• Tips from a First-Generation College Student

    by Kerri-Ann Henry

    Student with backpack, walking between buildings

    College is a major change for everyone, but especially for first-generation college students. Between checking lists, bingeing YouTube videos, and seeking advice from social media and mentors, first-generation students strive to surround themselves in advice to ensure that they learn from the mistakes of others. I would know since I lived this first-generation experience. I’m a college junior and over the past 3 years I have read more lists than I can count and made more mistakes than I would like to admit. But among these experiences I’ve learned a few things that I did not see on any YouTube video or tip list and wished someone had told me in my freshman year as first-generation student.

    Tip #1: Distinguish the direction to debt

    Learn how you can fall into debt. It was not until I was in my second year in college that I realized how college debt accumulated. Debt begins to build up when your college/university charges for a semester and you are unable to pay off the total balance charged. This is the point at which students may decide to take out a loan to cover the charge, otherwise your school begins to enforce restrictions such as such as blocking registration, viewing schedules, viewing degree audits, access to campus resources, etc. This may be intuitive to some but for those students and parents who are new to the college experience, this may unfortunately become their first encounter with this process. The earlier you understand this path to debt, the more motivation you may garner to apply to more scholarships, grants, and internships in high school and/or college.

    Tip #2: Discover your department

    Students who enter college already knowing their major or feeling pressured by social or time constraints to stick to a specific major may have tunnel vision and avoid exploring other possibilities. Take time to consider the different courses at least within your current department. You may find another major that is similar to yours but focuses more on a career direction you are more interested in going in. I experienced this shift when I stepped out of my tunnel vision of my nutritional sciences major to see that my career goals better aligned with the Dietetics major, which was in my same department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Following this advice ensures that your major is the best fit for you and what you really want!

    Tip #3: Study your degree audit

    Check, study and get to know your degree audit! A degree audit is a progress checker of how close you are to finishing your degree. It lists all the required courses and types of credits you need for your degree along with the classes you have completed and which requirements they satisfy. Some schools allow students to access it on their own through a student portal, but even if your school does not, I suggest asking your adviser for a copy because becoming literate in your degree audit’s language can be critical to saving time and money in the future. As a freshman, I took extra classes that satisfied certain requirements because I didn’t realize that my degree plan already included classes that would have satisfied those requirements, thus wasting my credits. Taking a certain number of extra credits past your required degree credit count can result in your school charging you for what is called excess hours. In some schools, you are charged double the tuition rate for every excess hour you take! Check your school’s excess hour policy and make sure you are intentional about the classes that you take and do not take, based on your degree audit!

    Tip #4: Remember your reason

    Finally, remember how you got to where you are now! You may encounter trials in your college experience but as a first-generation college student, do not forget the trail you are blazing a trail for your family and yourself. You are entering territory where others near you may have never been before. I and so many others are prouder of you than you can ever imagine. Remember why you are in college and that you never walk alone in this journey!

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us - click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • Pearson's declassified networking survival guide

    by Kerri-Ann Henry

    blog image alt text

    What is the most important part of the college experience? This part is the key to landing jobs, opportunities, and professional and personal relationships. The answer to this question lies beyond the classroom through a concept that you have probably heard before called networking.

    The word networking is thrown around so often, especially in the college setting, but what does the word even mean and what does it have to do with you? Networking is much more than collecting business cards. If you are new to networking keep reading to crystallize this abstract idea. If you aren’t new to networking, don’t go anywhere because I have tips that can help you completely rethink your approach!

    What is networking?

    To understand networking, we must first bust some myths and consider what networking is not. Networking is not self-promotion. Meeting people is not your opportunity to brag about yourself. Networking is also not using people or viewing them as resources you use upon request. Viewing others as a resource you use and forget will play into the myth that networking is cheap and unauthentic.  On the contrary, networking is about building a community. The idea that someone knows someone else that you should know perfectly embodies the idea of networking. When we network, we are building community, not a list of contacts.

    How do I network?

    Although it may seem like there is a series of complex steps and calculated scripts to approach networking, it is much simpler. Best-selling author Isaac Serwanga put it best into three simple steps to take by using your wishbone, jawbone, and backbone.

    Wish Bone

    The wish bone represents your dreams. Consider what it is that you want and who can help you attain that goal.


    The jawbone focuses on your competency and humility of your speech.  Do the necessary research on your industry and know what you are talking about. Prove that you are competent but recognize that you have room for improvement or more knowledge through humility. Consider incorporating a 49/51 rather than a 50/50 relationship when networking where you set yourself aside to humbly be helped and learn from others.


    Perhaps the most important component is persistence. The most common word that you will hear in networking is often ‘no’. Hearing ‘no’ is not always a good feeling, especially when building the courage to make new connections, but having the backbone to persist is the only way to fully reap the benefits of networking.

    Where and when do I network?

    The beauty of networking is that it is not a phenomenon confined to the virtual walls of LinkedIn or the physical walls of networking events and professional conferences. Author Keith Ferrazzi’s advice to “never eat alone” embodies the prevalence of networking in our everyday life. Building community starts with a conversation and we can start conversations anywhere from the grocery store to the elevator. Approach others with Bill Nye’s idea that “everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t,” so always be prepared to be amazed.

    Connect and start conversations even with those that you believe may not be able to help you in your goals.  Odds are, they may know someone that you should know, or you may know someone that they should know. And reach out to the people that you are already connected with to strengthen those relationships. Continually work to build and strengthen your network so it will be there when you need it.


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