The Life of First-Generation College Students

The Life of First-Generation College Students

Once a student begins college, it’s a stepping stone to becoming an adult. Most parents will help give their young adults advice and tips on what and what not to do in college. However, it’s not always the case for first-generation college students, as they are stepping into an unfamiliar experience not just for themselves but for their parents as well.

Starting college for first-generation college students can be more difficult than others because neither the students nor their families have gone to college or completed it, so it gives the students extra pressure to succeed for themselves and even their families. Students are blessed with the opportunities in college to succeed at their future careers. However, college adjustments such as being a long distance away from family, a new environment, and language barriers can quickly lead to self-doubt. 

It is important for first-generation college students to seek advice from professors who are there to help students succeed, especially those that were also first-generation college students themselves. Seeking this advice, I interviewed three professors who are first-generation college students to give students their own respective experience and some inspirational words: Angela Rhodes, Rosaria Garcia, and Kim Rosfeld.

There is a lot weighing on the shoulders of first-generation college students to be the first in their family to graduate college. However, even with all the weight on students, it’s not impossible to lighten the load. Hopefully, the answers provided by these professors are reassuring. When asked how it feels to be a first-generation college student, Professor Rhodes responded, “It’s a proud accomplishment since I got a master’s degree. I got to change things for my family.” Dr. Rosfeld shared similar feelings when she said, “I feel I was fulfilling my ambitions and my families.” Professor Rosaria also added that, “It feels good, but it gives me pressure because my parents might have expected more out of me.”

It is important for first-generation college students to understand that college is an opportunity to learn who they are as a person, develop alongside others, and find what you are passionate about. It might be tempting to want to pursue something that your family wants you to do, but a degree will be more fulfilling if it’s something that you see yourself enjoying for years to come. Interviewing Professor Rosaria and hearing about her experience before and after college, showed that it is good to pursue something that you are passionate about instead of what is more popular or financially good. She was successful in earning two degrees, but not everyone has the ability or resources to do that.

When asking the professors about advice they would give first-generation college students, Professor Rhodes responded, “Find mentors who know about the college experience. Find people on campus to connect with who want to help you. Do it early before the difficulty starts.” Professor Rosfeld resonated saying, “The biggest thing is to ask if you don’t know it.” Professor Rosaria concluded by saying, “It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it, and remember your motivation for why you’re going to college.”

Students can meet these professors in the Student Support Offices in the library near the coffee shop amongst many other first-generation college students across campus. Schedule an appointment with them, and they will open a spot for a meeting. Them and other professors want to see their students succeed and become prepared for adult life. They believe in you and so do I!


Photo by Charles DeLoye in Unsplash.