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/. 

Ezequiel Lorenzo Acevedo: Academic Profile

            Ezequiel (or Zeke) is a 17-year-old international student from the Dominican Republic. After conducting an interview and taking notes about Zeke, I have learned that he is a hard worker, who is determined at being the best student he could be. This is his second semester at Georgia State, and he has already established the fact that he is a responsible student, who works hard to achieve straight A’s every semester.

            Zeke attended Las Palmas Christian School from 6th to 12th grade. Las Palmas Christian School is a private bilingual school, where almost all of his classes were taught in English. This school is where he learned the majority of his English and is the reason why he can speak it so fluently. He still lives in the Dominican Republic and has to attend Georgia State online because of the Coronavirus, but he hopes that travel will be safer later this year so that he can attend school in person. He chose to attend Georgia State because he knew he wanted to go to college, but he wanted to study abroad so that he could get a better education. With a major in Computer Science, Zeke wants to work in the field of AI (artificial intelligence). Zeke says he wants to go into AI because he wants to “revolutionize technology”. He continues his explanation by saying “it’s an underdeveloped field, I want to help research and discover stuff to see how AI can be helpful in our lives.”

            With academic and career goals like Zeke, one needs to be very disciplined, determined, and hardworking. These three words accurately describe Zeke’s academic self. He is a responsible student and takes his classes very seriously. He works hard to achieve good grades and makes sure that he puts all of his effort into every assignment he has. He’s determined to do things right the first time and doesn’t let himself get too off-track when it comes to his schoolwork. One thing he takes pride in academically is that he was able to maintain excellent grades throughout high school which led to his acceptance at Georgia State.

            His parents and girlfriend are his biggest influences when it comes to doing well academically. Both his parents and his girlfriend want the best future for him and push him to be his best academic self. He is aware that his parents spent a lot of money for him to be able to go to school here, so he wants to achieve the best grades he possibly can. He knows how important an education is to him and his family. This connects to his favorite reading that we had in class so far which was the “Taking My Parents to College” article by Jennine Capó Cruce. When I asked him why this was his favorite reading, he said that in a way, he could relate to Jennine’s experience in college. Although he doesn’t attend college in person, he has parents who have never attended college in the United States, so he had to figure out the whole college application process by himself.

            With all of his academic and career goals, Zeke also mentioned that he wants to make enough money from his career so that he can help his country. He wants to improve the economy in his country and wants to make a business and provide jobs for people in the Dominican Republic. He has proved through his excellent grades, and his acceptance to Georgia State how disciplined, determined, and hardworking he is. I find it impressive that Zeke is so determined and goal-oriented when it comes to his schoolwork. As a 17-year-old myself, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life after college, but Zeke has it all planned out and has proven that he is dedicated to his work and studies even though he’s in a different country, and I admire him for that.


Acevedo, Ezequiel L. Personal Interview. 1 February 2021.