First Year Experience

First Generation Students

Introduction to WIU

Congratulations, you're a Leatherneck! College presents exciting opportunities: the chance to establish connections with people new to your life, different settings, heightened academic interests, and individual growth, to name only a few. Success in college relies on many factors for which the WIU community has numerous resources available to you. We are here to support you and help you navigate through your college experience.

Western Illinois University is proud of our first-generation students who are paving the way for others. We provide outstanding support and resources to ensure your success during your time at WIU and in your future career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 30 percent of college students are first-generation students. At Western Illinois University, 34 percent of the student body is classified as first generation.

Our mission at Western Illinois University is to empower students, faculty, and staff to lead dynamic and diverse communities. We provide student-centered undergraduate and graduate programs characterized by innovative teaching, research, and service, grounded in multidisciplinary, regional, and global perspectives. We engage all of our students in educational opportunities guided by a professional and diverse faculty and staff in collaboration with alumni and community partners.

Because first-generation college students have unique needs in piloting a university system, we have created this guide to make the transition to college easier for you. We look forward to supporting you on your journey as a Western Illinois University Leatherneck.

Adjusting to College

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Transitioning to college can put a great amount of stress on students, as would the adjustment period to any new environment. However, it is necessary to not get overwhelmed or let this hinder progress toward your goals. It's vital to identify a support system that will encourage you on your journey through college. We have many resources to assist you acclimate and succeed at WIU, which you can find on our website.

  • Western's First Generation Society, or W1GS, is an organization just for First Generation students to support the unique experiences of our students who are the first in their family to attend college. Visit Purple Post to search for W1GS. 
  • The Multicultural Center houses the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center, Women's Center, Casa Latina Cultural Center, and the LBGT*QA Resource Center. Support, groups, and programs are offered throughout the year for all students. The MCC aims to advance the goals of educational, social, and cultural awareness. Together, the MCC provides resources to enhance the campus community's understanding and appreciation of all identities.
  • The University Counseling Center provides free, personal counseling services to currently enrolled Western Illinois University undergraduate and graduate students. The UCC also provides psychological and learning problems assessments.
    Throughout the academic year, the UCC offers the WIU Community a wide array of educational programs such as sexual assault prevention, healthy relationships, relaxation, and other topics. The counselors hold masters or doctoral degrees and are certified or licensed in counseling or psychology.
  • In addition, staying healthy and active is essential to your success. Campus Recreation has wonderful facilities and offerings for different levels and types of fitness. Their mission is to provide life-enhancing, recreational opportunities through the promotion of active lifestyle, personal growth, and experiential learning. We provide life balance with recreation.
  • The Student Development and Success Center, a part of Student Services, is committed to providing a student centered, co-curricular environment that supports the academic mission of the University and embraces the belief that learning is not confined solely within traditional classroom boundaries. department with three functional areas including Disability Resources, Health Education, and Student Development.
  • WIU offers support specifically for your First Year Experience. The Office of Retention Initiatives is proud to offer a number of resources and additional ways to find connections, mentors, and assistance to students. Both the Building Connections Mentorship program and the Leatherneck Success Team offer fantastic ways for students to find additional people on campus who are focused on and committed to their success. This site is loaded with information such as how to communicate and connect with your professors and a list of resources outside of this guide.
  • A part of the Retention Initiatives office is the Transition and Academic Skills Center, which provides various services and areas of support that assist students toward a successful transition into the Western Illinois University community. These services include Leatherneck Launch (New Student Orientation) during fall, spring and summer which is designed to introduce new students to Western; Academic Success Coaching, a service to students to help them achieve their academic goals, Rocky's Resources which includes tutoring services as well as academic success workshops for all students, and Camp Leatherneck.
  • Connect with the community and others.
    • The Office of Student Engagement provides students
      with practical, educational, and leadership opportunities that complement the academic experience and foster a sense of belonging. You can find information on various programs, student organizations, leadership, and service opportunities.
    • Campus Recreation has Intramural Sports, Club Sports, group workouts, and other fun events throughout the year.
    • Your residence hall is a great place to get involved. Resident Assistants offer programs throughout the year. You can be a part of Interhall Council, meet friends at the Dining Hall, and study with room- and hallmates.

Academic Success

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The main reason for attending college is to learn and succeed in reaching your career goals. WIU has many resources to help you with those aspirations.

