Fall semester topics

First-Generation College Students

Congratulations, and welcome to college! Perseverance, resilience, resourcefulness, and hard work have helped you make it this far. "As a first-generation college student, this is a particularly important achievement. First-generation students are those students whose parent(s) have not attained a college degree. These students, who have little or no family collegiate history, may enter a college or university with limited knowledge about the jargon, traditions, and patterns of expected behavior. These factors may prevent first-generation students from fully engaging in a university setting and may contribute to early departure from an academic program before the completion of a degree. No matter how intelligent and capable, first-generation students may benefit from additional support as they adjust to a new environment. It can be helpful to learn more about what other first-generation students have experienced as well as what can be done to help maximize your performance and experience as you work towards attaining your degree.

How Might My College Experience Be Different?
First-generation students tend to come from working class families from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. First-generation students may start at a community college, attend college part-time, live off-campus or with family or relatives, delay entering college after high-school graduation, or work full-time while they are enrolled. While certainly immersed in an exciting experience, some first-generation college students receive less support from their families while attending college. Their families may not understand the demands of college work. Students may also feel added responsibility from families to be 'the one who succeeds' in college. This may increase the pressure the individual already experiences as a new student.

Despite having good academic performance in high school, first-generation students are susceptible to doubts about their academic and motivational abilities, and may believe that they are not college material. Because of these numerous obstacles, and because they may have to manage the demands of family, and different cultures of home and college, first generation students may find it difficult to feel integrated socially and academically. Fortunately, there are things these students can do to gain confidence and feel more comfortable."
Information above adapted from: Counseling Center at University of Illinois

Recommended books

Cushman, K. (2006). First in the family: Your college years. Advice about college from first-generation students. Next Generation Press.

Additional web resources