As the number of Latinos attending college from 2000 to 2015 shot up from 22% to 37%, more of us than ever are entering the world of higher education! The transition from high school to college is one that everyone could use a little help adjusting to, especially because Latinos are more likely to be first-generation college students than any other ethnic group.  So while you may be incredibly proud and excited for your college experience, you may be wondering how to navigate your first year. 

Luckily, there are resources in place. The McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship, is here to help Latino students in their journeys to make their mark on the world. HACER understands that by attending college, Latino students are breaking generational cycles and forging paths for themselves.  

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With that in mind, we understand that preparing for the college process can be overwhelming and you might not even know where to start. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 5 college success hacks that you can start thinking about right now to help mentally prepare yourself as you exit your high school hallways and enter the world of higher education!

1. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours
This is potentially the number one #underrated piece of advice that high school seniors need to hear. While some of your high school teachers may offer some sort of help outside of class, in college all your professors hold office hours so don’t hesitate to go directly to them for help. Not only can the one-on-one time be just the thing you need for a concept to finally click, but it also never hurts to establish relationships with your professors. They might even be able to help you even further down the line (as in connecting you with job opportunities!).

2. Go to class!
Now this “hack” may seem like a no-brainer as a high school senior who’s trying to avoid detention. But in college, class attendance is not always a requirement. The responsibility to pass your classes depends totally on how motivated you are. When class is optional it can be tempting to skip a lecture for a midday nap, but trust us when we say you’ll be missing out on valuable information that can’t be replicated from copying your study buddy’s notes.  Not only does attending class help the material sink in more, but you never know when there might be a pop quiz!

3. Find ways to save
It’s no secret that college can be expensive, but while most incoming freshmen focus on tuition they forget all the other expenses that come with it. You can start finding ways to manage your finances now so you’re not blindsided when you start school. Applying for financial aid through programs such as the McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship to help with tuition costs is a great step toward easing the stress that can come with college expenses. You can also research various on-campus jobs that can help with some extra spending cash, look into renting your textbooks from the library, and find public transit options for commuting to save on gas!

4. Learn to balance school work and personal passions
We know, we know. A lot of people say that your college experience should be full of late nights studying and busting your butt making straight A’s . But it’s important to use this time to find out more about what it is you love! Take classes that spark your interest like dance or photography! This is the perfect opportunity to really explore a variety of passions and hobbies to learn what helps you relax and be yourself. After all, the college experience is also about self discovery and self care!

5. Establish your squad
As we mentioned before, the college experience is about more than just your grades. It’s about finding your independence, growing into your adult self and establishing a community. Focus on making friends with people who lift you up and inspire you to be better. Branch out by getting involved in clubs and associations. And above all, surround yourself with motivated people. As the saying goes: you’re only as good as the company you keep.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be as ready as you can be as you apply to colleges! You’re about to experience one of the biggest changes in your young life, so it’s only natural to want to prepare as much as you can to ensure success. Start planning for your future today by applying to the McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship

Just keep in mind that in the end, it’s not about the grades or the degree. It’s about you making a difference in the world. Remember, demographics do not define you. You’ve worked hard to get here. And yes, you belong here!