Honors First Generation Students
Being “first-generation” (commonly shortened to “first-gen”) is defined by identifying as a student whose parents did not attend college, whether a 2-year or a 4-year institution, making them (and, if applicable, their siblings) the first generation in their families to attend college. Below we provide guidance, tips, resources and more for our first-gen students and their families.
- Build a support system (friends, professors, TAs, advisors, RAs, etc)
- Communicate with your support system and other FGS about what you are experiencing
- Join a club or sport
- Get involved in first-gen programming on campus and in Honors
- Take advantage of campus resources
- Stay organized
- Get in touch with your academic advisor outside of registering for classes
- Attend professors’ office hours
- Seek support early when you are experiencing problems
- Be proactive about financial assistance and reach out when something is confusing or unclear
- Don’t overload yourself with too many commitments
- Assert yourself and advocate for what you need; if you aren’t sure how, ask your Honors advisor
How much time should I put in?
A general guideline regarding college studying is that for each class, students should spend approximately 2-3 hours of study time for each hour that they spend in class. Many students have a course load of 15 credits, so based on this guideline you should be spending roughly 30 hours of study time and 15 hours in class. These 45 hours are the equivalent of a full-time job and are the reason that you are called a full-time student.
What do professors expect from me?
A key to success in college is understanding your professors and what they expect from you. You are no longer in high school where your teachers, parents and counselors checked up on you. Turning in assignments late is no longer an option.
Some tips about college professors:
- May not check homework but will expect you to complete the same tasks on a test
- May not remind you about incomplete work
- Usually open and helpful but expect you to make contact if you need help
- Rather than being experts in teaching broadly, they are experts in particular areas of research
- Expect you to get notes and work from classmates if you miss class
- May not follow the textbook. They may choose to add to what is in the text by giving illustrations, background information or discuss research about the topic
- May lecture, expecting you to identify important points in your notes
- Expect you to read, save and refer to the course syllabus for due dates
- May not formally record who is at class but still likely to know whether or not you attended
How is college different than high school?
Where high school is more focused on students being taught, college is a learning environment where you take responsibility for thinking through and applying what you have learned.
In college, you are expected to take responsibility for your academic choices. This includes class time, scheduling, appointments, studying and free time. If you need help, you need to ask for it. There are many places to go for help, but your first contact should always be the professor who teaches the class.
How might my experience be different from that of my peers?
You may receive less support from your family while attending college than your peers though there will be a range of different levels of parental support among your peers as well. You may have to explain to family members why the demands of college work have changed your communication with them. You may also feel added pressure from families to be ‘the one who succeeds’ in college.
You may have doubts about your abilities and may believe that you are not Honors College material. This feeling is often referred to as imposter syndrome.
Excitement and Anxiety – Many students are thrilled but also somewhat frightened about being away from home at college, living on their own and being the first in the family to attend college. These students may ask themselves, “Am I cut out to be a college student?” despite their stellar academic performance in high school.
Responsibility – Many first-generation students have to help pay for their education, perhaps more so than students of higher socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition to financial responsibility, first-gen students may feel pressure to return home often and may have mixed feelings about their changing identities (e.g., wanting to succeed, but not wanting to be different from the rest of the family or their peers).
Pride– These students often feel an overwhelming sense of pride about being the first in their families to attend and complete college. A college degree can provide many opportunities. This is an important accomplishment!
Guilt– First generation students may feel the need to support their families, and they may also feel guilty about their academic performance if it is not as good as they or their families would like.
Embarrassment and Shame– First generation students may feel embarrassment over their socioeconomic status or the level of education in their family. They may be embarrassed about being different from their peers at college, particularly if their peers have a long lineage of family members attending college or if they seem to know more about how to “do college” than they do.
Confusion - First-generation students may feel ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to college processes and procedures such as application, graduation, job or graduate school searches, etc. They may not be aware of the resources available to them or of options available to them after graduation.
