First-generation college students: Here’s what you need to know

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, January 18, 2018/Categories: Students, Academic Affairs, Community, Faculty, Staff

What is a credit hour? How do I apply for financial aid? How do I live with a roommate I’ve never met before?

Every college student arrives on campus brimming with questions. For first-generation students, there is the added challenge of navigating an environment no one in their immediate family has experienced.

Studies show that first-generation students face unique obstacles during their college careers. While schools across the nation are working to eliminate these hurdles, there are attitudes and practices first-generation students can adopt to promote their personal success.

Here, student and staff voices from Black Hills State University plot the steps first-generation students can take to navigate, succeed, and celebrate their educational journey.

Before college…

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions! When you are the first of your family to go to college, you may not know ‘how to do college’ and that is okay,” says Valeriah Big Eagle, student success advisor at BHSU-Rapid City who was a first-generation student herself.

Find someone in your community who has been successful in college and ask them questions about the process. This “go-to” person might be a high school counselor or teacher—someone in your community who is passionate about education. Asking this person questions can clear up some of the “lingo” that isn’t often used outside of college (What is a “pre-req”? What does “FASFA” stand for?).

Consider the type of school that best fits your goals. Technical schools set you on a shorter track to putting hands-on knowledge into practice. Community colleges prep students with general courses and can act as a bridge between high school and other colleges. If you are interested in a bachelor’s degree or beyond, studies show that it is best for students to begin at a four-year school from the onset. The environment and resources at these schools increase students’ long-term success.

Get on a first-name basis with your college admissions representative. When you first express interest in a college, your first contact will be with an admissions representative. This person’s goal is to get you enrolled and set you on the track to success. Let them know that you are a first-generation student and ask what programs are available at that university. Admissions representatives know the ins-and-outs of the school they work for and can answer questions you have about financial aid, degree programs, and the application process.

Attend preregistration and orientation days at your school. These informational days get you familiar with your campus, course locations, dorm life, advisors, and campus resources—all before your first day of classes!

During college…

I have to work for this, I have to earn it,” reflects Khalia Rybak, a first-generation student who graduated from BHSU with her associate’s degree in general studies in December.

Take ownership of your college experience. Your college success hinges on investing the best of your time and energy. “College is 100 percent a personal motivation goal,” says Hannah Burtt, Jump Start* retention advisor at BHSU. “If you don’t want to get up in the morning and go to class, that is your prerogative. No one is going to be over your shoulder, nagging you.”

Engage with your peers through student clubs and organizations. Whether it’s attending a fall football game or joining an on-campus book club, connecting socially will make a significant impact on your college career. “The social aspect is amazingly important,” says Burtt. “Getting involved in clubs and student organizations, being open to living in the dorms and meeting new people, growing a foundation of networks—it’s vital.”

Connect with faculty and staff who can help you. This often means stepping out of your comfort zone to talk with the resident assistant in your residence hall, faculty advisor, and professors. “Asking questions was the hardest part for me to do when I was going to college,” says Big Eagle. “I did not know how to approach instructors and professors. Participating in transitional programs, such as the Bridge Program* at BHSU, is helpful for students to gain self-confidence in this area.”

Ask for help if you need it. Transitioning from high school to college can be overwhelming at times, especially being a first-generation student. Leaving the comfort of home for an unknown environment and learning how to navigate college can be stressful. “BHSU has TRIO Student Support Services* that is a great support system for first-generation students,” says Big Eagle. “There is also the Student Counseling Center, Financial Aid Services, and Academic Advising*—just to name a few resources for students looking for answers!”

Whether you’re struggling with class material, unsure of how to apply for scholarships, or simply adjusting to college life, reach out to the many services offered to students across college campuses.

After college…

“The fact that you got to where you are today speaks volumes,” says Burtt.

Inspire those who come after you. Becoming a graduate dynamically changes the opportunities available to you. Becoming a mentor for other first-generation students changes the opportunities available to others within your community. “I am encouraged when I realize what a role model I can be to those who will face the same challenges I did,” says Rybak.

Online platforms, such as I’m First, create a community where first-generation students tell their stories and inspire others to embrace their college experience.

*All BHSU Student Services mentioned in this article can be found at: www.bhsu.edu/StudentLife/StudentServices.aspx

For more information about enrolling at BHSU, contact Beth Oaks, director of admissions, at (605) 642-66343 or Admissions@BHSU.edu
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Black Hills Food Hub receives Micropolitan Award at the 99th annual Spearfish Chamber Banquet and Awards Ceremony

16 February 2018

Black Hills Food Hub receives Micropolitan Award at the 99th annual Spearfish Chamber Banquet and Awards Ceremony

Black Hills Food Hub, an entity that has evolved to offer locally grown food from about 24 local producers to five cafeterias and restaurants in the region, received the Micropolitan Award at the 99th annual Spearfish Chamber Banquet and Awards Ceremony at the Spearfish Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

BHSU student athlete will represent Scotland in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

16 February 2018

BHSU student athlete will represent Scotland in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

Fraser Malcolm, physical education major at Black Hills State University and number 24 on the Yellow Jacket men’s basketball team, has been selected to represent his home nation in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Malcolm will join the 12-man team from Scotland for the international basketball tournament in Queensland, Australia, in April.

