For many first-generation Latino college students, getting into school is only half the battle. Sticking it out and graduating is a whole other story. While Latinos have made big gains in college enrollment, they are less likely than their white peers to be enrolled in college full-time, and are less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree.
The reasons for these gaps are varied, ranging from poor college preparedness to a lack of familial or financial support. However, several studies have indicated that first-generation college students who have the support and guidance of peers and mentors tend to fare better than those who do not.
It’s with this in mind that we tapped our Latino Voices community and asked them to share their advice for the incoming college freshmen. May their words of encouragement and wisdom serve as a reminder that, though you are the first in your family go to college, you will never truly walk alone. We’ve got your back!
1. “Before you start, take a moment to think of why you’ve decided to go to college. Think about where you came from and where you want to go. What does it mean to you? Write it down. You might find yourself needing a reminder and some motivation along the way…#betruetoyou#theworldneedsyou #youcandoit!” -humblemetrue via Instagram
2. “Always ask questions and give it your all. You may be the only or few in your class that is first generation, but never doubt that you belong there. Always carry your heritage and experience with pride.” -Dora Guzman via Facebook
5. “Take care of your mental health! Latinxs don’t like to talk about it, but we have problems too!” -@maria_kpunteria via Twitter
6. “Take Chicano Studies, Mexican American Studies or Ethnic Studies. Its where you embrace your Latinx identity as opposed selling your soul, and having support system from Chicana/o and Latina/o professors all the way until you graduate!” -garciafernandez via Instagram
7. “Make the jump out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to talk to MANY DIFFERENT personalities!! Don’t make assumption as to who you can & can’t befriend!!” -gabatron_5000 via Instagram
9. “Don’t be afraid to give your opinion and world view in class...surround yourself with the students who don’t take college for granted...enjoy every moment because it goes by fast!” -American Latino Radio via Facebook.
10. “Those moments when you’re going out and your friends are complaining about their [expensive] bags while you’re wondering how many meal plan points to stretch over the week so you don’t starve, remember to breathe because though it seems hard getting through it and being patient will be well worth it.”-Kathleen Eccleston via Facebook
11. “Focus. College is a Blessing. Make the most of your time there; And graduate in a timely manner!!!” -Joyce Nelson Thompson via Facebook
13. “Stay humble and remember you’re not any better than those who don’t have your spot back home. Don’t be so proud. Check your privilege and keep up the fight.”-reinadelsurside via Instagram
14. “College is one of the best things in life for those who can appreciate it. College will not only test your ability to study material and take exams, but also examine your capabilities as an individual! Do not give up!” -csanlarios via Instagram
15. “Never forget where you come from and always know where you’re going. Enjoy the journey.”-allburp_ via Instagram
17. “Take advantage of on campus clubs and activities that give you hands-on experience in what you really want to do career-wise and focus on that. That will be your advantage when you graduate, to say you did those entry-level tasks throughout your studies. That’s when you get your foot in the door, when professors take notice, introduce you to connections. Better than waiting until after graduation.”-Kelsey Helmick via Facebook
18. “It’s okay to start late, as long as you start and keep going!”-Michele McGrath via Facebook
19. “Lift as you climb. You may be the first in your family but make sure you are not the last.”-ramondover via Instagram
21. “Never forget where you come from and who you are. Bring that to your campus, make others learn your story the way underrepresented students (first-gen included) are expected to learn everyone else’s.” -Maria José via Facebook
22. “Use internships, school activities and work as a way to get experience for your future job.” -dream4illusion via Instagram
23. “Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different backgrounds! You worked extra hard to get into college and that hard work does not stop there. Fuerza.” -kellyrmrz via Instagram
25. “Ask for help. You are paying good money to be in school. College is not cheap, whether you’re taking loans or paying out of pocket. Don’t let your money go down the drain because you are afraid to ask for help.” -Rosalyn D. Lake-Montero via Facebook
26. “There are going to be times when the overall pressure of possibly disappointing your parents and family will be overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is that you can do this. You have brought yourself this far, and it is okay to ask for help when you need it.” -Rhode Elizabeth Ontiveros via Facebook
27. “Live it up but be cautious… Oh, and call your familia often.” -xory_sweet_love via Instagram
28. “Sleep !!!!!” -liliembriz via Instagram
29. “Pay it forward when you’re in the position to support other first-generation college students.” -Grace Duarte-Baker via Facebook
Quotes have been edited for clarity.
This post has been updated since it was originally published to include additional words of wisdom from the HuffPost Latino Voices community.