Confessions of a first generation student


I always knew I would go to university or college, but I was never sure what I was going to school for, since I had such a large variety of interests.  I applied to an array of programs at a bunch of different schools, and was accepted into them all.  (I made my choice based mostly on a campus visit that involved cotton candy and bubbles.)

I became the third person in my extended family to go to post-secondary education and the second to graduate; however, in my nuclear family I was the first for both. I am what is known as a first generation student (also called first gen or FGS): the first person in my immediate family to go on to post-secondary education.

With the number of students attending university and college on the rise in the last decade, the number of first gen students has increased as well.  We fill an interesting demographic and face challenges that students whose parents have post-secondary education do not.

In general, first gen students often confront the following issues:

  • Being confused by the application process
  • No knowledge of academic expectations
  • Use of confusing jargon by the institution
  • Lack of information regarding support-systems on campus
  • Coping with life as a post-secondary student
  • Financial barriers
  • Not having support of parents and family
  • Guilt in regards to the post-secondary experience
  • Higher dropout rates than traditional students
About the author

Danielle Lorenz is a long-time contributor to the Career Incubator. Danielle is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. When procrastinating from schoolwork, you will find Danielle lurking on several social media platforms and trying to befriend the snowshoe hares on the U of A campus.