Embrace the Hustle: 10 Tips for First Generation Hmong College Students

Being classified as a first generation college student is one of the most common predictors of student failure in higher education. First generation college students, students who’s parents have never attended college or earned a bachelor’s degree, encounter several challenges and obstacles throughout their academic journey. As a first generation, Hmong college student, this may add additional layers of complexity to your educational attainment.

However, being a first generation, Hmong college student is not a deficit. You are actually in a position of power! It affirms your greatness! Your hard work, resilience, and tenacity got you to where you are at. You belong at your college campus just as much as any other student there. You deserve the privileges to utilize any and all resources provided by the campus. You earned the right to sit in the same classroom seats as everyone else. Your journey through higher education may get challenging, but know that you are a living agent of change for your ancestors’ sacrifice. So here are 10 tips to help you embrace the hustle as a first generation, Hmong college student.

Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash

Get involved with a student support program. Find a program on campus that aligns with your goals and aspirations. There are programs on college campuses that are specifically dedicated to supporting first generation college students as well. Typically, these smaller programs will be able to provide you with additional 1-on-1 academic counseling, tutoring services, books, test materials, etc. These programs allow you to get to know staff members on a more personal basis and makes it easier for you to have a central body of people who you can rely on for help. Some common programs may include: EOP, TRiO, Guardian Scholars, Student Accessibility Services, and MESA.

Develop a long-term educational plan. Schedule an appointment with your counselor in your major’s department in the first quarter/semester of your first year in college. If you already know exactly what major you want to study, ask your counselor to support you in developing a 4-year educational plan. If you are undecided about your major, inform your counselor of some possible majors you may be interested in exploring. Ask your counselor to develop a 2-year educational plan to explore these potential majors, while completing your general education requirements.

Find your communities on campus. Student clubs and organizations will typically table during welcome week. Check out what each one has to offer. They can include: fraternities/sororities, ethnic organizations, social clubs, hobby-based clubs, etc. Find a few clubs or organizations that you might be interested in and attend their meetings or social gatherings. This is a great way for you to meet other students with the same interests as you and for you to engage in fun, meaningful activities. It is important that you feel you are a part of the college campus community because this increases your retention and investment in your education.

Utilize office hours and tutoring services. It may be intimidating to attend office hours, but you need to. Use this time to ask questions about content and material you don’t understand. Also, office hours are a great way for you to get to know your professors. This may work in your favor later on when you’re needing an extra boost for your grade in the class. Your effort to show up at office hours makes a lasting impression and can be the difference between receiving a B+ and an A-. Attend additional tutoring hours that are provided by the class or your college. For every hour you spend in a class, you should be spending two hours outside of class dedicated to studying for that specific course.

Manage your time and develop a weekly schedule. It is important to find a balance between your academics, social life, and personal life. Develop a weekly schedule that has all your most important responsibilities (classes, job, internships, studying, etc.). Then, input in your smaller priorities into your weekly schedule. Try to maintain and follow your schedule because having a consistent routine will guarantee success.

Get volunteer, internships, and or work experience related to your field of study. Gaining experience in your field, while in college, is a huge upside once you graduate from college because simply having a degree doesn’t cut it anymore. As a first generation, Hmong college student, you may need to work in order to fund your education and living expenses. If you are able to, try to find a job that is related to your field of study or what you want to pursue as a career. If you are not able to do this, work a part-time — work-study job on campus, so that you have a source of income. It is recommended that you work 20 hours or less. This will allow you to split your time with volunteering or doing an internship that is related to your career goals.

Visit the health center at least once a quarter/semester. This one is pretty straight forward. If you have insurance through your college, make sure you visit the health center to get regular check-ups. If you don’t have medical insurance, seek for resources on campus on how to get it. Don’t neglect your health, both physical and socio-emotional! You are only as successful as your health will allow you to be.

Meet new people. College is a fresh, new start. You can become anyone you want to be. It is always easier to meet people during the first few weeks of school because everyone is naturally open to meeting other people. I would recommend to try and meet as many people as you can during the first few weeks of the quarter/semester, whether that be in your dorms, lectures, dining hall, sections, or on the bus. Once you get to know these people you have met, you will start to find your own niche and see which people you actually vibe with.

Go on adventures and explore new sights. Whether you attend college away from home or you’re attending a local college near home, take the time to explore the campus and city. College is a serious time where you get the opportunity to enhance the quality of your life through education, but it also allows for flexibility for you to make mistakes and still be able to correct them. As much as your education is dependent on your academic success, it is also equally important to have fun while you’re learning. Go on that spring break trip! Go study abroad! Stay out late with friends on weekends (but not every weekend)! Have fun and explore!

Share your educational journey with your family. This is probably one of the most important ones. As a first generation, Hmong college student, it can become overwhelming for us. Because our parents, guardians, and or family members did not attend college, it may be overwhelming for them as well. They may feel powerless because they lack the proper knowledge to support us through our journey. Share your educational goals with your family. Let them know how you would like to be supported. Give them practical ways on how they can support you. Share your journey with them because your success was not achieved alone.

What other tips would you share?