Rutgers-Camden Blog

Five Tips to Starting the Semester Strong: The First-Gen Student Edition

I hope your semester has gotten off to a great start. Hopefully, you are more relaxed and getting a feel for the new semester. If you still feel a little nervous, that’s totally normal. Many first-generation college students feel anxious at the start of the semester. The goal of this blog is to help relieve that nervousness and give you some tips on how you can start your semester strong.

1. Get organized. One of the fastest ways to ease your nerves in starting a new semester is to get organized. If you have a lot of priorities (i.e., working full- or part-time, attending classes, handling home responsibilities, participating in student organizations), then this first step is pivotal. To organize yourself, I have four suggestions:

a. Either print out each of your syllabi for your courses or virtually store them in a place where they are quickly accessible.
b. Jot down the due dates for each major assignment in an agenda or on your phone. No deadline should catch you by surprise.
c. Create a weekly schedule where you block out your school/work schedule, time with friends and/or family, and your “nonnegotiable” study time. If you want to do well academically, you should have a set study time free from interruptions and distractions.
d. Establish a routine. Try to create a schedule that helps you maximize your time and effort. Getting into a routine will help you discover your state of flow. If you notice your schedule is not working, make the necessary adjustments.

2. Connect with your professors. Your professors are one of your greatest resources. At the beginning of the semester, take a moment to introduce yourself and get to know them. If you struggle with any of your courses, reach out to them after class or during office hours.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is the one thing I see many first-gen students struggle with the most. It’s hard sometimes to admit they need help because they do not want to be seen as weak, needy, or a nuisance. If you need assistance during the semester, do not hesitate to ask. It’s our job to assist and help you succeed.

4. Get involved. There is so much you can get involved with on campus. Clubs, student organizations, learning abroad, undergraduate research, internships – the list goes on and on. Find opportunities that speak to you! Don’t be a PCP (parking lot, class, parking lot) student. Get involved!

5. Leverage your past experiences to help you overcome challenges you may face. The college experience will not always be smooth sailing; you will face challenges and obstacles along the way. When the college journey gets tough, leverage your past experiences to get you through. If you faced a challenge before and you succeed guess what? You can do it again! You are more powerful and resilient than you realize. I hope you found these tips to be helpful. Have a great semester.