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From One First-Generation Longhorn to Another: Former and current first-generation students share advice on navigating the fall semester

By Jessica Sinn

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As the fall semester commences with most students taking classes online, The University of Texas at Austin is committed to supporting first-generation students by helping them stay connected to the Longhorn community throughout the semester.

Connecting with others is an integral part of a positive academic journey, says Helen Wormington, executive director of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and a first-generation graduate. “When students connect with other students, faculty and staff members, they are developing a community of support and building relationships that will create many more opportunities for them — like their first internship, scholarship opportunities, recommendation letters and jobs.”

To begin building community, first-generation students are encouraged to virtually attend the First-Gen Kickoff Weekend event on Sept. 5 to meet fellow first-generation Longhorns and become familiar with available resources.

As a warm Texas welcome, here is some advice and words of encouragement from former and current first-generation students on navigating the semester.


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Richard Reddick is the associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach in the College of Education.

Take in the moment and reach out for help when needed.

This is a new adventure — be sure to journal and keep track of your thoughts, feelings and experiences. Believe it or not, you’ll forget a lot of things once you get busy. Second, think about all you have accomplished to get to the university. We are so fortunate to have you join the Longhorn family, and you bring gifts and talents that we desperately need — and you will be successful. So just let us know if you need anything, or if any part of your transition to UT can be made better. We have a resource for virtually every issue, so please tell us what you need!


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Marissa Martinez is a corporate communications senior and the keynote speaker for the First-Gen Kickoff Weekend on Sept. 5.

Manage your time effectively.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all of your classes, extracurricular activities and assignments during the semester. Being organized and keeping track of where and how you’re spending your time is vital.Using a calendar system like Google Calendar that helps you visualize how you’re allocating your time and what you should be doing during that time will help you keep up with your responsibilities. Visualizing your schedule in this way also helps with your productivity and prevents you from overworking yourself.


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Helen Wormington is the executive director of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Seek out mentors and a support system.

You are so resilient and can accomplish anything this semester with all that you have already experienced. However, in order to start on the same footing as students whose parents attended college, you just need an extra set of ‘tools.’ Having a mentor guide you and give you these tools will be of tremendous help. And remember, there are faculty, staff and students who went through a similar experience and would love to help you through your journey — making sure that you find your way and ensuring that this large community doesn’t feel overwhelming.


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Mike Gutierrez is the senior program coordinator of Student Success Initiatives and a doctoral student in the College of Education.

Remember that you are here for a reason.

As you start the fall semester, one thing to remember is that you are here for a reason. You were accepted for a reason, and you belong here. Please know that you have people who are rooting for you and are here to virtually support you as you go along this semester as a first-generation Longhorn.