming at us. Once or twice a week is reasonable.  
  6. Be patient with your students when they are visiting home. They might be overwhelmed with all of their involvements, and even though they know you expect to help at home by giving their siblings rides or washing dishes like before. Sometimes it can be a lot to deal with because they have all these exams going on, so even though they may be at home for the weekend, they might still need to study. They have new responsibilities that can be too much combined with home responsibilities.
  7. Be open to what we choose to study. Be understanding that we all aren’t going to be doctors or lawyers, and that’s ok. We want to make you proud and all your sacrifices worth it, but allowing us to do what we are passionate about will be better for both of us in the present and long run.
  8. Don’t be prideful when we challenge you. Since we are at the university, we are constantly learning, and some of us are learning about the systems in this world that uphold hierarchies and injustice. So we might question things you say or do because they are outcomes of the systems training us to be a certain way. We don’t love you any less, we just want you to be better.
  9. Home cooked meals are the best. It is SO GREAT to come home and have a good meal after having to eat the dining hall’s bland food. We get sick from it at times. We missed the foods that are staples to our culture and haven’t yet perfected our own cooking skills. 
  10. If you have the means, financial assistance is crucial, (but we also understand if you can’t). Many of us opt to take out loans if we can because we know we don’t want to burden you with another cost. We definitely don’t like to ask either, but if you know that maybe your costs are lightening up as most of your children are getting older and on their own, maybe helping to pay a little would be enough. The interest on our loans are no joke!
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Alicia Aguayo

Alicia Aguayo

Alicia Aguayo is currently pursuing a B.A. in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. She was born and raised on the West Side of San Bernardino, California and is a daughter of immigrants from México. Since the age of 14, she has been involved with Inland Congregations United for Change, a non-profit and faith-based community organization and has worked on local educational issues in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Alicia’s goal is to help make higher education accessible and equitable for people of color in her community. She is also passionate about environmental justice issues and has advocated for indigenous peoples rights with Creation Justice Ministries, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Alicia has worked on gathering research about the local history of the West Side in San Bernardino and wants to create representation for Latinx and black folks with storytelling.

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