Feeling like an Imposter - If you’re the first in your family to attend college, you might feel a bit out of place, especially if there aren’t many other students in the same boat. Remember that even if you have some gaps, that doesn’t mean you don’t belong. Sometimes students who seem to have it all together don’t actually; they just hide their struggles. Four years is a long time, and there’s a lot of time and space for you to grow as a student. The admissions process at the school picked you to attend. That means they believe you have what it takes to succeed. And don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Focus on yourself. There will always be someone you think is better than you. Don’t forget that someone is probably thinking the same thing about you.
Student Organization Fair - The Student Organization Fair is held each August and January during the first few weeks of classes. The Fair is a day-long event with two sessions featuring different organizations for students to interact with outside the Russell House on Greene Street.
Garnet Gate - It's easy to find a group of people who share your interests. Search from among more than 550 groups on Garnet Gate, our website dedicated to student organizations, to find out group details, news and meeting times.
Become involved in one of the many leadership and engagement groups in the Honors College.
Always, always read the Honors newsletter to stay up-to-date on actiivites and opportunities.
You can find it in your university email inbox every Monday morning.
And check out the University Events calendar for activities around campus.
There are also many offices and units around campus that can assist with making your college experience a little easier!
The Career Center, located in the Thomas Cooper Library, can help you learn more about your career interests, develop professional skills, gain experience and land a job after graduation. The staff can also help walk you through how to gain an internship.
If your plans include law school, medical school or graduate school options, the Office of Pre-Professional and Graduate School Advising is the place to go. They can assist you with the application process and provide other tools and resources.
The Center for Integrative and Experiential Learning is the home for Graduation with Leadership Distinction and can be found in Legare College. Students who earn Graduation with Leadership Distinction demonstrate extensive, purposeful engagement beyond the classroom, understanding of course concepts in “real world” settings, and application of learning to make decisions and solve problems.
There’s more to UofSC libraries than just printing and coffee! The expert staff can help you with research, find the best sources, find sources from other libraries, plus many other services. You can borrow technology like iPads, laptops and more.
The Division of IT can help you with technology problems, and Microsoft Office 365 is available for free for as long as you are a student at the university. There are other student discounts available for hardware and software.
The Education Abroad Office can help you see the world! Located on the 4th floor of the Close-Hipp building, they have short- and long-term study abroad options available. (And don't forget that Honors has our own study away coordinator and Honors-specific options!)
The Gamecock Pantry provides access to food and toiletries in a free and confidential way to members of the Carolina community while creating awareness about food insecurity at Carolina. You need to register for a time to access the pantry, but all services are free to students!
The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is on Blossom Street across from the Blossom Street Garage. Their staff can help you with questions about the FAFSA, Federal Work-Study, find grants and learn about scholarships.
The Office of Undergraduate Research is located in Legare College. The staff can help you get started by identifying a research question, finding a research mentor and apply for research funding. (AND Honors has our own research coordinator and research grants you can apply for!)
The Student Disability Resource Center helps to ensure that students with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations. You must register with the office in order to utilize their services, which include requesting accommodations to help you succeed in your classes. The main SDRC office is in the Close-Hipp building.
The Student Success Center provides academic support services on campus, and is located in the Thomas Cooper Library. All of their programs and initiatives are free to undergraduate students. They can help with academic support (including tutoring and supplemental instruction), financial literacy and planning and lots of other topics.
Information and tips for First-Gen Families
- Your child will still need your support, and encourage your child to ask for help.
- Discuss work/life balance with your student.
- Understand that it is important for your child to fully engage on campus so they can enjoy college and make it to graduation.
- Be patient as you are both learning together.
- Expect that there will be changes. Your student may have trouble figuring out where they belong and may feel they don’t quite fit in as much at home anymore.
- Remember your student may not be able to visit home or communicate on the phone as much and they may not have the same amount of time to devote to family responsibilities as they did in the past.
- Communicate your confidence that they will be successful.
- Appreciate how hard college can be. Anything you can do to reduce or eliminate pressure from the family can help your student stay on track and keep focused.
- Encourage your child to find a mentor on campus.
College is full of new words, phrases and abbreviations that can make navigating this new chapter confusing and complicated. Check out our dictionary to brush up on UofSC and Honors College terms and lingo.