Crystal Sheaves


What advice would you give to first-generation students at WVU Tech?

Being the first person in your family to go to college is hard.  Often your family won’t understand the real benefits a college degree can have on your future.  You may face friends and relatives who are skeptical of what you are doing.  This can be isolating at times, and so I encourage you to find other like-minded college hopefuls and mentors who are college graduates to support your dream.  Those are the people who can help you navigate the confusing world of college admissions, registration, and financial aid.   I wouldn’t be here today if a high-school peer who had been to college before me hadn’t helped me navigate the admissions process. Without her I wouldn’t have had a clue how to get into college and how to apply for financial aid.  I don’t think she even realizes to this day the impact she had on my life, but I will never forget that friend who showed me the ropes. Find a similar someone to “show you the ropes” early in your college career. 

What do you wish you had known before coming to college?
I wish I had known how to study before coming to college.  I think high-school just came too easy for me.  I was a straight “A” student in high school and didn’t have to put forth a lot of mental effort to achieve good grades prior to college.  Thus, I never learned in high-school how to organize my time to complete homework assignments or study for exams.  I had no reference point or example for good study habits.  Suddenly in college I found myself barely passing a very critical course for my nursing degree.  It was the first “C” I ever earned and it was a wake-up call.  Unfortunately, there weren’t as many resources when I was in school to learn study habits so I found myself having to “figure it out” in a hurry to be successful.  Students are more fortunate now with all the resources of TRIO and the Student Success Center.     

As a first-generation college student, what was one obstacle that you had to overcome?
Finances were always the biggest obstacle for me in college. I was a very poor single mother at the time with not many financial resources.  I sometimes had to borrow money for gas and food. For this reason, I can really sympathize with today’s students who struggle to financially afford college.  I think finances are especially difficulty for first-generation students whose parents may not be able to fully financially support their college pursuits.  Undeniably the financial aid packages afforded to students is critical for student success.  It can be very difficult to concentrate on classwork when you are preoccupied with obtaining gas money just to get to class.  The financial struggle can sometimes seem insurmountable.  However, I am grateful for the financial aid afforded me for college. Without financial aid my dreams of college never would have been a reality.  I encourage all first-generation students to meet often with their financial aid advisors as they are critical to guiding you through some of these challenges.  I think my own financial struggles during college have made me very passionate about helping to secure more grant, loan, and scholarship funding for students today.  To this day I have never regretted the college loans I obtained. They got me to where I am today, and I think the investment was worth it.

What things can people do to be champions for first-generation students?
The biggest thing people could do to champion for first-generation college students is to not assume they know how everything at college works. If I am the first in my family to navigate this foreign land of “college” then I am not going to have a map already in place for doing it correctly. Frequent reminders for important registration dates and information is very helpful as a guide. Reminders of when and how to apply for financial aid is beneficial.  A real person whom I know I can ask questions of pertaining to college attendance is great!  This is why I love TRIO!  I wish there had been a TRIO office when I was in school.  I think it would have helped me tremendously to know I had resources and real people to answer my silly questions about how to do things pertaining to college. 

Aside from TRIO I think other faculty and staff can also help champion first-gen students by making a point to get to know students personally. Find out where they are from, what their background may be, and whether they have support at home for the dreams they are pursing.  First-gen students need people to build their confidence in themselves so they can continue to be successful in higher education. I know I needed that support and I’m so grateful for the people who did that for me.