Frequently Asked Questions for First Gen Students

It can be tough to be the one blazing a trail, trying to find success as a student without having a parent or sibling to point the way. Check out these answers to some commonly asked questions from first generation students. If you think of a question we haven't listed here, email cammie.dean@msutexas.edu for an answer!

What's a first generation student anyway?
The definition can vary from campus to campus. At MSU, we consider a student for whom neither parent has graduated with a four-year college degree to be first generation. We pay special attention to these students, because they often have little guidance from family members when it comes to navigating college life. 

What am I supposed to do when I'm not in class?
There are many activities for students throughout the year. Getting involved in the community helps you develop your leadership skills, interact with students from different backgrounds and cultures, and increase your feeling of “belonging” in the MSU community. Student Leadership and Involvement oversees most clubs and activities led by students. UPB, the University Programming Board, sponsors many arts and entertainment programs throughout the year. You are encouraged to get involved in the planning of special events and to participate in these activities. Artist-Lecture Series provides more traditional programs, sponsors and hosts American and international performers of jazz and classical music. If you are interested in athletics, you will find a full range of sports which all full-time students may play. You can try out for a varsity team to compete against other colleges or play recreational sports in which all teams are composed of students. Or, if you just like to watch sports, most games and events are free of charge to MSU students.

How do I avoid getting homesick? 
It's not uncommon for any student to miss home -- the food, the family, friends, the couch. It's a good idea to find ways to feel connected to home, while also making an effort to enjoy some of the changes that are happening in your life. Print up a few pictures of friends and family. Set up a regular appointment to call home. Create a new tradition with your roommate. Explore the campus for a great place to study. Join a club or organization to make use of you "free time."

If you do find yourself having real difficulty adjusting, consider talking to someone about it. Residence Life staff and folks in Student Affairs offices can be a big help. MSU also has a Counseling Center that is great for just talking things out. The Counseling Center is a Student Affairs department devoted to providing counseling and supportive services to the MSU community. The Counseling Center is here to assist students in their pursuit of a contented and balanced life as they work for academic and intellectual growth. For many students, this is a time of new challenges as they learn to balance scheduling academics and work with leisure activities, relationships, and quiet time. Taking the time to address these issues in a comfortable and confidential setting makes a big difference in academic and personal performance.

The Counseling Center offers confidential services including dealing with anxiety, time management, depression, grief/loss issues, interpersonal/relationship  problems, self-esteem, sexual assault, alcohol/substance abuse, and eating disorders. Addressing these kinds of concerns earlier in the school year can help students to have a more satisfying college experience. Seeking  support when concerns have become overwhelming is a sign of strength and integrity, not an admission of weakness or failure.

How do I know where to go for help? 
You have a support team at MSU!

  • Orientation staff -- professional staff , student orientation leaders and peer counselors -- are here to help as you transition into life at MSU. Prior to the onset of classes each semester, MSU Texas sponsors orientation programs for any new entering students.  Orientation programs consist of information sessions pertaining to University resources and student success.  Student attendees interact with fellow classmates and student leaders.  Returning students serve as Orientation Leaders and Peer Counselors during the Orientation process, sharing their experiences with the incoming students, and serving as a guide and friendly resource during the transition process. You'll continue to see them around campus once classes begin, and they're always happy to  answer questions or  share advice.
  • Your Academic Advisor will help you choose your classes every semester and to plan your steps towards graduation. Though choosing classes is your responsibility, your advisor can provide valuable guidance in making the right decisions. Your advisor can also assist you with any problems you may have with coursework or to find help with other concerns. It is a good idea to develop a good relationship with your advisor, so that you are comfortable in seeking guidance.
  • All students are eligible for assistance from the Vinson Health Center. They can provide you with information, minor health care, and referrals when necessary. They can also assist you with filing paperwork for your insurance coverage. Be sure to complete a health form at Vinson Health Center; this will enable them to better help you in case of illness.
  • The Counseling Center offers confidential services including dealing with anxiety, time management, depression, grief/loss issues, interpersonal/relationship  problems, self-esteem, sexual assault, alcohol/substance abuse, and eating disorders.

How do I choose a major?
You are just starting your college experience and everyone you meet keeps asking the same question, “What is your major?”  It is not a bad thing to be Undecided, there are actually some benefits to waiting before you declare a major.  Here are some thoughts before you decide the major that is best for you.

  1. Enjoy the Core Curriculum. Though the classes are required, you will be able to explore many different subject areas including math, liberal arts, science, languages, humanities, social sciences, and more.  Your true calling may be found in some of these courses.
  2. Talk to the Faculty. In addition to teaching, professors can provide advice and insight concerning a major.  Ask them why they chose their area of study.
  3. Allow for Change. After you select a major, it is not written in stone anywhere.  Do not let outside pressure choose for you and do not feel committed to only one major after you have chosen it.  You can change, as many times as you want but you may have to stay longer. . .
  4. Talk to Alumni. Members of the MSU Alumni Association are a source of unlimited, free advice about virtually every single discipline offered at Midwestern State University.
  5. Be Flexible about Your Career. Although some majors indicate particular career goals, resist the tendency to become too specialized.  Consider the many roads you may travel, not just the one most chosen.
  6. Do an Internship or Volunteer. Explore the field first hand.  There is no better way to know if it will truly be of interest to you.
  7. All Major and Careers are challenging. Do not look for the easiest way to get a degree even if you have a natural gift for a specific area or profession.  Some of the most rewarding personal growth you will experience will arise from the challenges you face.

How do I know I'm on track to graduation?
One of the best things to monitor is you grade point average (GPA). GPA refers to the average of your grades for a given semester or in total. Your cumulative GPA is the average of all your grades throughout your college years. Grades will range from 4.00 points (“A”, superior performance) to 3.00 points (“B”, above average performance) to 2.00 points ( “C”, average performance). For a more detailed explanation of letter grades and their grade point equivalents, please see the MSU catalog. After every semester, you will receive a grade report. MSU doesn't publish midterm grades for every class, but you can estimate your progress in class by using your syllabus and completed assignments. You can calculate your GPA by multiplying your grade for each class by the number of hours of each class, then divide by your total number of hours.

By the time you finish your studies, you will successfully complete the general education core in addition to courses for your major. The "Core Curriculum"  includes classes in the “skills area” - which help to prepare you for effective communication and research in your chosen discipline. These areas are intended to help you develop an understanding of many different areas of knowledge (culture, philosophy, fine arts, science, etc.).

You will also complete the required courses for your chosen major. To graduate you must earn at least 120 hours with a grade point average of 2.00  or better. Some majors require a higher GPA or additional credit hours. Each major posts degree plans on msutexas.edu to help guide you through the years; it's a good idea to review your progress every semester before visiting with your academic advisor about registering for the next semester.