Being FGLI Is Hard—Here Are The Resources You Need To Know About
For First-Generation/Low-Income (FGLI) students, the first few months can be really tough. I had to reconcile being at an elite college (with room and board covered), when I knew my family was suffering to keep me here. (Also, the amount of Canada Goose Jackets thrown on seats to cover Ferris tables was truly absurd at first.) There are a couple of resources (and people) that make being here a lot more manageable though.
Editor’s Note (8/12/2019): This list has been updated with several CC/SEAS and GS-related resources. We apologize for the oversight.
- FLIP Library: FLIP stands for First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, and both Columbia and Barnard have FLIP libraries. This means that, if you qualify, you have access to textbooks that are otherwise really expensive! Also, Columbia’s library system is amazing, and I’ve never really had to pay for a book here. Between using the FLIP library, getting my syllabus early and reserving books at Columbia (and getting them through other libraries through BorrowDirect), I usually spend less than $10 on books per semester.
- Furman Counseling Center (Barnard): One of the first things that I did when I came to Barnard was make an appointment at Furman. It was helpful to talk through emotions of moving, starting college, having a roommate for the first time, questioning everything I’ve ever done, and also being surrounded by really wealthy people. Also, Furman is free and will help you with insurance if you want to find a long-term mental health provider but aren’t sure what will be covered.
- Columbia Psychological Services (CPS): Like Barnard’s Furman, CPS is entirely free for Columbia students and can also help you find a long-term mental health provider covered by your insurance should you need it. Additionally, Columbia has a team of psychologists specifically trained in working with first-gen students! They also offer a variety of support groups. I’ll highlight Getting Things Done, which works with people who might be struggling with procrastination and adjusting to college coursework in general.
- Employment Services: At Barnard, this is called Beyond Barnard, and they are amazing. It’s really important that you reach out to employment services quickly though, because on-campus jobs are hard to get, and depending on your financial aid award, you may be prohibited from working at certain places. For example, I have a BCJ (Barnard College Job) award, which means that I can only work on Barnard. I didn’t have a job during my first semester of college, because there just aren’t that many. Beyond Barnard helps connect you with those jobs though, and also gives you resources for babysitting and bartending (which is where you’ll make really good money). The earlier you get involved and talk with them, the more of a chance that you have to actually access those resources and make money!!!
- Work-Study Database (at Columbia): Some on-campus jobs are only available to federal work-study students. If that applies to you, Columbia has a handy (if slightly outdated) database specifically for work-study students. You can sort jobs by job title, hours per week, wage, whether they’re on-campus or not (commuting can be expensive), and more. Some are specifically for grad students so make sure you know whether you’re eligible before you apply.
- Special Interest Communities (SICs) for FGLI Students: While first years have certain housing requirements coming into college, you’re free to do whatever you’d like after that! UpLift is a recently-approved first-generation low-income special interest community, located in Wallach and open to Columbia College and Engineering undergraduate students. There are very few spots open, but hopefully, housing will continue to expand as it gains interest! This community serves as a place for FGLI students to build community and support one another. As an FGLI student on campus, finding community has been immensely important to me, and housing is a really great way to create that!
- The Food Pantry at Columbia / Columbia Dining: For those who are food-insecure on any level, you can reach out to the Columbia Food Pantry, located on the 5th floor of Lerner, which will provide a 2-week disbursement of non-perishable foods. In addition, Columbia Dining has an emergency meal fund through which they credit you 6 free meals a term, no questions asked.
- Bear Essentials (at Barnard): Financial aid has funds to provide certain FGLI students with clothing, Metro cards, or whatever else you may need during college. For example, lots of students get winter clothes through the Bear Essentials fund, especially if they’re from a warmer climate. Not all FGLI students necessarily qualify for the fund, but it never hurts to ask your financial aid advisor about the program!
