National First-Generation College Day

Today is National First-Generation College Day! To learn more about National First-Generation College Day, check out: 2019 First Generation College Celebration.

For first generation college students, the excitement of getting that college acceptance letter comes with other complex emotions and challenges. It can be a confusing and frustrating experience, but it doesn’t have to be isolating. Members of Emory Libraries community who are first generation graduates and students share their experiences and advice below:

Sarah Quigley, Head of Collection Processing in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

What was the most challenging aspect of being a first generation college student?

There was no one in my family who could help me navigate the university system or give me advice about how to be successful or advocate for myself and address problems. I sort of had to figure everything out on my own and it was sometimes really overwhelming.

Do you have any advice for fellow first generation students out there? Anything that you wish you would have known then?

Outreach to first generation students was not as concerted then as it is now and I didn’t know any other students who identified as first gen (and honestly, I didn’t really either simply because awareness was so much lower in general). So my advice is for first gen students to avail themselves of any programs that Emory offers and particularly to use them as a way to make connections with other first gen students. The experience is definitely unique and I would have found it incredibly beneficial to know others that shared my experience.

Linda Deslandes-Robertson, Desktop Support, Emory Libraries

What was the most challenging aspect of being a first generation college student?

There is so much pressure for you to complete school within the first four years of attending college. Unlike most students I worked full time and attended school full time so time management was a challenge at first. But within my second semester I figured out ways to management my time accordingly to help minimize the stress of school and work.

Do you have any advice for fellow first generation students out there? Anything that you wish you would have known then?

Study groups–join as many as you can as they are your support system because they will be able to relate to your struggles. Being a first-generation student means you do not have family members that will be able to relate to your stress load and they may not be able to provide the motivation and support you need. It is best to find people who can relate to you so they can help encourage you through your struggle. “You got this, you can do it:” just keep telling yourself that – it worked for me. After 9 years 2 months I earned Associate, Bachelor and Master degrees; never put a timestamp on completing, just make sure you finish.

Andrew Battelini, Metadata Analyst, Emory Libraries

What was the most challenging aspect of being a first generation college student?

I think the two most prominent things were a lack of support (notably financial), and a lack of understanding or guidance on how to navigate everything about what college “is.” That’s including the purpose of it, things to be aware of down the line, and even what goes into the application process. All of this led to a very rough experience that ended with undergrad feeling less like an accomplishment, and more like a chore that was finally over. The subsequent transition to figuring out what a career would even look like was difficult as well.

Do you have any advice for fellow first generation students out there? Anything that you wish you would have known then?

Absolutely do not be afraid to admit any feelings of confusion, uncertainty, or just needing help. While not all faculty will, there are many who are more than happy to help you succeed, both in the short term and long term – this includes librarians! Beyond faculty, take advantage of other resources the school may offer – like career planning. Friends, maybe those who seem to know what the “deal” is, can help a lot; creating lasting friendships can also make the transition into “normal” life MUCH easier.

Pat Culpepper, Assessment Coordinator, Emory Libraries

What was the most challenging aspect of being a first generation college student?

My siblings and I were not only the first generation to attend college, we were the first generation — on both sides of the family — to graduate high school. Breaking this family script was first and foremost a challenge of imagination and possibilities (led by my mother who only completed 9th grade). She told us it was possible and pushed us to “go for it,” but she had NO IDEA how to make it happen. We were on our own to figure out the “how to.” Highschool teachers were of some help, but it was the 1970’s in rural Georgia. Resources were scarce.

Do you have any advice for fellow first generation students out there? Anything that you wish you would have known then?

In hindsight, I wish I had been able to value education for education’s sake, rather than just as a means to a degree so that I could start earning a paycheck as quickly as possible. My advice would be to think about what you really want and enjoy, not just what will land you a job. It’s a balance, and finding this balance can be a challenge for first generation students.

Saira Raza, Business Librarian, Goizueta Business Library

What was the most challenging aspect of being a first generation college student?

I really had no idea what to expect from the college experience and often didn’t even know what questions to ask. As another first generation friend used to joke, our parents sent us off and it was like “sink or swim, kid!” Even the application process was challenging, but I was lucky to have a couple of high school teachers who took note that I seemed “lost” and helped me through it. There was so much focus on just getting to college and finishing, I really hadn’t put a lot of thought into what I wanted to actually do after, so that was a whole other journey. I didn’t have anyone in my family that could relate, so it felt a bit isolating. But luckily, I also found great mentors at college, including two librarians, who were happy to provide support along the way and even after I graduated.

Do you have any advice for fellow first generation students out there? Anything that you wish you would have known when you started?

You are your own best advocate. There’s no shame in asking for help or clarification when you need it. Your education is a privilege that comes with complexities including how you relate to others in your family and home community and how you relate to your future colleagues who may not have had the same experience as you. It’s not unusual to feel like an “outsider” even later in life, so stay in touch with supportive college friends who know how hard you’ve worked to accomplish your goals. You’ll have much to celebrate together!

Leida Cisneros, Junior, Emory College, Economic Major

What was the most challenging aspect of being a first generation college student?

As a first-generation student, it is challenging to find other first-generation students. There are many resources available for first-generation students, but not a lot of people are aware of them, thus, making it harder to seek help amongst that community.

Do you have any advice for fellow first generation students out there? Anything that you wish you would have known then?

First-generation students: talk to your professors. Network outside of your friend group. Who knows? Your professor might just be first-generation too. Even if he or she is not, they will be understanding of your situation and possibly connect you with other professors who ARE first generation. Therefore, network, network, NETWORK!

 

Be sure to check out Emory’s #FirstGenAtEmory Celebration on November 8th at 2PM-3:30PM on the Academic Quad (by Candler Library and The Carlos Museum).

Celebrate Emory’s First-Gen Community! Meet other first-gen faculty, students, and staff, and have some cookies from Tiffs Treats. We really hope to see you there. Invite your friends, peers, roommates, floor-mates, and yes, even your professors! All are welcome, so help us spread the word.
 
 

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One Response to “National First-Generation College Day”

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  1. Dawn Francis-Chewning

    I am sad to have missed this. I too was a First Gen and not well supported in school nor family (my father believed that women went to college for reasons other than an education). My school changed in the summer before my junior year and that became another hurdle for I was big city and this was big farming – quite a culture shock. But I managed and graduated w/a double major in History and Political Science, despite all the odds though not without major debt. My best advice – experience all you can (study groups, special interest groups and All!). I just celebrated my 40th Emory College reunion and I was reminded of how important our life experiences are with those we share it with. I was already working like crazy to make ends meet even in my freshmen year – I missed out on much. I vowed that if I had children, my goal was to ensure that they would enjoy the college life I missed out on (due to my having to work) and I succeeded. 3 kids, single Mom and I rocked it! Anything is possible, all of life is a learning curve, I’ve no regrets and savor my time both learning and working at Emory University!

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