  • A 1-credit course that provides first-year students with an introduction to social, intellectual, personal, and physical wellness as they relate to college-level success, U100 Personal Growth and Well-Being in Higher Education has proven beneficial for many students.
  • FYE Y courses connect the material being learned in UNIV 100 to the topics covered in their pre-professional or department specific Y classes so that students are not only learning the material for how to transition (UNIV 100) but also have an environment where they can apply these tools for success (Y course).
  • Get to know your professors. Class attendance, asking questions, and participating are key in being successful in your classes. They want to see you succeed!
  • A part of the Retention Initiatives office is the Transition and Academic Skills Center, which provides various services and areas of support that assist students toward a successful transition into the Western Illinois University community. These services include Leatherneck Launch (New Student Orientation) during fall, spring and summer which is designed to introduce new students to Western; Academic Success Coaching, a service to students to help them achieve their academic goals, Rocky's Resources which includes tutoring services as well as academic success workshops for all students, and Camp Leatherneck.
  • The University Writing Center's writing consultants are resource experts who offer writing support in one-on-one and group settings to all writers on any project at any stage of the writing process. You can bring in any type of writing such as essays, resumes, etc. for them to assist you revise and improve.
  • Committed to student success, the academic advisors in the First Year Advising Center are full-time professionals who support students as they establish and realize their personal, academic, and career goals. Through the relationships created by this caring team, students are empowered to take personal responsibility and ownership of their educational endeavors.
  • Getting a head start on preparing for your career is crucial. The Center for Career Preparation and Employer Engagement supports students and alumni by empowering individuals to create and achieve their career goals through active career planning and preparation. The Career Center offers engaging programming through individual appointments, workshops, and partnerships with employers and faculty/staff members to ensure a successful transition between college and professional careers.
  • A free downloadable book written just for First Generation students is available here.
  • Study tips: several of our departments offer study tips on their pages.

Living on Campus

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If you are living on campus, there are many useful services and places available to you.

  • As a new student, you will be living in one of Western's residence halls. The University Housing page has complete information on how to apply for housing, which halls are available for you, pictures, costs, etc. and guides you through the housing process. Also included on this page is a link to Dining Services. WIU offers dining halls, a convenience store, food vendors in the University Union, and a coffee and cyber cafe on campus.
  • The University Union provides programs, services, and facilities to foster student and community growth and success. The Union, located between the north and south campuses, is the community center of the University. Union services available include a food court and convenience store, meeting and banquet rooms, a bookstore, guest rooms, check cashing and cashier services, and ATM machines. Wireless internet is available in all areas of the Union.
  • The medical clinic, Beu Health Center, enhances the educational process through assisting students in the modification or removal of health-related barriers to learning by providing appropriate medical services and collaborative programming. *Please see information about mandatory health insurance here.
  • Even though all areas of the campus can be accessed by most pedestrians, Go West Transit, a bus service, offers service around the WIU and Macomb communities for faster, easier transportation. This service is especially helpful during inclement weather. In addition, Go West offers paratransit within the Macomb City limits, to include the routes within the WIU campus streets.
  • To keep our campus safe, Western Illinois University's Office of Public Safety (OPS) ensures the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and campus visitors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. OPS works with others across the WIU campus, and within the local community, to provide a safe environment and to ensure a campus that is pleasant and secure.

Living at Home

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Just because you are not living on a campus does not mean your normal routines and needs aren't going to be affected. Your newly-acquired “college student” status means more study time, more quiet time, perhaps a different focus, and other changes from before you began a college career, all while living at home.

  • Many websites that offer tips have some common themes:
    • Set boundaries for study times: let your cohabitants know your available and unavailable times.
    • Attend orientation! WIU's New Student Orientation, Leatherneck Launch, offers information about academics, finances, resources, advising, and everything you need for a solid beginning.
    • Have a separate area for studying and doing school work than you typically do.
    • Be as connected to the University as you can be. Below are some WIU pages that may help.
  • If you are living at home and taking online courses, Online Learning has important information and links to help you navigate online education.
  • We encourage you to utilize campus resources such as Beu Health Center, the University Counseling Center, Academic Success Center, and many other places on campus.
  • If you are a close commute to a campus, get involved. There are many ways to do this such as joining a club, attending programs, getting an on-campus job, or eating on campus.


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Understanding what the charges are and what your final bill will be can feel overwhelming. WIU's Financial Aid department is one of your first stops to understanding and breaking it down to chunks of understandable information. On this page, you can find forms, links to related sites and pages, and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), among others.

Probably one of the first thoughts after deciding to attend college was “how much is this going to cost?

Download a Cost of Attendance Worksheet that can help you come close to knowing your annual costs for the 2021-2022 academic year.


