The Struggles of First Generation College Students

Helina Solomon, Kimothy Wu and Mackenzie Gignac at Ohio State University | Ty Wright| New York Times

First generation college students are often not thought about by more traditional students. The struggles that many of these students face every day are not issues students who have parents that attended college deal with. Between working countless hours to afford the necessities in life when they could be studying and they stigma that being a first-generation student can hold, it can be hard to overcome the lack of privilege that being a first-generation student holds.

Ivy League Trailblazers, a short film by New York Times, Natalia V. Osipova, explores a handful of first-generation student’s experiences at Ivy League universities. From their times spent on campus where they may not have access to everything their peers have from their parents to the privileged students can have to buy not having to work their way through college, the students that shared their experiences are very optimistic about their situation.

While Ivy League colleges gear students up for success out of the classroom in internships and interviews, for many first-generation college students it is not always the case. For Destin Sisemore, apart from the Brown University 2015 class, the university had to buy him a suit so he could compete in the job market the way his peers are able to. Sisemore’s lack of ability to afford professional dress clothes would have inhibited him from skyrocketing into the job market in a way that his classmates are able to.

While being broke is synonymous with being a college student, many first-generation students cannot rely on their parents for finical support. Many students work their way through college, but for the majority of first-generation college students they end up working several jobs over the course of their degree to afford tuition, housing and everything else they need to succeed.

As the first person in my immediate family working their way through a four-year degree, it is clear to me the struggles that many of these first-generation students face. While my mother, father and stepmother attended college, neither of them finished an undergraduate degree. In a sense, I have it luckier than a majority of first-generation college students as my family has a vague understanding of what it means to be in college.

As I have been working my way through college with part-time jobs and as a resident assistant, many of my close friends have not had the same issue with money that I face. Seeing this video puts it in perspective that other college students, especially first-generation students, have similar struggles.

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