Last year, I attended a Young Men of Color conference and listened to several speakers talk about the emotional support first-generation students need to succeed in college. It confirmed what I’ve believed in all along–that first-generation students need to find “their people and/or community” on campus, especially during their freshman year. While the social aspect of it — needing to build new friendships — is what might be the initial driver, what’s even more important is the need to identify with like-minded students from the same culture, upbringing, family dynamics, interests and more. It’s human nature for all of us to feel a huge sense of comfort and relief knowing that we are not alone and that others are facing similar challenges and wins.
As you all continue to attend college campus tours and research the ideal college to attend, here are a few things to look for or ask of the student resource center:
- Where is my community?
Find out what types of clubs and associations are on campus that meet your interests and needs. For example, if you are majoring in engineering, join the department’s engineering club. Most college campuses will also have clubs and associations related to every ethnicity and interest you can think of, such as a Latino Club, choir, speech and debate, etc. Once you’re on campus, be sure to reach out to the club organizer to sign up for their newsletter or social media pages for updates on meet-ups, mixers and events.
- Diversity and Inclusion
It’s also important to note that many colleges will have a dedicated staff member who helps students and staff navigate diversity and inclusion on campus. Determine who the point person is at the colleges of choice and find out what resources are available to students.
- El Rancho Alumni and Mentors
Sometimes your best resource is a former student from El Rancho High who now attends the college of your choice. If you’re shy and need an introduction, please don’t hesitate to ask Michelle Sandoval, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s program manager, to help assist with the introduction. Many of our students are proud to welcome new students from their hometown to their college campus.
For more tips on how to survive your first year of college, please check out an article we posted after the Young Men of Color conference last year.