Tips and Recommendations

New and Current First-Generation Gusties

The mission of the First Forward Network is to develop a sense of community among the first-generation students, staff, and faculty at Gustavus, as well as to promote and support academic success from the moment a student enrolls, until they complete their journey through graduation.

A bachelor's degree will provide you (and your family) with improved financial and employment opportunities, much more that what a high school diploma alone could provide. Tenacity, resourcefulness, and an unyielding work ethic have helped you successfully arrive to this stage of your journey, and will continue to serve you well during your time at Gustavus. 

Through the First Forward Network we look forward to providing you with educational resources, tools, and insights that will be useful as you navigate this stage of your journey towards success. Since many first-generation students often begin their transition to college with a limited knowledge regarding the academic culture, nuances, and traditions of the college/university setting, through this intentional Gustie network our aim is to assist in facilitating your success.

Advice for Incoming First-Generation Students:
  • Get involved! Join clubs and do community service.
  • Try not to be shy. Introduce yourself! There are people to help.
  • It can sometimes be hard to find a sense of belonging, but don’t be afraid, because the Gustavus community is welcoming. Get involved and you will grow so much.
  • Use resources that are available to you.
  • It’s important to be open-minded.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions; if you are looking for help, you will find it.
Recommendations for First-Generation College Students
  • Attend the Summer Institute for Academic Success (SIAS) – this will help get you a connected "edge" to the campus community and resources...even before New Student Orientation. For more information or to answer questions, please check out the Summer Institute for Academic Success (SIAS) .
  • Get Support– join clubs and organizations that are of interest to you to get involved and develop your support system on campus! Talk with people whom you trust, such as family members and friends, about what you are experiencing as you transition into the new college environment. Also seek out support from faculty/staff on campus to assist you!
  • Utilize Campus Resources– we encourage all students to take advantage of all the programs and services available to assist you! Please visit the “Student Resources” section for web site links and more information about campus resources. Also utilize your fellow first-generation college students as a resource, since they have already navigated through this experience and are knowledgeable about all available campus resources!
  • Find and Maintain Balance– while in college you will have a lot to juggle! Balance, organization, and time management will be key to your success. With your academic, social, work, and family responsibilities, it will be important for you to find a way to balance competing needs and obligations. Remember the hard work that got you here will also help keep you here.
  • Ask For the Support of Your Parents/Family– since your parents did not pursue a bachelor’s degree, they may not understand what you are experiencing and the amount of time and effort you will be putting into your academics. Provide your family members with an idea of what college is like by sharing with them your daily activities and let them know how they can best support you!

Seven Tips for Parents About to Send a Child Off to College 
by Monique Rinere
(Author's Bio)
After more than two decades of advising college students (and their parents) on the journey from move-in to graduation and beyond, I've come up with the top pieces of advice I have given over and over again to parents preparing to drop their children off at college. Whether your child is living in a residential college or commuting, here are simple but important things you can do to get them off on the right foot and give yourself peace of mind to boot.
  1. Talk through the fall schedule. College weeks differ a great deal from those in high school. There may be as few as 15-20 hours of class, so students load themselves up with tons of extra-curriculars thinking that they will have all the time in the world to do well in school. This may go well for the first few weeks, but by mid-terms, most students find themselves having to buckle down and spend more hours than they could have imagined studying, writing, researching, and reviewing. Suggest that your child map out the week's classes and then block out time for sleeping, eating, exercising, showering, laundry, and then add two to three hours of studying per credit unit to the week. Then they will have a realistic view of the new demands on their time. 
  2. Packing. If your child is going to live on campus, it's always best if they pack themselves, but most 17-year olds can use a few tips. Most importantly, they should lay out what they want to take and then edit, edit, edit over the course of a few days. Seven bottoms and seven tops should suffice, in addition to seven days' worth of undergarments. They will soon acquire all kinds of wearable swag, and the truth is that most college students wear the same thing over and over. Dorms rooms are smaller than we think, and this won't be the last opportunity for them to bring things from home if they plan to come home at Thanksgiving, which is a mere dozen or so weeks away. I've watched scores of parents pack up boxes of things to send or drive back home because they didn't fit in the room!
  3. Make a communication plan. Every semester, college on-call teams get calls from at least one panicked parent who hasn't heard from their freshman in a shockingly long time. That's because orientations are designed to sweep your child up into activities from the moment they wake up until deep into the night so that they bond with their new school, get to know the campus, make friends, and stay out of mischief. Many of those activities require them to put their phones away, so before drop-off, take a look at the orientation calendar with your child and agree on a reasonable time to touch base. If you don't hear from them, don't panic, but...
  4. Know whom to call. You know your child better than anyone else on the planet. So, when your gut tells you something worrisome is going on, you need to know the right campus contact. Most parents of residential college students assume they should call the RA first. That is a big no-no. RA's are students, too, and they are there to help your child acclimate and find their place. They aren't there to soothe parents' nerves or address parental worries. Every college has a 24/7 on-call crisis management system in place, led by a Dean of Students or VP of Student Affairs. Find out their name and contact information, put them in your phone, and reach out to them when you feel that something is just not right with your child. They will be able to direct your inquiry in the most expedient way.
  5. Urge your child to get to know faculty. Research shows time and time again that students who have solid connections to faculty have a much better college experience than those who don't. And they are more apt to graduate on time! The thought of visiting a professor during office hours though often strikes fear in the hearts of even the most intrepid 18 year-old. But there are many reasons it's a good idea and it's actually relatively simple. In this blog post, I go into details about the why and how to help your child begin to forge those relationships from the get-go.
  6. Connections, connections, connections. With 80% of jobs lurking on the so-called "hidden job market," never announced or listed anywhere, and 80% of jobs gotten through connections, students need to talk to people in the fields that interest them from very early on in their college years. The best tool for them to use to expand their network is informational interviewing, a simple chat over coffee with someone who has had some measure of success in an interesting realm of professional life - to learn how they did it, what they love and don't love about it, and what advice they have for someone just starting out. Anything you can do to encourage your child to connect with others will help them. Parents often say to me, "But I don't know anyone in that field." Well, chances are that someone you know knows someone who knows someone. That's basically how it works. I recently helped a college professor connect his son to a real estate agent - an interest of his - through the friend of a friend for an informative conversation. Luckily, humans generally like to talk about themselves, so when you ask someone to coffee to hear the story of their success, most people say yes!
  7. Mark this moment. Getting to college drop-off is no small feat. It's time to acknowledge the love, energy, and time you have poured into this child to get them to this point. Perhaps a dinner party with friends, a cocktail with your spouse or partner, a massage or a game of golf. Or all of the above. You deserve to pat yourself on the back. It's time to celebrate you!