What It Means To Be A First-Generation College Student

The college experience is different for everyone, especially if you’re the first person in your family to attend college. Being a first-generation college student makes your experience all the more unique as you don’t have a family member to lead the way for you like some other non first-gen students may have. You have to lead the way yourself, finding your path and leading your journey, this is what makes the experience of a first generation college student so remarkable. A first-generation college student overcomes hurdles and barriers, taking on each challenge, while continuously striving for greatness. 

Colored graphic “first generation student” 
Courtesy: google 

Saint Joseph’s University Celebrates First-Generation College Students

Saint Joseph’s University recognizes how hardworking, and determined first-generation college students are. In fact, Saint Joe’s had dedicated this whole week to recognize, amplify, and celebrate first-gen college students. Each day there’s a new activity for first-gen college students to enjoy. This past Tuesday, Alpha Alpha Alpha, a First Generation Honor Society, joined in on the university’s celebration holding an interest meeting from 11 am to 12 pm for students who were interested in joining. Along with Saint Joe’s, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity had taken to their social media accounts to highlight not only students but faculty and staff members as well who were also a first-generation college student.

List of events for National First-Generation Week
Photo courtesy: Saint Joseph’s University

Getting To Know The Experience Of A First-Generation College Student 

During the celebratory week we wanted to get a better idea of what it means to be a first-gen college student. Students Lily Park and Heavenly Perez shared their experience with us.  

Lily shared with us that she “didn’t have the luxury of having parents who had the full college experience,” which had made things challenging for her. Lily said that the most challenging part of her college experience thus far had been making friends. Something she believes every college student struggles with, but first-gen students may struggle with more as they don’t have that parent connection which could help them get connected with other students through their parents. Lily had mentioned how joining her sorority had helped her a lot and introduced her to so many new people. Lily expressed how much Saint Joe’s does in acknowledgement towards first-gen students, “they signify how proud they are of our accomplishments and determination.” 

Photo of Lily Park, first generation college student 
Courtesy: Lily Park

Heavenly had a different story to share with us. For Heavenly she applied to college without parental guidance, the only help she received was from her high school. Heavenly said that she, “had to fully take control of her life as well as her responsibilities if she wanted to attend post-secondary education.” For Heavenly the most challenging part about being a first-generation college student is working out the paperwork and financial stressors that come with it. Heavenly mentioned how Saint Joe’s had helped her financially and worked with her to ensure that she succeeds throughout her four years. 

Photo of Heavenly Perez
Courtesy: Heavenly Perez 

We applaud every first-generation college student. The road is not easy but how you pave the way and lead your own is admirable. Not everyone’s story is universal but each story is unique and special. To be a first-generation college student is a huge accomplishment within itself and it is what you do with that opportunity that is remarkable to watch.