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Fall Semester Actions to take:
1-Aug Make sure that your STARS, WesternOnline, and Google accounts have all been activated and are working. These are all vital components of communication between you and the university.   Get a planner or use your Google calendar to keep track of your commitments Topics to discuss with your support network include budgeting and finances; calling, texting, e-mailing, and visiting home; living with a new roommate; taking responsibility for your education. Note what textbooks are needed and order them (only if your professor states there is reading due the first week) or be prepared to purchase them the first week.
Week 1 Print out your schedule by logging into STARS and then going to “Student Class Schedule” in the dropdown menu on the left. Schedule are also emailed to your WIU email. You should note where each class meets, the time the class meets, what days the class meets, the syllabus if it's loaded, and the name(s) of your instructor(s). Purchase your textbooks if you have not yet. Check WesternOnline to see your courses that are using this online feature.   Eat in the dining hall. Go to University events and meet people. Attend all of your classes! Check in with your support system at home. Walk around campus to find where all of your classes are - take a buddy with you so you can help each other.
Week 2 Keep going to class, checking your email, and WesternOnline daily. Set and stick to a study routine. Connect with classmates; you'll have study partners and someone to contact if you miss class. If you are not enrolled in UNIV 100, think about signing up for a Building Connections Mentor . Don't forget to take care of yourself; visit Campus Recreation to see what fitness classes and equipment are available to you. It’s okay to be homesick; talk to someone at the University Counseling Center . Check out PurplePost and get involved!
Week 3 Visit the Writing Center, Library, and/or Academic Skills Center for support and assistance; attend study workshops. Have you made personal contact with your professors? Have you identified any organizations and activities you want to be involved in? P.S. - Have you called those who supported you through high school yet to let them know how college is going?
Week 4 Have you had an exam yet? Look back to do a critical evaluation and identify areas in which you can improve, both academically and as a student. Being a full-time student is like having a full-time job. Visit your Leatherneck Success Leader and/or your advisor to strategize ways for you to improve. They can help with time management skills, which are important to college success.
Week 5 You will receive a student survey this week. Fill it out so WIU knows how to better serve our students. This Saturday is Family Day. Check out the Office of Student Engagement for more information. Have you met with your academic advisor lately? Be sure to get on their schedule to meet with them soon. You can sign up for a time with your advisor or find their contact information here .   Students tend to start missing classes around this time. Don’t fall into the habit of missing class – your grades will suffer.
Week 6 Homecoming Week! Get involved in traditions such as Paint the Paws, watch the parade, Yell like Hell, and cheer on your Leathernecks football team!
Week 7 Review your syllabi and start your preparation for midterms. You should also get a start on projects or papers that might be due later in the term. This would be a great time to get a care package from home or to make sure you are caring for yourself by exercising, talking about stressors, and socializing. Make an appointment with your advisor so you can register for Spring 22 in a couple of weeks. Enjoy the fall break!
Week 8 Don’t be surprised if your first midterms are happening this week (maybe you even had some last week). In fact, you may even have multiple midterms in a single day. Scheduling your studying in advance helps you minimize your stress on days and weeks where you may have more than one exam. Visit the writing center again. Do you have classes planned out for next semester?
Week 9 Early warning grades are reported. Someone will contact you with resources for successful completion of your classes should you have a grade of less than a C in any course at this point. Check in with your professors about your progress in each class. Start or join a study group. Seek tutoring to improve understanding and grades in your classes. Registration begins in two weeks.   The last day to withdraw from a class is approaching this coming week. Make sure that you have talked to your advisor and instructor if you are considering withdrawing from a course.
Week 10 This is another good time for a self-assessment. Are you sticking to your study plan? Are you caught up your reading? How are your papers and projects coming along? Are you getting enough exercise and sleep? Are there any habits you want to adjust going into the next five weeks? You can learn a lot about all of this and more at Academic Support
Week 11 Registration begins this week! Double check your registration day and time again on STARS so that you know exactly when you are able to register.
Week 12 Note that Thanksgiving Break does not count as an academic week. Have you made plans for the break? If you are staying on campus, have you made arrangements? If this is your first holiday away from home, please make sure your residence hall staff/ WIU network is aware of this. Don’t ignore your WIU email during this time!
Week 13 Now begins the last stretch of the semester. Working on the bulk of any final projects, papers, or presentations you have due at the end of the semester now will save you more time to study for finals later on. The library may have extended hours. Establish a study plan if you do not already have one.
Week 14 Continue going to office hours, tutoring, and anything else that is preparing you to end the semester successfully. Recheck Rocky's Resources to connect with resources to help you.
