Leyla Ahmic Research Project

Leyla Ahmic

ENGL 1102 Section 400

April 27, 2021

Research Project



            “What percentage of first-generation college students graduate from college?”

            The United States is home to a large number of first-generation college students. A lot of first-generation students in the nation struggle with getting a college education. Those who do make it to college, have a hard time staying in college and graduating. This is due to a lack of resources, motivation, and financial aid. After reading “Taking My Parents to College” by Jennine Capó Crucet and “I’m One of the First in My Family to attend College. Here’s how I did it.” by Ronnie Estoque, it is clear that a lot of first-generation students are not provided with sufficient information regarding how to make the transition to college, nor are they given enough resources on how to financially support themselves so that they are able to graduate from college.

According to “National Data Fact Sheets.” Center for First-Generation Student Success, in the school year 2015-2016, 56% of undergraduate students in the United States were first-generation students, and 59% of those students were the first of their siblings to go to college in the United States. (National Data Fact Sheets) Center for First-Generation Student Success states that 89% of low-income first-generation students leave college without a degree in six years. More than a quarter leave after their first year, which is four times higher than their other peers. (National Data Fact Sheets) First-generation students are not provided with the right resources to help them with their college education, or they are not aware of what resources exist for them to use. “Factsheets.” PNPI, 1 Feb. 2021, states that “First-generation students demonstrated lower rates of college readiness in key academic areas compared to their non-first-generation peers. This put them at a higher risk of failing out of college.” (PNPI 6) According to PNPI, 1 Feb. 2021 first-generation students also have a lower average household income and more unmet financial needs than their peers whose parents attended college. (PNPI 6) These factors make it harder for first-generation students to stay and graduate from college. Center for First-Generation Student Success states that “In their first year in postsecondary education, a higher percentage of first-generation than continuing-generation students used financial aid services, but lower percentages used health, academic advising, and academic support services.” Most first-generation students’ main concern is financial aid. The majority of first-generation students are not able to attend college or stay in college because of financial reasons. Although it is important that first-generation students are seeking out sources that help them financially, it is also just as important that they seek academic advising and academic support services.

            For many first-generation students, English is not their first language. According to PNPI, 1 Feb. 202, about 20% of first-generation students’ first language is not English, which makes it even more complicated for them to stay and graduate from college. In the article, “I’m One of the First in My Family to attend College. Here’s how I did it.” by Ronnie Estoque, he lists overcoming language barriers as one of his pieces of advice for first-generation students. Estoque explains how parents of first-generation students have a hard time understanding why their child needs to see their tax reports. This is due to language barriers and miscommunication between both the parents and the students. In Estoque’s article, Andy Huynh describes his experience of applying for a FAFSA with his Chinese-speaking parents. He says that he wishes that more support was offered to students who don’t know how to translate and explain the importance of the FAFSA to their parents who might not speak English. (Estoque 15)

            In Estoque’s article, he also explains that maintaining motivation is important in achieving a college education. Naturally, every student who attends college will experience a lack of motivation in their studies sooner or later. When someone is a first-generation student though, one may experience a greater lack of motivation due to worries regarding financial stability and other academic support. Many first-generation students do not finish college because they feel as if they have a better chance of getting a job instead of spending their money on a college education. Seeking out financial aid as a first-generation student in the US at such a young age can get very overwhelming for students, which leads to them feeling even more unmotivated and very discouraged to continue going to school. In the article on PNPI, 1 Feb. 2021, a study at Pell Institute was conducted and showed that the average amount of unmet financial need for first-generation students was $6,000, half of their average annual income. Because of this, first-generation students had to work more and borrow more than their peers, leading to “negative consequences for college completion.” (PNPI 6) As Estoque states in his article, a lot of people view first-generation students as having a greater advantage over the college admissions process because of their struggles. (Estoque 7) Estoque encourages readers to not let that bring them down and to transform that into self-motivation.

            The number of first-generation students who aren’t graduating from college is higher than their other peers because of reasons like financial aid, lack of motivation, and lack of academic resources. First-generation students have to figure out everything on their own which can be tough and discouraging considering factors like financial aid and language barriers. More resources and more help need to be provided to first-generation to help them succeed in college, and furthermore, succeed in life after college.



“Factsheets.” PNPI, 1 Feb. 2021, pnpi.org/first-generation-students/. 

“National Data Fact Sheets.” Center for First-Generation Student Success, firstgen.naspa.org/research-and-policy/national-data-fact-sheets-on-first-generation-college-students/national-data-fact-sheets. 

Estoque, Ronnie. “Student Voices: I’m One of the First in My Family to Attend College. Here’s How I Got There.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 2 Aug. 2017, www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/student-voices-im-the-first-in-my-family-to-attend-college-heres-how-i-got-there/. 

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