The Commonwealth Games is an annual, multi-sport event that draws teams from the 53 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, including Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. 

Malcolm, originally from Falkirk, Scotland, has played for teams in Scotland, Britain, Iceland, and the United States. He says he’s been hoping for the opportunity to represent Scotland in the Commonwealth Games for a long time.
 

Geek Speak explores creative relationships between mathematics and poetry

9 February 2018

Geek Speak explores creative relationships between mathematics and poetry

Right and left brains collide this Thursday as two professors from seemingly contrasting areas of study combine their passions to create intricately structured art.

In their Geek Speak, “Fano-Plane and Di-Graph Poetics: Intersections of Math and Poetry,” Dr. Dan May, assistant professor of mathematics, and Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, associate professor of English and director of the University Honors Program, will show their creative approach to blending mathematics and poetry. This speak will be held Thursday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. in Jonas 305. All Geek Speaks are free and open to the public.
 

Upcoming Geek Speak explores wilderness ordeals as spectacle

7 February 2018

Upcoming Geek Speak explores wilderness ordeals as spectacle

In his Geek Speak, “America’s Favorite Carnage: Selling Wilderness Ordeals as Spectacle,” Dr. Tim Steckline, professor of speech at BHSU, will explore the pervasiveness of spectacle in our society according Situationist theory. This speak will be held Thursday, Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. in Jonas 305. All Geek Speaks are free and open to the public.
 

BHSU Department of Music announces spring concert schedule

2 February 2018

BHSU Department of Music announces spring concert schedule

The hallways of Clare and Josef Meier Hall echo as student and faculty musicians rehearse for the Black Hills State University spring concerts which include student senior recitals, concerts, faculty recitals, a trumpet day, and the first ever guest appearance of the traveling U.S. Air Force Academy Band – Academy Winds. The BHSU Department of Music invites the community to enjoy the upcoming events.

All concerts, unless otherwise noted, are free, open to the public, and located in the Clare and Joseph Meier Recital Hall.
The spring events will commence with the United State Air Force Academy Band – Academy Winds from Colorado Springs, Colo., performance Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. This group tours the country as part of the military’s community outreach, and this will be their first visit to BHSU.

SDSMG spring trading session begins Feb. 5

2 February 2018

SDSMG spring trading session begins Feb. 5

Teachers may now register for the spring session of the South Dakota Stock Market Game Program (SDSMG.) The spring session begins Monday, Feb. 5 and ends its 10-week trading period Friday, April 20.

The SDSMG is a real-time online stock market simulation where teams of students research and purchase a portfolio of stocks. Students compete for cash prizes in the middle school, high school, and college divisions. Teachers receive weekly newsletters and online training to integrate the program into a variety of grade levels and subjects. The SDSMG program is the only online stock simulation program endorsed by the South Dakota Council on Economic Education.

Renowned photographer and BHSU alum returns to present his work and expertise

31 January 2018

Renowned photographer and BHSU alum returns to present his work and expertise

Adventure sport and climbing photographer Jeremiah Watt will give a free public presentation at Black Hills State University Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 5 p.m.

Watt is a 2005 BHSU photography program alum. In 2012, he earned a master of fine arts in photography from the University of Utah. Recent photographic projects have taken him to France, Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, and Belize. He is currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Watt is a lively and engaging speaker who enjoys sharing his tales of adventure with others. His matter-of-fact and direct approach to climbing, the outdoors, and photography is inspirational. There will be time following his presentation for questions and comments.

Geek Speak explores the allure of modern-day Berlin

31 January 2018

Geek Speak explores the allure of modern-day Berlin

In his Geek Speak, “Berlin Now: A Portrait of a City after the Wall,” Dr. Adam Blackler, assistant professor of history at BHSU, will attempt to explain why Berlin has become one of the most popular cities in the world. The public has two opportunities to engage in this speak: Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. at the Jacket Zone in downtown Spearfish and Thursday, Feb. at 4 p.m. in Jonas 110. All Geek Speaks are free and open to the public.

South Dakota Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, T. Denny Sanford Gifts $30 Million to the Horatio Alger Association Endowment – Its Largest Single Gift Ever Received

30 January 2018

South Dakota Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, T. Denny Sanford Gifts $30 Million to the Horatio Alger Association Endowment – Its Largest Single Gift Ever Received

Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education, today announced receipt of a $30 million endowment gift from T. Denny Sanford, Horatio Alger Association Member and chairman of the board for United National Corporation, the holding company for First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard, headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This transformative gift is the largest single donation ever received by the Association since its inception in 1947.

BHSU announces South Dakota Stock Market Game top teams for fall trading session

19 January 2018

BHSU announces South Dakota Stock Market Game top teams for fall trading session

The 2017 fall session of the South Dakota Stock Market Game (SDSMG) hosted by Black Hills State University concluded with students at Mellette Middle School, Rapid City Stevens High School, and BHSU taking top honors. During this session, 362 students from 20 South Dakota schools formed 160 teams of stock market investors. Each team received a hypothetical $100,000 to perform online investing in real-time stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

BHSU mass communication major Micalyn Parry, from Chino, Ariz., won the college division with a final portfolio value of $115,833. This was the highest portfolio in South Dakota., with a return on investment of 15.8 percent in ten weeks. Parry participated in the program as part of her survey of business course.