Week 15 Get ready for finals week! If you haven’t already done so, write down the time and location of all of your finals in several places: calendar, white board, phone, paper by your door, etc.. You can check this by looking at your syllabus and/or the course on WesternOnline . You can find more information about the final exam schedule and policies by going here . Develop a study schedule and plan ahead for how you are going to navigate finals week. Meeting with your Leatherneck Success Leader or academic advisor is a great place to sit down and develop your study plan!    Final labs, papers, and projects are often due this week.   Another great time to get some snacks and well-wishes   to get through finals week!
Finals Week Show up to your final 5-10 minutes early to give yourself a chance to get settled and relaxed before your exam. Your final grades will be available on STARS and will be e-mailed to your WIU ECom student account at the end of each term. If you have any questions or need any clarification on a grade you receive, follow up with your instructor(s) as soon as possible.
Winter Break Relax, volunteer, work for a few weeks...enjoy the time away from studies so you can recharge and plan for a successful Spring semester. Think about your major, career options, and study abroad possibilities. Because you've been on your own for a few months, you and your household may need some time to adjust to the changes.
Spring Semester Actions to take: (Also refer to Fall Semester above if you are first attending WIU in the Spring)
1-Jan Review your schedule for Spring semester and contact your advisor with questions and an action plan, if it has changed since your last appointment. Review your financial plan; now that you've been through one semester, you have an idea of how to budget for college.
Week 1 Move back in to your residence hall, if you are living on campus. Remember to buy your books for your new classes and do the same checking you did in Week 1 for fall semester.   Open registration to pick up classes or switch classes ends on Monday of next week; check with your advisor before making changes.
Week 2 If you've identified any areas for improvement, start working on them right away so good habits are formed. Sunday is the last day for an 80% refund for total university withdrawal. Before withdrawing, check with your advisor who can connect you to resources that may assist and prevent you from needing to withdraw.
Week 3 Keep going to class. Attend some University or community events. If you didn't get involved in campus life first semester, now is a great time to check out student organizations and resources.
Week 4 No class on Friday: Lincoln's birthday observed. Have you kept in touch with your support system at home? Are you eating in the dining halls?
Week 5 It is important for all students to balance their academic lives with meaningful activities outside of the classroom. How are you spending your time when you are not in class or studying? Have you joined any clubs or organizations? Are you meeting new people and are you getting experiences that your classes don’t offer? You can learn about many of the available student activities by visiting the Office of Student Activities in the University Union or the Multicultural Center
Week 6 Midterm is only two weeks away! Self check : are you eating and exercising right? Are you balancing academic and social focuses? Have you utilized resources such as the Academic Skills Center, tutoring, Success Coaches, and mentors? Have you attended any events sponsored by the Multicultural Center ?
Week 7 Early warning grades are open for reporting, Again, you will get a call to connect you to resources that can help you finish this semester successfully. Check in with your professors to see if you can improve and what advice they have for a strong finish.
Week 8 Midterms begin this week. Spring break is next week. If you are taking a trip, remember to balance this week with your academic responsibilities and preparing for a   safe, fun trip.
Week 9 Advanced registration, if applicable, is open for summer and fall. Make an appointment with your advisor so you can register during open registration, which starts in two weeks.
Week 10 It is wise to meet with your instructors and advisor to develop a plan of how you’re going to improve your grades by the end of the semester, if needed.  
Week 11 Open registration begins. Last day for total university withdrawal is this week. This is a good time to explore your summer opportunities with the Career Center and your advisor to see if an internship or job experience will help you.
Week 12 Working any projects, papers, or presentations you have due at the end of the semester now will allow you more time to study for finals later on. 
Week 13 Only three more weeks of the semester. If you have lived on campus all year, you will start setting up your departure activities such as checking out of the residence hall and taking care of any financial liabilities before you leave for the summer. Also, if you live on campus, begin packing up or have a plan, so there is no rush or items left behind at the end of the semester.
Week 14 Continue going to office hours, Leatherneck Success Leader, tutoring, and anything else that is preparing you to end the semester successfully. Monitor your meal plan – do you have enough to get through or do you have a high balance that you should use?
Week 15 Final papers and projects, as well as any allowed late work, are often due this week. Make sure you know your finals schedule and are prepared to end the semester on a positive note! Remember to eat right, rest well, and exercise.
Finals Week Show up to your final 5-10 minutes early to give yourself a chance to get settled and relaxed before your exam. Your final grades will be available on STARS and will be e-mailed to your WIU ECom student account at the end of each term. If you have any questions or need any clarification on a grade you receive, follow up with your instructor(s) as soon as possible.
Summer Break Whether you are working, attending summer classes, or only relaxing, use this time to recharge for a successful Fall semester.