First-generation college students are those whose parents did not attend or graduate from college. Studies have shown that only 47% of first generation students enroll in college, compared to 85% of students whose parents hold college degrees.

Even if a first-generation student comes from a financially stable family, they may not be encouraged to attend college if their parents didn’t. On the other hand, first-generation students who come from poverty may feel pressure to begin working full-time after high school in order to support themselves or contribute to their family. Regardless of a first-generation student’s background or socioeconomic status, college needs to be a priority. The fact remains that college graduates earn on average 98% more per hour than employees without a college degree.

Clearly, it’s important for all students to attend and graduate from college. But what specifically do you need to know as a first-generation student when preparing for college?

1. Begin meeting with pre-college staff at your high school.

As a first-generation college student, we recommend meeting with pre-college staff as soon as possible. However, it’s never too late to begin seeking guidance and assistance from your counselors and advisors.

2. Tackle one thing at a time.

In order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and discouraged, we recommend breaking down the overall process into simple steps. For example, the college entrance examination process, the college visitation process, and the scholarship and/or grant application process should be broken down into singular tasks and completed one at a time. This will show you how all the individual pieces are related and the process should begin to seem less daunting.

3. Determine how you will pay for college.

Unfortunately, a college degree doesn’t often come cheap. As a first-generation student, you should begin researching financial aid options, grant options, and scholarship options as soon as possible. Private student loans are available from community lenders, and there are also a number of options available through the Office of Federal Student Aid.

4. Take advantage of pre-college programs and coursework.

As a first-generation student, it’s a good idea to seek out all opportunities for college preparedness, such as enrolling in advanced level courses in high school and taking advantage of tutoring or college admission exam preparation courses. We also recommend looking into summer bridge programs to ensure a smooth transition into college.

Earning a college degree is easily one of the best investments can make for yourself and your future. In fact, many research centers and government agencies suggest that the cost of not going to college is a price that no one can afford today. Contact LendKey today if you need help obtaining a student loan to attend college. We have enabled more than 13,000 community financial institutions to work online with student borrowers to successfully pay for college, and we are proud to help first-generation students to succeed in college and beyond.

Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.