Research Project


College serves as an opportunity to provide higher education or specialized professional training. For the privilege, college is expected to be a blissful moment in life. However, for first generation students that headline may not read the same. First generation college students may have a different outlook on the pre-emotions of going to college. Attending college consists of having a determined mindset to accomplish a higher education. It can be difficult to accomplish something when you lack support. The lack of guidance and mental stress can add extra challenges to achieving higher education. 

To find guidance, I applied to a college-readiness program during my junior year called the Achievers Scholars Program through the College Success Foundation (CSF), (Ronnie Estoque, I’m one of the first in my family to attend college. Here’s how I got here Pg. 1).  Within the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has added additional challenges for first-generation college students. Since the start of the pandemic 30% of students indicated that they wanted to reduce the number of courses they were enrolled in or completely withdraw from classes. There are reports as of January 2021 that show undergraduate students have reduce their course load by 4%. This global pandemic has negatively impacted students academic motivated and success. (Student’s also experience stress from their studies and their emotional well being is declining because of the pandemic. Terenzini et al. 1996). This research paper is to explore how are first generation student coping during this pandemic and maintaining a stable mind-set to complete their goal of graduating? There are tools and resources such as the federally funded TRIO program, that may be able to support the mental health and academic success for first generation college students.  

Before the global Covid-19 Pandemic, college offered vast amenities and the services available on campus are what provided students an outlet. However, with a wide range of activities, maintaining a certain academic grade was still mandatory to participate. Since the start of Covid-19, those activities and resources have ceased, and everyone must fend for themselves. The appointments are longer to see a counselor, and to find help right away is a thing of the past. Studies show that 40% of college students across America drop out from college after their first year (Vaughn et al., 2017.) Students who are coming from a first-generation background are at higher risk at becoming a college drop out. Noting the above barriers, first-generation students overall academic success and social integration across the university is due to reduced faculty support on campus and is exasperated by a reluctance from first-generation college students to seek out help/ All of these factors contribute to increased attrition (Katrevich & Aruguete, 2017; Stephen et al, 2012.) This is important to understand because first-generation college students need more support and guidance when they are in school in order to graduate.  

Support and guidance can be hard to find with schools closed, and everything online. Some universities offer a supportive program called TRIO, a federal funded program that gives service grants through the U.S Department of Education. TRIO aids to support the non-privileged students with free tutoring, educational field trips, personal counseling, and a list of other resourceful benefits. Campus support and other personal interactions are tools needed for first-generation students trying to figure out an unfamiliar environment and TRIO provides that. It’s known that the pandemic has caused students to feel fatigue, loss of idealism, anxiety, depletion, and several other emotions. TRIO, aids students to cope with problem-solving to identify the direct issues students are having. I am a TRIO student, and even through a pandemic, I receive daily text messages reminding me to reach out if assistance is needed.  

First generation college students (FGCS) face academic, financial, professional, cultural, emotional challenges throughout the process of obtaining a higher education.  A study found that compared with traditional college students, FGCS took fewer humanities courses, studied fewer, took fewer credits, worked more part time hours, and were less likely to participate in honors programs (Terenzini et al. 1996). How do you maintain mental stability with when you are working hard to accomplish something, but the odds are stacked up against you? A study has been conducted to test the difference between Mental Fitness skills, Psychological Resilience, and Academic Achievement among First Generation College Students.  

An outlook on resilience is strength to surpass all challenges. To have the courage to face fear, produce positive results even after being exposed to trauma. Everyone is not able to make it out of the challenging circumstances and walk into a master’s degree. Some people may have the desire but the mental fear, and depression and other scary mental disabilities keep a lot of people from moving forward. The number’s never lie, and although people are verbally rooting for themselves. Studies show that FGCS scored below the mean on all six of the Test of Performance Strategies Revised for College Students. (TOPS-RCS)  

First generation college students experience unique stressors. Covarrubias, Romero, And Trivelli (2015) found that higher level of family achievement guilt (i.e. the feelings of guilt that arise when students have more educational success than their parents or siblings) result in significantly higher depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and a higher frequency of minimizing their academic success among first generation college students the non-first generation college students. It’s one thing to know that the systematic racial system we live under is rooting for you to fail, but when your family isn’t rooting for you it’s heartbreaking. (   ) Another mental stressor for first generation college student  is because high counselor often fail to discuss college with potential first time generation students, steer them away from a rigorous high school curriculum, or even discharge them from pursing college (Hudley et. Al 2009; Rendon, 1993, Saenz, Hurtado, Barrera, wolf yeung, 2007). It is no wonder some people never make it through the doors. The leaders who are supposed to be assisting, are doing more damage than doing good.

(Since majority of first-generation college students are minorities, or people who come from a background of socioeconomics Lisa House et al). First Generation College Students are also children of immigrants. It is time to rise and do the unthinkable. Come together and raise funds to send children to elite university, because a lot of privilege people spend money for their kids to attend Harvard. If your family is not supporting you, or you are just simple all alone. TRIO and other academic enrichment programs are available to assist students through this pandemic. It is a good resource if you’re having anxiety about your experience in higher education. TRIO tutors also offer opportunities for tutoring and show how to solve problems. Programs like TRIO can assist students with skills and tools if students are worried about work overload and balancing personal life with school. There are challenges that have arisen for first generation college students because of this pandemic and there are not enough solutions and resources to help with these challenges.



Angela L. Vaughan, et al. “Intersection Between Trio/SSS Programs and FYS Effects on First- Generation Students”. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 20(15)2020

Lisa A. House PH. D “Supporting the Mental Health Need of First-Generation College Students”. Center for Counseling and Human Developing. 2019

Ronnie Estoque, I’m one of the first in my family to attend college. Here’s how I got here. Page 1

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