First-generation students standing and kneeling together in front of a yellow house and trees.

The author, Jaden, with the AnBryce Scholarship cohort, an NYU award for first-generation low-income students on campus.

The author, Jaden, with the AnBryce Scholarship cohort, an NYU award for first-generation low-income students on campus.

Coming to college as the first in your family can be scary, to put it lightly. There is so much to the world of higher education that many first-generation college students never get advice on before they start. For example, how do classes work in college compared to high school? How do you balance academic and social life? How do you talk to professors? What does “networking” even mean? As a first-generation college student, I had these questions when I first arrived on campus at NYU. So here are my words of advice, from me to you, on what to remember while you are navigating the confusing, wild, roller coaster that is college.

1. Everyone Is Just as Nervous

I cannot emphasize this enough—everyone is just as nervous as you are! Remember this is the first time most people in your class are attending college. The vast majority of them are not from the New York area and have the same fears and worries you do. There is no perfect way or preset formula to getting over the nerves of something as monumental as starting college. So try to lean in and know that nerves are entirely natural. When you observe your peers and think, “Gosh, everyone else seems to know what they’re doing,” trust me, no one in their first year does. And that is OK! Try your best to put yourself out there to meet new people and know that every other first year is in the same boat. 

And if you need a little extra help, check out the Office of Student Success. It’s an excellent on-campus resource. What’s more, it’ll be your go-to place if you’re trying to figure out the awkward transition that is starting college. They cover everything from how how to study in college to how to budget your money. Whatever fears you may have about this new world, they got your back!

2. There Are Other Students Like You

While it may not be obvious in a sea of diverse students from all over the world, there is actually a great first-generation community at NYU. A lot of my best friends are people I relate to about the awkward challenges that being first generation presents. If you don’t make these friends naturally on your journey through NYU, no worries. NYU even has clubs and communities tailored for first-generation students to meet and form connections.

Proud to Be First is one of the largest first-generation organizations on campus. It was created to help first-generation students at the College of Arts and Science. It focuses on establishing a community, providing mentorship, and promoting success for NYU first-generation students to thrive during and after their time at NYU.

FLIP, an NYU club for first-generation low-income students, is another great club to find fellow first-generation students. Its mission is to provide students with support from their peers. From helping with scholarship applications to simply providing a space to feel seen, FLIP is an amazing place to start if you are looking for a first-generation family on campus!

Group of students standing in front of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC.
The NYU 2020 AnBryce cohort standing in front of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC.
3. College Is Ultimately What You Make of It

Lastly, college is ultimately what you make of it. I know this is cheesy, but I was in your position four years ago, and I find it is true. I remember feeling so much imposter syndrome and feeling like NYU was just a world I didn’t belong in simply because I had no familiarity with college in my past. But as I spent more time pursuing my passions, making meaningful connections, and fostering unforgettable memories in New York City, the truth of the matter really set in for me.

It doesn’t matter where you come from, if your parents went to college, or what kind of resources you have compared to the student next to you, the ability to thrive at NYU is available for everyone. New York City is one giant melting pot of diversity and opportunity. So making the most of the city while you can is what matters most.

Try to find those classes, clubs, and communities that interest you the most, and don’t be afraid to pursue them. After all, that’s what these four years are all about. And remember, you got this!

Jaden is a senior at NYU studying Public Policy with a minor in Economics. During his time at NYU he has been involved in multiple on-campus roles such as breaking news editor for NYU Local and Head of Marketing for the NYU Economics Society. After graduation he wishes to pursue a career in in policy or finance. In his free time, Jaden loves to hike, explore new food spots around the city, and catch the latest A24 movie