College is expensive. That is a declarative statement. It is expensive and, for any teen who understands the value of a dollar, the staggering numbers are intimidating. For those who are the first ones in their family to undergo the process of pursuing a 4-year college/university education in the U.S., these numbers can be utterly debilitating. This is why, for first generation students especially, working while is a must.
Because a first generation student typically does not have the same type of familiar support in their household (i.e. the application process, the selection process, the major differences between campus A and campus B, etc . . .) the college process can feel downright isolating. That said, all must remember, once on campus, the student will always be his/her own best advocate. If you have made up your mind that college is what you need to create a better life for yourself and that the education which you are choosing to pursue is appropriate for your interests, then take the jump. However, when you hit the water it’s critical that you know how to swim– or at least stay afloat.
Once on campus, seek out an ally in the financial aid office. Ask to meet a financial aid officer, introduce yourself, explain your situation, tell them that you will stay in touch and that you’re searching for any scholarship or grant ideas that may come across their desk. Then ask for their business card and send them a thank you once you get home. Stay in touch.
Go to housing. Ask for the person in the office who is in charge of the RA selection process and once you find out who that is, introduce yourself and ask him/her all about the selection process and for any recommendations that he/she may have for you to be a stronger candidate. Promise to stay in touch once you leave. Then, stay in touch once you leave!
Find the work-study office on campus (this could be in the financial aid office or it could be elsewhere, just ask around). Introduce yourself to the person in charge of placing students and inquire as to what the various options are and talk a bit about yourself and see if he/she has any recommendations for which on-campus job you might be best suited for. Promise to stay in touch when you’re thanking them and leaving.
Introduce yourself to all of your professors and befriend the staff members. These are the best opportunities for baby-sitting jobs, house-sitting jobs, etc . . .
College is an uncomfortable transition. It’s going to be that way regardless of how many orientations you attend and how well you get to know your freshman roommate on Facebook during the summer before school begins. No matter what, it’s a challenge. Therefore, it is best to just put yourself out there. Make sure that everyone who you run into can become your ally. They might not be able to help you out at that very moment, but if you stay on their mind, at some point everyone will have something to offer you. Stay gracious and thoughtful. Stay in touch as often as you’re able. Pursue any and all things which can allow you to continue your education and achieve your goals. Only a part of the college experience and education occurs in the classroom. If you remember this, and apply it in your everyday life, you will be set for success. Each day that goes by is an investment in your future and it will be worth it.