Hi! I’m Olivia 🙂
And I’m the first person in my family to come to University.
Meet my family here!
Not only am I the first one in my immediate family to go to university, but the first one in my entire (very large) family. I’ve normally been the first one in my family to do a lot of things, but it was very strange applying to university with no experience at all. Being the first first-generation student.
My brain was so scrambled through the entire process:
- How do people know what uni is best?
- How do people suddenly know how the UCAS process works?
- Am I going to survive alone?
I’ll be honest, the answers to most of the questions took very long to find out – maybe a bit too long. But looking back on it, I wish there was a mini-tailored list of things to be aware of when applying to uni as the first one in your family.
So that’s where I come in! I’m going to give you my top tips from a Second Year student who had no idea what was going on in my first year!
1. What is a college?
The University of York is a collegiate uni. For me, when applying here, I was so confused by the idea that different universities were not collegiate and I didn’t really understand what it meant to have colleges at uni.
But what actually is a college?
The best way for me to describe it is like a little community on campus, that each run their own events for other people in the college. Almost like houses in Harry Potter, unfortunately, you don’t get the fancy sorting hat when you’re assigned your college.
Colleges especially helped me as the first person in my family to go to university because I didn’t feel alone in the whole process. Specifically, the College President and College Committee were really welcoming and helpful with any specific questions I had.
For me, I was assigned Alcuin (my first choice! And by far the best college, no biases there). As cheesy as it sounds – it was like a little family who did stuff all together! Some other colleges often have college meals once a week too, which help with this sense of community.
2. Money, money, money
Another thing that really stressed me out when applying to university was how to manage money. I felt that other people had advice from their families, whereas I didn’t. However, there is a lot of financial help and information available to you when both applying and attending uni.
Scholarships, Bursaries & Grants
You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not checking the university website to see if you’re eligible for any financial support. The website was super useful for me when seeing if I could receive any aid, and often first-generation students may be eligible for some extra financial help!
For those who get funding from Student Finance (SFE), it is very useful to check in advance the dates on which your payments are due, so you can plan ahead and budget if needed. Even for those who don’t use SFE, budgeting is a very helpful thing. You don’t want to end up accidentally buying too many Mcdonalds’ and not be able to afford rent!
3. Join everything
When I say join everything, I mean everything. My mum always told me that “knowledge is power” and as annoying as she is, she is right. You don’t want to feel alone or isolated as a first-generation student, so signing up for as much as you can is the best advice I can give you (without burning out, of course!).
There are tons of societies and clubs that you can attend (you do have to pay for most societies though, which is something no one ever tells you before going to uni!). These branch from Sporting clubs to Hummus Appreciation Society, and they mean you can meet a lot of new people – some might even be a first-gen student like you!
Here’s a photo from the African Caribbean Society this year, where I’ve managed to find a lot of other first-gen students:
4. Top Tips!
Here are just a list of final top tips I have to help you first-gen students out!:
- Involve your family when learning about the uni process – you both are new to this, so getting as many perspectives on this as possible is great!
- Check out any part-time jobs either on campus or in town
- Join the Step Ahead program, if you’re eligible
- Do a tour of campus and your department, and find out where your lessons will be.
Anyways, I hope this was helpful!
From one first-generation student to another, good luck with your uni process 🙂
Read more stories from first-generation students.