Advice for First Generation College Students, Interview with Denise Boiko

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Advice for First Generation College Students, Interview with Denise Boiko.

Advice for First Generation College Students, Interview with Denise Boiko. Tips for prep during high school and success in college.

Advice for First Generation College Students, Interview with Denise Boiko

I can remember long, long ago when I was ready to start my first college classes. My parents, who both had college degrees, gave me tips for success:

  • Sit in the front of the room
  • Keep your pencil in your hand so it, at least, looks like you are taking notes
  • Visit the professor during office hours and have a question to ask
  • On exams, first look over the exam so you know how to pace yourself, the answer as many as you can quickly, leave blank things you don’t know and go back to those later
  • Ask for extra credit if you need it
  • Ask for help if you need it

How did my parents know these things? They had been through college, and even taught at college level for a little while. It was insider tips!

So I started out the very first day of college better prepared than some of my peers who were the first in their families to go to college. They had to learn all this the hard way.

It has long been important to me in my work as a counselor (and in my years as a homeschool advisor), to help first generation college students start off with tools for success. That’s why I was excited when Denise Boiko, homeschool advisor and author of Homeschooled & Headed for College, contacted me about her experiences as a first generation college student.

Denise agreed to share advice for first generation college students so that they can survive and thrive…and the good news, ALL college students will benefit from her advice.

Denise homeschooled her students all the way through graduation. Then one went on to graduate from Stanford University and one from University of Southern California (one in Engineering and the other in Medicine and now a pediatrician). Denise (like the 7Sisters) continued to serve her homeschool community as teacher of local group classes and academic advisor. Her experience led her to write her book Homeschooled & Headed for College.

Denise was the first high school graduate in her family to go to college. She came from a hard-working farming family who had never needed college. Denise loved learning and wanted to go to college. She had the support of her parents, which was helpful to her.

She found out that college is different from high school and that she was needing to survival skills that other students (whose parents went to college before them) already knew.

Denise makes it a point to share the college-success tips for first generation college students:

Prepare during high school

  • Start during high school, if possible, by talking to others who are in college or have been to college. (Ask about their college experiences.)
  • Look at resources to support first-generation students
  • Find a teacher/mentor (a favorite teacher in homeschool courses, an advisor, mentor program)
  • Look at College Board’s website and check out their resources
  • Use Kahn Academy’s resources
  • Look at local college’s websites:
    • See what they are looking for in incoming freshmen
    • See if they have a visit-program for first generation kids
    • See if they have scholarships for first generation kids

Start preparing for college during high school.

Applying to college

Succeeding at the very start of college

  • Meet your professors
  • Attend their office hours
  • Ask for help
  • Get a tutor (many college have them)
  • Attend study sessions given by professor or teaching assistants (TA)
  • Join a study group in class, when available
  • Find online study aids that are tied to your textbooks (like solutions manuals and extra materials)
  • Don’t allow you to talk to yourself as “disadvantaged”. Believe in yourself.

While in college

  • Be continuously looking for scholarships (they are sometimes available throughout the college years)
  • Look for fee waivers each year


  • Remember to thank your parents, your mentors, you in your own story
  • Develop your own “credo” for success
  • Pay it forward in the future by investing in younger students

Check out Denise’s helpful book: Homeschooled & Headed for College. Here are some things it covers:

  • Locating or designing honors and advanced courses
  • Seeking out leadership opportunities that provide fun, growth, and positive attention from admissions staff—even at highly competitive colleges
  • Preparing your student for college entrance exams
  • Helping your high schooler navigate community college courses
  • Tackling college applications and coaching your student through application essays
  • Helping your student prepare for college entrance exams
  • Gathering recommendation letters
  • Scouting out scholarships and financial aid
  • Planning a gap year if your student desires a time of exploration
  • Leveraging the #1 college admissions secret, for which homeschoolers are excellently positioned

You can find Denise at:

Available at
Facebook: @HomeschooledAndHeadedForCollege
Amazon Author Page:
For more college-success tips, check out:
College Success episode of Finish Well Podcast (with our friend, Meredith Curtis)
What Colleges Like to See from Homeschoolers (Homeschool Highschool Podcast)
Join Vicki and Denise for an encouraging chat with advice for first generation college students.


