You don’t know what you don’t know.
College is a new experience for both you and your parents. Oftentimes what that means is that you are coming to college without a road map to navigate what lies ahead. And, because your parents did not go through the college experience the same way you are, they may not be able to answer all of the questions that you might have along the way.
Fear not! You don't have to build your road map from scratch! There are lots of resources here on campus to help you learn about how to manage college more effectively.
You can also learn a lot from other students who have come before you. They can help you learn the ropes, and once you've got some of it down you can pay it forward to help others out.
Check out these popular press articles by 1st gen students to learn more about what they would have liked to have known about college before they started:
And then take a look below at the top tips for navigating UCSB from UCSB's own 1st gen students....
Top tips for Navigating UCSB
from UCSB's own 1st gen students
Here are just some of the things that 1st gen students have told us they didn’t know but wish they did when they started school here at UCSB, Check out some of the resources that they sought out and the strategies they used to help them navigate their college journey with a little more ease.
- Structure of courses.
- The syllabus is the road map to each course you take. Read it thoroughly and understand upfront what you will need to do for each class. If it is at all confusing, ask questions (see: visit your professor in office hours below!)
- Get on Gauchospace and make sure to read all emails and announcements. Gauchospace is usually one of the main ways that your TA and professor will communicate important information about the class. They expect that you will read this, so all information they post is fair game.
- Labs and other class sections are super important to go to. Not only do they often take attendance (which has an impact on your grade), it is a great place to dive deeper into the material, ask questions, get to know your TA, and make connections to other students (think study groups!).
- A lot is riding on each assignment and exam. Each one is important for your final grade--there really are no throw-away tasks to slack on.
- Midterms don't always happen at mid-term (Weeks 4/5). You can end up having exams all throughout the quarter and all of these are likely going to be called "midterms".
- Finals can all be scheduled close together so learning to juggle all that you have to do can be overwhelming. Luckily Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) has tools that can really help you to make a plan for studying.
- "Dead week" is the last week of regularly scheduled classes. You may think "great, I finally get a break!". But, students really use this week to start intensely studying for finals.
- Learning how to study. How you studied in high school will likely not cut it anymore. You will have a lot more to read and review, more complex homework, and longer papers to write. Exams are no longer about simply regurgitating information but instead you will need to apply the information you learned in readings, lectures, and discussions flexibly to solve new problems. Studying in college is an art form to be learned. Below are tips to build your foundation and check out our page on managing your academic load to access some of the tools.
- Map out a regular weekly schedule. This will help you to see how to best use the various pockets of time you have throughout the day.
- Don't just focus on what you have to do today, you need to also anticipate what is also coming next. Create a calendar to see when your assignments and exams are for the entire term. You will know the vast majority of this information in the 1st week of classes. Mapping out your calendar allows you to also block off when you will need to start a paper, turn in a problem set, or start studying for an exam so it doesn't sneak up on you.
- Be an active consumer of your class. Read the materials before class and go to class. Then soon afterwards go back and try to reconcile what you didn't understand. Classes often build on information learned in the prior lectures. So, if you didn't get it the first time, it will be harder to get concepts that build on that prior knowledge.
- Recognize the pace that you need to complete specific tasks. Some folks take longer to read an article or chapter. Others need more concentrated time to work through a problem set effectively. Each person is different. Schedule your week accordingly.
- Study smarter, not harder. Students often find themselves studying long hours and depriving themselves of sleep because they feel behind or like they're not "getting it". Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) offers individual appointments as well as workshops and study sections to help you learn how to study most effectively. And, p.s., you need your sleep to study most effectively! Click here to see why.
- Professors & office hours. Building relationships to your TA and professors can make or break how you do in a course. TAs and professors are truly there to help. But many students find the prospect of talking with them intimidating ("they might think I'm stupid). Remember, your TAs and professors are the experts in their field. They are there to help you master the subject you are learning. (Hint: they are also the ones who create the assignments and exams and grade them, so they can help guide you on how to do well.) Beyond helping you with a particular class, their assistance can lead to mentorship, which also is beneficial as a 1st gen student.
- Time management. Balancing your time is a juggling act. Learning to manage your time effectively will not only help with your academics but it will also help you to have a better life balance overall. Check out the time management workshops at Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) as well as our tips on how to develop better life balance.
- Financial assistance. Sometimes students feel ashamed of needing financial assistance and will hesitate to seek out the many resources we have on campus because of this. College is incredibly expensive. Many students needs financial assistance. And many who didn't use the financial resources available to them wish they would have utilized them more instead of worrying or stressing over money. Check out the potential resources here.
- Feeling like I have to be "on" all the time. First gen students often say that they feel like they are wearing a mask--playing the role of a college student not yet really just living it. What you may not realize is that lots of students experience imposter syndrome. The key to actually feeling more relaxed is to not try to fake it. Recognize that you are new to this college thing and you shouldn't yet know how to do everything. You are here to learn...that's why you are going to college, right? So find your compassion for yourself and recognize you are not the only one who is struggling to figure this all out.
- Finding a support network. First gen college students often say that they feel a bit like a fish out of water because others around them are different--perhaps they don't look like them, are of a different cultural background, or don't understand and appreciate the community they came from. But, there are a lot of people who feel just like you. Find a support system that understands and validates your experience. Talking with others who share a similar background and engaging in activities together can help you to build the feeling of community that you may be missing. And having friends to go through the many trials and tribulations of college can help you do it with greater ease. Check out the MCC cultural centers, student orgs, and other groups (e.g., religious community) to find the people who make you feel not so alone.
- Some social norms might be different than you are used to. You are going to be interacting with folks from different backgrounds who may have a different way of doing things. The norm for lots of things (e.g., how, what, and when you eat might) might be drastically different from other students. Some students start to compare themselves and may worry that their way just doesn't fit. Don't worry about what others are up to...just do you. Take interest in others and introduce them to your ways. Perhaps you each can learn something cool and new about each other.