First-Generation Students Pave Way for Their Families

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NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR

In many families, attending college is an expectation passed on to each new generation. The parents went to university; so will their children. But for others, the kids are the first to make that step.


NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR
NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR

Samuel Rodriguez-Mora, a junior sports and exercise science major, is the first in his immediate family to attend college.


“The pressure to do well is high because it is unexplored territory in the family,” said Marco Rodriguez, a sophomore biology major and first-generation college student. “However, the support of my family and their confidence in me has been an extremely rewarding feeling as it makes me feel motivated to show them I can do it.”

24 percent of first generation students are classified as low income, meaning that there is a financial component to this figure. Studies show that parents without a history of attending college may place less importance on pursuing a degree, and can actively discourage their children from doing so. That being said, there are also many first-generation students who say their parents were a motivating force and the main reason they chose to attend.

“My parents have always emphasized education, even at a young age,” said Sammy Rodriguez, a junior sports and exercise science major. “Even though my parents aren’t very knowledgeable when it comes to college, they’ve never been afraid to ask questions and learn as much as possible about it to be better prepared to help me.”

The challenges faced by first generation students are not limited to the application process alone; their transition into college and experiences as new students are also affected. They may go in with added pressure to succeed, either from their families or imposed upon themselves. First-generation students also lack the precedent of their parents to compare themselves to, and as a result may feel they lack guidance or have a harder time adapting than their peers.

“Being a first-generation college student is definitely a lot harder at first because you pretty much have no guidelines to go off of,” said Craig Go, a sophomore computer science major. “My parents didn’t teach me anything that could have helped me with that, because they couldn’t.”

Though there are certainly difficulties associated with being a first generation student, there can also be strong sense of accomplishment tied to it as well. Being the first in one’s family to graduate from college is not only a motivating prospect and something to be proud of; it can make them a resource for incoming students of a similar background.

Though there are first-generation students in all parts of the country, it is important to consider their role in our university specifically, and what Seattle University is doing to support this group. The Costco scholarship, though not exclusively awarded to first-generation students, has helped make college more accessible for some of them and contributed to their decision to apply.

“I was actually surprised to learn that I was a recipient of the Costco Scholarship back when I was deciding which school to attend,” Sammy Rodriguez said. “It was this reason that solidified my decision to attend Seattle University.”

Seattle U has not only supported first-generation students on our campus, but also in our surrounding community. In the 2006-2007 school year, the Center for Community Engagement started the First Generation Project, in which student volunteers visited local high schools to mentor first-generation students with hopes of attending college.

First-generation students, while not always visible in statistics or media coverage, can certainly be seen in the makeup of our student body, with experiences and insights that define no small part of who we are as a university.

Carlos may be reached at
[email protected]