I recently came across an article by Rebecca Vaughn on The Financial Diet website. She spoke candidly about the perils of being a first generation college student. These were not necessarily academic hurdles; they were decisions she made as an uninformed, 18 year-old, first-generation undergraduate student. The cost of these decisions cannot be calculated merely in dollars. Ms. Vaughn talks about being a commuter student who did not take advantage of study groups or clubs and organizations where friendships and business connections are traditionally made. There was also no explanation or counseling given when it came to financial aid where a number of regretful decisions were made.
Unfortunately, most first-generation college students are immediately overwhelmed by the admissions process and blown away by how fast information is transferred in college classes. Also unfortunate is a characteristic found in most young people who get confused about what comes next; they don’t ask for help.
The roadblocks for any college student are many and varied between applying to college and completing the degree. They are compounded when the student has no one in their life that has been through the process to warn them about the pitfalls that can derail their plans. Even when all the academic hurdles are navigated with relative ease, the financial burden that many students agree to shoulder proves to be much larger than they ever imagined.
There is so much advice that needs to be conveyed to a young adult trying to prepare for a successful career by getting a college education. I believe this is where the parents get overwhelmed and instead of trying to deliver that enormous amount of information, they say nothing hoping that everything will turn out all right.
Whether you are the parent or the student; when the task at hand is applying to, attending or paying for college, get help. Ask someone who knows the answer to the questions you have. Even if you don’t know enough to ask a specific question, ask how the system works. Whatever information you get, it will be more than you had. If you are diligent in finding reasonable answers to all your questions, the mountain of college admissions and attendance can be reduced to something as nondescript as a mole hill.