As a first-generation student, you may be wondering if anyone else encounters the same challenges and surprises higher education offers. That is why we have compiled stories from first-generation current Drexel students, graduates, faculty, and staff, so you can see how they navigated their college experience and maybe find some truths that you can apply to yours.
Jeana Morrison, PhD
School of Education, Class of 2018
For me as a first-generation college student, the fact that my parents didn't go to college means that I did not know much about what college life would be like before I got there. Looking back, if I had known more about college, I would have visited more schools and asked more questions when I was choosing a college. It can be easy to get embarrassed about what you don't know, but it's important to ask friends and other people in your network so you can get connected to resources that you need.
My own research on education examines inequalities in society and differences in power and access — I think this has something to do with my experience as a first-generation student. In terms of being an educator and mentor, I want to think of ways to challenge the system and push back against inequality. I'm happy that Drexel is beginning to pay attention to first-generation students and connecting them with resources and people who share their experiences.
LeBow College of Business, Class of 2019
Being a first-generation college student is something that's really important to me. I'm really proud of it and it helps keep me motivated, because I know how hard my dad worked to get my sister and me to college. My sister is older, so my family learned a lot about college when she was applying to schools. It was smoother with me, but there were still things we had to learn about. I was recently able to take what I've learned and help a fellow first-generation student, a neighbor. It felt great. I think it's important to use your resources, find mentors, and even to do online research about college.
My college experience has been unique because since high school, I thought that I wanted to be an engineer, and when I got to Drexel I discovered that what I really wanted to do was business. As a first-generation student, it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that the plan I had made and been working towards was going to have to change. I'm very happy in my new major, so my advice for other students is to be open to change.
Director, Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS)
LeBow College of Business, Class of 2003; School of Education, Class of 2010
To me, being first-generation means perseverance and resiliency. When I came to Drexel as an undergraduate I had no frame of reference as to what to expect — I thought it would be like movies I had seen! Looking back at my experience, there were definitely challenges but I felt like giving up wasn't an option because I was the first in my family to potentially graduate with a bachelor's degree. I got into higher education because I wanted to work with students like myself. I often talk to students who feel like they are the only ones going through a certain situation. These students don't know that they aren't alone in their experiences. The challenge may be that they are scared or embarrassed to confide in their friends. First Forward, we hope, will normalize the experience of being first generation and spark productive conversations.
Assistant Director, Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS)
I am not technically a first-generation student, because my mother went back to school part-time when I was young and finished her bachelor's degree when I was a junior in high school. Her experience as a part-time commuter student, however, still meant that my family and I did not know much about living in dorms, balancing extracurriculars and academics, or the many co-curricular opportunities that were available to me. I was lucky to have a diverse group of friends, some of whom were first generation and some whose parents had gone to college — and we learned from each other.
I find that many times, conversations about first-generation students focus on the knowledge and experiences they lack. I think it's very important that first-generation students feel empowered to flip the script and instead bring attention to the many skills, strengths, insights, and experiences they bring with them to college.