It’s already hard going into a new environment like college and having to get acclimated to it at a fast pace. So it takes time for average college students to adjust, but it’s even more complicated for first-generation college students. There’s no surprise that first-generation college students are at a disadvantage when it comes to college. In a class reading by Jennine Capó Crucet, she goes into detail about the struggles that first-generation college students face and what should be done about it. It’s a massive issue because it makes adjusting and being successful in college much harder than it already is. I’m going to discuss the struggles that first-generation students face and how the colleges/universities and their families can make it easier for them to succeed.
If you aren’t familiar with the term first-generation college student or don’t know what they are, then let me help you understand better. A first-generation college student is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a college student who neither one of their parents completed four years at a college or university. Even if their siblings completed four years at a college of university, they are still considered a first-generation college student. So they are going to be the first generation in their family to complete four years of college.
Before we get into detail about those struggles that first-generation students face, let’s talk about why they struggle. See these students are going in completely blind when they first attend college. They aren’t like the average college student, whose parents have taken that journey before. The parents of students usually give out tips, advice, warnings, basically whatever they can do to make their child’s journey easier. Because their parents haven’t graduated, they don’t know what their kids should expect. Both the parents and the student have no idea about what’s going to happen at college.
Now let’s talk about the struggles that first-generation college students face. In the article Taking My Parents to College by Jennine Capó Crucet, she points out some personal struggles that she faced. She was unaware of even the common things that all college students should know. She and her parents didn’t know how long her parents were supposed to stay for orientation. Her parents actually booked a hotel and used their vacation days to stay for a couple of days (Crucet, 2015). Another common thing that she was unaware of was the supplies that she needed. She didn’t know that she needed to purchase “shower shoes, extra-long twin sheets, mesh laundry bags” (Crucet, 2015). She also struggled with her school work and she couldn’t really ask for help from her family because they didn’t know how to do it. This just shows these students struggle with the simple things, so imagine how they struggle with the major things.
There are definitely some more major struggles that first-generation college students face. Financial support is a very big struggle for almost all college students but it can be even worse for first-generation students. Their parents probably won’t know of the resources that they could use to make college more affordable. Resources like scholarships, grants, programs that help first-generation students, etc. Another struggle that many of these students deal with is guilt. Sometimes they feel guilty when they leave their family and go off to college or even feel guilty or embarrassed to ask for help (Homol, 2016). Fitting is also a major struggle that many of these students go through. Most of these students probably haven’t ever been far away from their family so it’s going to take some time to adjust. Fitting and finding friends definitely helps the transition easier.
There are a good amount of struggles that make college very challenging for first-generation college students. There are a few things that colleges/universities can do to help them succeed. Something that Jennine Capó Crucet said in her article was that she believes that colleges/universities should implement mandatory meetings for first-generation college students. This seems like a great idea that will only help benefit these students. The meetings would probably be geared toward informing students about the simple things like what supplies they need. It should also include information for the parents so they can help support their children. Support from home is something that is very beneficial to them (Greenthal, 2021). These colleges/universities could also try to give these students more attention or have their guidance counselors check up on them more often.
There are also some things that the family of these students can do to help them succeed. I stated earlier that support from the home is very beneficial, but since the parents never graduated from college they don’t know how to support them. Having the colleges/universities provide information for the parents so they can help support the students is a great idea. It shouldn’t be solely on the colleges/universities to help inform the parents. The parents have to use the resources and research for themselves. They google at their fingertips and can research literally anything that they need to know. They can find scholarship information, tutors, a list of supplies that the kids will need, and so much more. The parents have to be able to help their children whenever they need it.
In conclusion, it’s already difficult to adjust to the college lifestyle, but it’s even more difficult for first-generation college students to adjust. They’re at such a disadvantage because their parents don’t have the knowledge that the average college student parent has about college. Parents of incoming college students usually give out advice and tips so their child will be more successful in college. The parents of first-generation college students may not have any advice or tips for them because they never had the experience. They struggle with simple things like how long is orientation or what supplies do they need or help with their school work. They definitely struggled with harder stuff such as financial support, guilt, and fitting. Even though they have to face all of these struggles, there are still ways to make their lives a little easier. The colleges/universities should have mandatory meetings for them to inform about stuff that they need to know about. The students’ parents should also educate themselves about college so they can support their children. Hopefully these things make the students’ lives easier and allows them to become very successful.
Greenthal, Sharon. ‘’5 Big Challenges for First Generation College Students”. Verywellfamily. 4 Feb. 2021
Homol, Caitlyn James, and David J Johns. “5 Things You Can Do to Support First-Generation College Students.” Education Post, 20 July 2016
Markle, Gail;Stelzriede Danelle Dyckhoff, et al. “Comparing First-Generation Students to Continuing-Generation Students and the Impact of a First-Generation Learning Community.” Innovative Higher Education., vol. 45, no. 4, Kluwer Academic-Plenum-Human Sciences Press, 2020, pp. 285–98, doi:10.1007/s10755-020-09502-0.
Reid, M Jeanne;Moore, James L, III, et al. “College Readiness and Academic Preparation for Postsecondary Education.” Urban Education., vol. 43, no. 2, Sage Publications, 2008, pp. 240–61, doi:10.1177/0042085907312346.