First-Generation College Student: 4 Ways Parents Can Support Their Journey

As a parent, you can take steps to give your child the tools they’ll need to thrive as a first-generation college student. Here are four ways to help them on their education journey.

1. Learn the College Application Process

First, familiarize yourself with the process that goes into applying to college, especially deadlines, in order for your student to qualify for the best financial aid package.

You can help your child navigate the college application process by:

  • Making a list of all application deadlines and submitting all required materials before the deadline
  • Making a list of college scholarship opportunities and submitting them before they expire
  • Visiting campuses before or during the application process
  • Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), ideally by the summer or fall of 2022 to ensure your student receives the most federal aid possible

2. Gain Financial Clarity Together

One study found that 70 percent of college students worry about finances. The key to combating money challenges is to gain clarity over your financial situation. Sit down with your student and come up with a plan together. Write out a budget, then use that data to create tangible goals or actionable next steps.

For example, you might find that your child needs to make an additional $200 per week to pay rent or other expenses. In this case, they should look for a $15-per-hour job that they can work at least 14 hours per week before the semester begins so they can meet their expenses.

Seeing the realities of the whole financial picture may encourage your student to apply for additional scholarships. For example, at Azusa Pacific University, first-generation college students can apply for a number of scholarship opportunities, such as the Multi-Ethnic Leadership Scholarship or the East Los Angeles Community Union Scholarship.

3. Encourage Your Student to Connect With Their Academic Advisor

At the majority of universities, each student is assigned their own academic advisor. An advisor helps your child pick courses that match their interests, career goals, and graduation timeline, as well as answer questions they may have about their studies. Encouraging your student to connect with them early and often is always a good idea.

APU students can access many great resources to assist them, such as:

APU also offers direct support for parents of first-generation college students, giving you more tools to make a difference in your student’s academic and personal success.

4. Give Positive Support

A study in the Journal of American College Health found that first-generation college students are more likely to experience anxiety than other groups of students. Showing compassion and offering support can go a long way.

Common issues a first-generation college student may face include:

  • Experiencing imposter syndrome
  • Feeling shame over their socioeconomic status
  • Feeling pressure to get good grades or maintain a certain GPA
  • Feeling guilt that they’re receiving opportunities their loved ones didn’t get
  • Developing and understanding their new identity
  • Receiving negative remarks from other family members

Even if they haven’t expressed these concerns directly to you, they’re worth considering. After all, 69 percent of first-generation college students say their aim in going to college is to help their families, according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Are you the parent of a first-generation college student? Learn more about how APU’s GEN1 Scholars Program can help your child thrive.