- The Dean’s Assistance Fund (at Columbia): This fund primarily serves students with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $5,000 or less. It can help you with start-up costs (ex. buying a warm winter coat if you’re from a warm region) or emergency expenses (ex. heading home in a family emergency). If you’re eligible, you should get an email at the beginning of the semester but if you’re in need of help, talk to the Financial Aid Office and you’ll be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Columbia Center for Career Education (at Columbia): CCE offers a variety of resources that benefit FGLI students. There are several programs that will fund unpaid or low-paid internships over the summer for anyone who receives financial aid (a full list of summer funding resources here). The Work Exemption Program offers a similar program during the year, offering additional grant funding to off-set the student work requirement. Though not specifically targeted toward FGLI students, they can potentially allow FGLI students to take unpaid or low-paying internships that would not be available otherwise. CCE also lets anyone borrow formal clothing for interviews, do a mock interview, polish their resume, and more!
- The Student Success Program (at Barnard): I assume Columbia has something like this as well, but I truly can’t find any information about it anywhere. At Barnard, the student success program is an initiative run by Dean Jemima Gedeon. She’s one of the most amazing, supportive people at Barnard, and has started countless projects to make FGLI students feel more welcome and supported here!
- PALs (at Barnard): PALs is also run by Dean Gedeon, but it’s so beautiful that it deserves its own point. The PALs program connects Barnard FGLI first-year students with peers who have already spent some time at Barnard. I was really nervous about moving across the country when I came to Barnard, so I decided to be matched with someone. It was one of the best decisions that I made during my first year. I met with my PAL every week, and we’d get coffee or dinner on campus somewhere. You don’t necessarily have to talk about socioeconomic issues at Columbia with your PAL, but they can connect you with resources and opportunities on campus that you might not otherwise know about. My PAL and I are really close now, and I feel like I made a friend that I might’ve not met had I chosen not to do the program. (I stan my PAL– she literally brought me tangerines and bubble tea and told me that I needed to sleep/take care of myself. We had a beautiful relationship and I really look up to her so very much.)
- FGLI Advisory Board (at Barnard): This is a student-run board that talks through decisions and programs related to being FGLI on campus. This also falls under the Student Success Program, and gives FGLI students the voice to advocate for resources that are actually helpful and needed!
- First-Generation Student Advisory Board (FAB) (at Columbia): Works with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to partner with other groups around campus and develop solutions to problems facing the FGLI community at Columbia. The School of General Studies also has a First-Gen Advisory Board but we had trouble finding the link
- Well Woman (at Barnard): Well Woman is a peer education program that promotes healthier living (through an intersectional lens) at Barnard. They have open office hours, and students can come in anytime to drink tea/talk with students/eat chocolate/study. It’s a really cozy space, and they even offer office hours for certain communities on campus. They also have programming and craft nights!
- Columbia First-Generation and Low-Income Alumni Network (CFLAN): Connect with alumni across the years who share in your experience. The Columbia Odyssey Mentoring Program also allows you to select for FGLI alumni.
- FLIP, Columbia Quest Scholars Network (QSN) and other campus organizations: These are recognized student groups, so if you’re looking get involved in FGLI issues at Columbia or just talk to other students who understand your unique experience an FGLI student, check them out! QSN is organized by Columbia’s Questbridge Chapter, but it’s open to anyone.
- First in Family Programs (at Columbia): Offered through the Columbia Advising Office, these programs offer first-gen students academic support, career days, and cultural enrichment (free tickets to events around the city)
- The School of General Studies doesn’t offer many FGLI-specific resources as far as we can tell, but the majority of the resources available to CC/SEAS students are open to GS students as well. There are additional resources for childcare/family support and veterans available to GS students. If you know of GS-specific FGLI resources, let us know in the comments.
- Your Professors, Friends, and Residential Assistants: The truth is, most people here want to see you succeed. I’ve reached out to my professors because I couldn’t afford a book on their syllabus, and they’ve given me a copy. My friends have offered to pay for medications that I couldn’t afford. My Residential Assistant held events around couponing and living in an expensive city. The resources at Barnard and Columbia are still growing, and sometimes the people who can best support you are your on-campus community!
Photo via Bwarchived