What Does it Mean to be a First-Generation College Student?
First-generation college students, referred to commonly as “First-Gen” students, are defined as those who are first in their family to attend college. In technical terms, the U.S. Department of Education defines First-generation college students as “students who enrolled in postsecondary education and whose parents do not have any postsecondary education experience.” (NCES, 2017). Yet, Defining “First-generation” can be difficult because there are many different circumstances that can make a student fall under this category.
It is important to acknowledge First-Gen students to recognize the obstacles they face. It is important for an institution to identify these students in order to provide them with the assistance they need to alleviate any barriers for their success. First -generation students have different needs than other students, and it is important to track these students throughout their journey to uncover these demands.
The term “First-Generation” suggests the probability that a student may lack the cultural capital needed in order to succeed. There is a secretive set of social rules that impact a student’s status and test their competence during their time in college. It can damage a student’s confidence and drive to continue on such a difficult path. First-Gen students are the first in their family to encounter unknown territory and most times are faced to figure it out alone. They may not have the support to understand the mannerisms, behaviors, and social rules associated with attending college. Their family can support them only as much as they understand.
Only 10% of First Gen students graduate college within 6 years. The general public does not realize how much a college climate can affect a student in completing a degree. A First-Generation student was able to overcome the obstacles necessary to graduate high school and attend college. However, it is important to recognize these students and help them be as competitive as their peers and provide them with an equitable distribution of opportunities.