First generation College Students (FGCS) are usually defined as students whose parents have not graduated from a four-year college or university. They are often the first in their immediate families to earn a bachelor’s degree. It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of college students are FGCS.
If you are a FGCS, you are not alone! In fact, it is estimated that nearly 30 percent of college students are FGCS. Research has shown that FGCS are more likely to postpone attending college after graduating from high school or earning a GED; go to college on a part-time basis, and be employed at least part-time while being a university student. Many FGCS are women, have families that are of a low socioeconomic background; belong to ethnic or racial minority groups, and/or are older than 22. Frequently, FGCS often do not receive assistance from their families or even guidance counselors during the college process.
FGCS often enter college with many strong qualities such as resilience, high motivation, humble pride, and a sense of responsibility. They may feel eager and enthusiastic to be the first in their families to attend college; this is an opportunity FGCS have been waiting for years to achieve and an experience that may have seemed very unlikely earlier in their life.
At the same time, FGCS may also confront some stressors that are unique to their FGCS status. Here are some examples of potential obstacles to their achieving success:
- Having to both work and attend school at the same time
- Uncertainty and confusion about selecting a minor, major, and/or career path
- Embarrassment or shame about their FGCS status especially when speaking to non-FGCS (including staff and faculty)
- Not receiving sufficient support for their career goals by their families but feeling increased pressure to succeed
- Difficulty adjusting to the academic demands of college
- Guilt that other relatives do not have this educational opportunity
- Anxiety about financially supporting themselves and their families
- Being misunderstood by friends, faculty, and staff, especially those who are not FGCS
Just like any other students who are experiencing stress, it is important that FGCS seek support. This help can come in the form of reaching out to understanding friends, family, staff, and/or faculty. However, if FCGCS are noticing significant changes in their academic achievement, concentration, study habits, mood, as well as sleeping eating habits, they may need more structured help.
The following resources may be helpful:
Center for Academic Resources (cfar.unh.edu; Smith Hall, 2nd Floor): CFAR offers tutoring, academic mentoring; study skills support; GRE/graduate school preparation services; and determines eligibility to receive Student Support Services through the Federal TRIO program.
Disability Services for Students (ww.unh.edu/disabilityservices/; Smith Hall, 2nd Floor): If you are concerned that learning, emotional, and/or physical challenges may be negatively affecting your academic achievement, contact DSS to determine if you could be eligible to receive accommodations.
Counseling Center: Smith Hall, Room 306; 603-862-2090/TTY: 7-1-1 or 800-735-2964 Relay NH): If you are experiencing stressors that are interfering with your personal happiness and academic success, contact the University of New Hampshire Counseling Center (UNHCC) to make an appointment to speak with a counselor. If you are feeling that you are a danger to yourself or others, contact UNHCC immediately or call 603-862-2090/TTY 7-1-1 or 800-735-2964 (Relay NH) if the center is physically closed. UNHCC offers short-term individual and group counseling. This fall, UNHCC hopes to offer workshops specifically for First Generation College Students. For more information about UNCC services, please visit the rest of our website.