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College Success

Finish Well Radio Show, Podcast #087, College Success with Meredith Curtis on the Ultimate Homeschool Radio NetworkCollege Success

In College Success, episode #087, Meredith Curtis talks about how to thrive, not just survive in college. Whether you are dual enrolling, commuting, or moving to another state for your college years, you will appreciate this practical, encouraging advice. You can excel academically and stay strong in your faith!





Proverbs 1:5 by Laura Nolette and Powerline Productions, Inc.

Powerline Productions, Inc.

Being World Changers, Raising World Changers!

We offer books and ebooks to help you homeschool to the Glory of God!



Show Notes

My College Story

  • New Christian
  • First Bad Grade
  • Nursing Major (starting new curriculum junior year)
  • IV, Christian Fellowship, Making Disciples
  • Close Relationship with my Grandparents

What is College Success to You?

Picture Yourself at the End of College.


Your Life Reflects Your Priorities.

Your Priorities Reflect Your Purpose.

What are you living for?

What does your life say?

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

  • Put God first always. Matthew 6:33, Psalm 127.
  • Stay plugged into a local church. Never neglect your family. College is one season; family lasts forever.
  • Connect with godly, genuine Christians on campus.
  • Stay pure; constantly cleanse your mind. Set your standards now and refuse to lower them.
  • Know the Word and Biblical Truth.
  • Know why you believe what you believe.
  • Know the world’s philosophies and learn to evaluate everything by the Truth.

Ruling and Reigning in Academics

Time Management and Scheduling are probably the biggest factors to academic success…even more than brains!!!!

Study Time and Study Habits

Make the Most of this Opportunity. Get the Best Education You Can.

Keys to Success

  • Working hard pays off.
  • Write Well:clear arguments, analysis, organization, complete sentences
  • Read Well: find main points, underline, take notes in margins
  • Take advantage of all your professors offer.

More Than Just Classes

  • Life Preparation & Career Exploration
  • Lifelong friendships!
  • Athletics, clubs, etc.: Choose wisely!
  • Build relationships with your professors.
  • Seize academic opportunities
  • Internships
  • Study Abroad
  • Workshops, networking, and more

Making Disciples in College

Witnessing in the Classroom

They are falling away like flies. Maybe just need to hear one person speak up.

Don’t be intimidated. Walk in your authority in Christ.

Gospel first; everything else second.

Remember they are broken sinners inside for all their pride.

Always learn from your mistakes.

Win them over. C.S. Lewis tactic: start from their side and lead to yours. Live your faith WELL! Respect others.

Pray for those who will be in your class!!! I have done this every single semester.

Outside the Classroom

Intentional relationships for evangelism.

Sit with new people at lunch and share the Gospel.

Pursue with love. Serve. Text. Pray for them.

Invite to coffee or lunch.

Join groups specifically for evangelism.

Learn how to turn conversations to Christ. Know some good questions!

Learn a basic Gospel presentation or two and get comfortable with it.

Be part of a VIBRANT CHURCH to be your net!!!

Start Now Being the Kind of Person You Need to Be


Worldview Podcasts

Finish Well Radio, Podcast #070, What Is Your Worldview?

Finish Well Radio, Podcast #070, What Is Your Worldview?

Finish Well Radio, Podcast #071, When Worldviews Collide

Finish Well Radio, Podcast #071, When Worldviews Collide


Unlocking the Mystery of Homeschooling High School by Meredith Curtis and Laura NoletteCareer Choices and the College Decision by Meredith CurtisCommunications 101:Essays and Speeches High School ClassAmerican Literature & ResearchWorldview Understanding the Times by Meredith CurtisGreat Commission Course by Meredith CurtisReal Men 103: LeadershipA Wise Woman Builds by Meredith Curtis