Transition Tips for First-Generation Families

Welcome first-generation families! We are delighted that your student has decided to share their college journey with us at Johns Hopkins University. The Office of Parent and Family Relations realizes there will be moments where first-generation family members may need additional help in supporting their student as they navigate the college process. With that in mind, we have compiled the following list of tips to help ensure a successful transition into college life.

Visit our first-generation student website to learn more about available resources and programming as well as tips from other first-generation Hopkins students.

Transition Tips

Eliminate the guilt.

Many first-generation students feel guilty about having left their family. As a family member, it’s important to know, and to remind your student of, the value of a college education. In the long run, a college degree will be much more valuable.

Expect change.

Students experience a lot of growth during their time at Johns Hopkins University. College and the experiences associated with it can effect changes in social, vocational, and personal choices. It’s inevitable, and it can be inspiring. It can also be a pain in the neck. Your student may be having trouble figuring out where they belong and may feel they don’t quite fit in as much at home anymore. Although the process may be challenging and confusing, it’s important to support their changes and to give them understanding.

Demonstrate confidence that they will be successful.

If you have confidence in them, they will have more confidence in themselves. Johns Hopkins believes that they will be successful here, and your student should believe that as well. Yes, it will be challenging, but your student has the ability to meet that challenge. It’s important to remember that intelligence and abilities are not fixed in stone; failing one test or even an entire class does not determine future success. Each challenge at Michigan is an opportunity for your student to grow.

Acknowledge that college is hard. Really hard.

Don’t believe the movies you see. College isn’t just one big party. College students experience an enormous amount of pressure and anxiety. Anything you can do to reduce or eliminate pressure from the family can help your student stay on track and keep focused. For example, in December families often plan gatherings and family commitment around holidays. However, on campus, December represents due dates for end-of-term papers and final exams. Encouraging your student to focus on studying instead of expecting them to be at the family events can be a great way to show your support and understanding of their college demands.

Encourage your student to find a mentor on campus.

Building relationships is part of the college experience, and a mentor can often help your student navigate the complexities of the college environment. How does a student find a mentor? Encourage them to start by talking to people they are comfortable with – it could be another student like a Resident Advisor in the residence hall, or a staff member from the job that they work at, or even a professor or graduate student instructor. Your student can also start by utilizing the campus resources for first-generation students, including the FLI Students, the First-Generation Student Website or

Understand the value of getting involved outside of the classroom.

Because college is so hard, it is tempting to expect your student to spend all of their time studying. However, a college education is more than just academics. A college education also takes place in the environment outside of the classroom. Students who get involved on campus are more likely to feel a sense of belonging in their campus environment, and this sense of belonging is a crucial piece in graduating on time.

Remind them that you’re proud of them.

Among the many pressures in college is the pressure of living up to their family’s expectations. Remember to tell them that you support them and their decision to get a college education. Your support, encouragement, and love are essential components for first-generation students to be successful in achieving their educational goals.

Adapted from information provided by the University of Michigan.