3-minute read

Nine degrees, six tips for success

The Tolliver sisters share their tips for success for first-generation college students
Nine degrees. Six tips for success

In a 2018 study, the Department of Education found that one in three first-generation students quits college within three years. As the first in their family to go to college, many of these students believe they’re the only ones struggling and feeling overwhelmed, with no roadmap to move forward.

Sisters Sophia, Sylvia and Starling Tolliver turned that reality on its head. They were part of the first generation of their family to attend college, and ultimately earned nine Ohio State degrees. They clearly have a lot of experience with the challenges that many new-to-college students encounter. Here, they share their insights and tips on how first-generation college students can succeed at Ohio State.

1. Be curious.

Ohio State is big but most people are welcoming and willing to answer questions and offer help. Make it your goal to find professors, advisors, counselors, study partners and university staff who can help you learn and grow. Talk with professors and graduate students in the field of study you are interested in; they are a wealth of knowledge and can help you navigate the often-rocky road to professional success. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, lots of them.

2. Take hard classes right out the gate to challenge yourself.

You'll learn quickly what you do and do not like and it's best to find out early if you want to invest the time and effort in a particular discipline. If you’re even the slightest bit worried about a class, seek help as soon as possible. Take advantage of all tutoring resources as well as the office hours professors and instructors keep to get you up to speed.

3. Take care of yourself by eating well, exercising and connecting with others.

Understand your limits and take opportunities to recharge and participate in activities that make you happy and bring you peace. Don't wait until you're overwhelmed. Always ask for help. Believe us when we tell you that your professors and counselors want you to succeed! 

4. Find your community in your field of interest.

This includes joining student organizations and/or participating in events and programming that are geared toward your interests. Balance your academic work by volunteering for a student or community organization. It’s a positive way to give back to the community and gain a sense of purpose about your greater place in society. 

5. Find your confidence.

The old adage is true: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Sometimes when it comes to tests and examinations, you may not get it right the first time. Take that defeat and study it inside and out. Ask the hard questions about the material you are studying so you can understand where you went wrong and how to master the material moving forward.

6. Balance your studies with an appropriate amount of fun and keep your family and friends close at hand.

Talk to them all the time and help them understand the college process, so they feel a part of the journey and can continue to be supportive.

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