First Generation College Students: Carrying an Extra Burden by Aadam A Franks

Heading off to college in the fall is a rite of passage for many young Americans. For most, it’s the first time they are getting out on their own, with no one to answer to each day but themselves. Those students whose parents never went to college are at a disadvantage compared to their peers, and many find it can be rough going.

Many of these first-generation college students have had to overcome barriers that were unknown to their fellow classmates. They arrive at college without having been able to draw on the experience and information of their parents. Studies have shown that college students not only have to understand academics more rigorous than they are accustomed to, they must also master the role of college student. Without the background that most of their peers enjoy and take for granted, first generation college students don’t always understand that role, which can have a negative impact on their ability to meet expectations.

Fortunately, academic advisors and faculty at many colleges have become sensitive to this issue. It’s important that these first generation college students have role models, and many academic advisors are learning to identify them. Role models have mastered the college student role. They are actively engaged in college life, both academically and socially, and can help to guide and mentor first generation students.

First generation college students can also benefit by connecting with other first generation students. Peer to peer advising and mentoring is known to be effective. It also helps when their parents get involved and connect to the parents and family members of other first generation students.

Aadam A Franks became the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college. He began his college career at Lake Land Community College, where he earned an associates degree in Biology. He went on to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration on entrepreneurship.


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