Research Project: First Generation College Students

Emma Cohen

Engl 1102 Section 330

Summary, Analysis, and Response Essay

April 27, 2021 



      There is no doubt that being a first-generation college student is difficult. The purpose of this research project is to understand and investigate what it is like to be a first-generation college student. First-generation college students are more isolated, have a harder time affording school, and face a lot of advantages and disadvantages that other students do not. Anne Dennon, in her article, “What Is a First-Generation College Student?” This article identifies who exactly qualifies as a first-generation college student and provides key tips about how they can navigate through this new experience. From the article, this research will give a larger understanding of first-generation college students and their experiences. 

      First-generation college students suffer from experiences and disadvantages that need to be talked about more. It is a topic that is not discussed because it is not broadcasted as an issue or brought up on the news/ media. The topic of first-generation college students matters because they deserve the recognition of defying odds that most people do not understand or even know to exist. People should open their ears and listen more to the topic of first-generation college students because anyone can help out and make this new experience for them easier. 



      First-generation college students face double the amount of problems that normal college students do. Over the past couple of years, statistics show that 56% of incoming students are first-generation college students. The rate of first-generation college students just applying to universities has increased greatly as well. In the article “First-Generation Students” by Factsheets, they explain that it is more likely to have non-white first-generation college students who do not speak English as their first language. “42% of Black students and 48% of Hispanic students were first-generation students, compared to 28% of white students. English is not the first language for nearly 20% of first-generation students” (par. 5). As if the struggles of being the first person to attend college in your family were not enough, they now have to push through ethnic struggles that come up as well. However, language is not the only struggle they face. Many first-generation college students suffer from a lack of college experience or expertise to help guide them. Not in all cases, but in most, the student’s relatives have not attended college because of the financial aspect of it all, so that usually carries over to be a struggle for the students as well. 

      The biggest thing about the first-generation college student topic is how to know who qualifies as one. According to the staff writers at Affordable Colleges Online, first-generation college students are “defined as learners coming a family where neither of their parents or guardians has obtained a bachelor’s degree” (par.1). Furthermore, if a student’s family member obtained an associate’s degree, they are still classified as a first-generation college student. When applying to most universities the application asks whether or not you qualify as a first-generation college student, but most people do not know exactly if they qualify or no so they usually put no. If people talked about first-generation college students more and tried to understand the issues these students face, the lines between yes and no in that question would not be so blurred and confusing. When incoming students who will be first-generation college students are applying to universities and they are not sure if they qualify under this category and put no, they are removing themselves from scholarship opportunities that they are actually eligible for. When the financial aspect of college is already a struggle for most first-generation college students getting removed from university scholarships because of a missed clarification is a huge disadvantage. If the media discussed topics like first-generation college students more, the confusion about who qualifies as one would decrease significantly. 

      Not only would it be helpful if the media discussed more who qualifies as first-generation students, but it would also be helpful if there were more stories from first-generation college students out there that could be used for inspiration. Many students who would qualify as first-generation college students if they applied, do not even consider applying to a university because they feel that they would not make it through college since they do not have much parental experience to guide them. Deciding to attend college is a hard decision for these students and being exposed to stories of others who faced similar struggles could be a valuable resource and a helpful guide to navigating them as they pursue this journey. After reading quite a few stories that were shared by first-generation students, I found Annie Hoang’s to be both inspiring and useful. Hoang talks about how her experience as a first-generation college student. She told readers that “When you’re the first person, there’s a lot of fear and apprehension that comes with it and there’s a lot of low-self-esteem, just being in denial like I can’t do this, there’s no freaking way” (Hoang par. 8). If other possible first-generation college students knew that they were not alone and others have had the same stressful feelings and made it through the college journey okay, they might feel more inclined to follow through with the college process. Hoang pushed past these feelings and was accepted to Yale for her undergraduate years, and later to UCSF for a medical education program. Hearing other first-generation college students’ stories and the struggles they overcome would be extremely useful for incoming first-generation students who need a guide to navigate through this new educational experience. 


        Works Cited Page

  • Dennon, A. (2020, July 01). What is a first-generation college Student?: BestColleges. Retrieved May 01, 2021, from
  • Factsheets. (2021, February 01). Retrieved April 20, 2021, from
  • National data fact sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2021, from
  • First generation college student guide. (2021, April 27). Retrieved May 01, 2021, from
  • Bai, N. (2021, April 12). Students who are first in their family to attend College share Stories, experiences. Retrieved May 01, 2021, from

Dominique Lawson Academic Profile

                                           Ms. Dominique Lawson- Georgia State University


      This profile is a compilation of interviews held with Dominique Lawson that were conducted over email. During the email interviews, we discussed our academic selves, high school experiences, and our plans for the future. Dominique dropped out of high school but later received her GED at the age of 30. When she had decided to leave school, her grandmother had just passed away, and she had to move in with her best friends. It understandably became hard for her to make school a priority. In 2017, she decided that she wanted to change her life, so she enrolled at Miami Dade Community College and studied for her GED. Dominique struggled with the math portion of the test, but with a lot of studying, she passed. The frustrating thing about college for her is that she has to take three or more classes to receive financial aid. She has been a student at GSU since 2018, but she has only completed one spring semester. Dominique believes that anyone who is trying to make something out of their life with nothing is an influence to her.


      The three words that described her academic self were structured, strategic, and thorough. She prefers to get assignments done on time and to perfect them the first time she does them. She spends a few hours both before and after work double-checking her assignments to make sure there are no flaws. She plans out each day to ensure she has time for school and will often wake up at five a.m. to complete assignments in advance. She refuses to risk falling behind on her school work. She does not have any continuous study habits, but she is a good note-taker. Dominique’s academic self is motivated to break a generation curse, and the idea of becoming too overwhelmed and walking away from school is Dominiques biggest academic fear.


      Dominique’s fear of becoming too overwhelmed with school motivates her to spend as much of her free time as she can perfecting her assignments. However, her biggest academic challenge is finding balance between school and work. Both are very important to her, and to achieve her academic goal, she has to stick to a daily schedule. Dominique has faced a few personal challenges as well on her journey of obtaining her college degree. Not only did she lose her grandmother in high school, but she faced the loss of her mother in 2019. Before this loss, she was a full-time student but to maintain balance in her life, she understandably sits out summer sessions.


      Dominique is currently majoring in health science, where she plans to become a Nurse Practitioner. Unlike being a regular nurse, becoming a nurse practitioner will give her open space to treat her patients in a broader manner. The loss of her grandmother was Dominique’s inspiration to pursue nursing. She was always good at taking care of others therefore, this career just felt right for her. She plans to complete her nursing degree while employed at Emory as a nursing tech and at Morehouse school of medicine as a research coordinator. Dominique has two academic goals. The first, is to raise her GPA to the highest it can be. The second, is to finish her BSA.