First in My Family

Hello everyone! My name is Angelica and I am an Admission Counselor here at the USC Office of Undergraduate Admission. I wanted to take a moment to write to you about first generation college student resources at USC. This is an important topic for me because I am a first generation college graduate. I was the first in my family to leave South Los Angeles and venture out-of-state for school and landed in upstate New York. I thought the transition to college would be easy because I was very independent in high school. As the oldest in my family, I had a part-time job, volunteered every weekend at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, participated in competitive cheerleading and was on the swim team. I graduated in the top of my class and thought I was unstoppable. However, when I got to college, I felt like small fish in an ocean. While I was excited about all the new opportunities available, I was also overwhelmed.

The first day of class was difficult. And while I may have felt like the shyest kid in the class I knew that raising my hand in my first college class was a good representation of what my next four years were going to look like: I would need to advocate for myself when I needed further clarification or guidance in class.

If I could do college all over again, I think I would have the following advice for myself as a first generation college student[1]:

  1. Email your professors (especially before classes start). Make sure you know how to access the class website or the readings. You may even ask if the professor has an extra copy of the book to lend you. If your professor happens to be unavailable, checking in with your academic advisor can also help you access course material.
  2. Build your support system. Many of us who are the first in our family to attend college got here through hard work and with the support of our community – whether it was your family or school environment.
  3. Believe in yourself. You have achieved many things because you have learned to be resourceful and you have applied yourself in your academics and extracurricular activities. You deserve to be in college because you have worked hard.

Going to college can be exciting and scary (especially if you are a student who is deciding to attend a school far away from home), but you don’t have to feel alone at college.  At USC, we are committed to providing support for our first generation college students. Here are some examples of the resources available on campus:

College Transition Workshops during Orientation

We realize that the transition to college will be new for you and your family. If your parents are able to attend, orientation is a great time for them to see campus. There will be programming during orientation, and throughout the year, that will help you and your family understand how to navigate your first year at USC. Everything from understanding how to access your tuition bill to registering for classes to finding the phone numbers for important services on campus will be covered. Family resources can be found on our website in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

First Generation Student Group

While USC’s undergraduate student population is about 19,000, you are not alone as a first generation college student. You may have seen in a previous post by our Dean of Admissions that 1-in-7 in our incoming class will be a first generation college student. USC has such a large population of first-generation students that a student organization, the USC First Gen Student Union, exists to provide community and help in sharing resources. Additionally, the First Generation College Student Summit is a student run conference that brings together both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as professionals. Expanding your community beyond the undergraduate level can help you plan for your career aspirations.

First Generation College Guidebook

The First Generation College Student Resource Guide is an extensive booklet created by the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and the Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives. It is currently being updated to include new resources. However, if you would like to jumpstart your knowledge of USC, it would be great as some light summer reading.

There are many resources and opportunities at USC. You may have heard a lot about the Trojan Family – the community on this campus comprised of current students, alumni, and staff. We are all committed to your success. You will not only be the first in your family to attend college, you will be the first to succeed and thrive.

Be on the look out, we will be bringing you additional follow up guest posts on other first generation staff and students.

[1] USC defines a first-generation college student as a student whose parents have not received a bachelor’s degree. Your parents may have attended college but withdrawn or attended community college and earned an associate’s degree.

By: Angelica Gutierrez
Assistant Director of Admission

One thought on “First in My Family”

  1. Hi Angelica, my son is going to be a Senior next school year, and I’m very scare with all the process and deadlines for applications, and of curse the costs. I’m and immigrant with a lot of expectation for my children, and Victor is my oldest one, wen I read your story, I don’t feel lonely anymore, Thank you for give me hope to keep pushing my son, because we the Hispanic community need ALOT of information and help to go in this ocean with mi little canopy. God bless you.
    I promes we going to try to enroll my son in USC engenery.

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