First-Generation Students: Make or Break?
For 18 years, parents pour their blood, sweat, and tears into working to be able to give their children the best future. One different from their own. Receiving a higher education is the first step to achieving that better future. For most parents, sending their children to college is a dream come true. In the United States, a higher education is widely expected from graduating students, coast to coast. Coming from low-income families, a majority of the time, college was only something they could dream about. With no previous experience with colleges, parents now are unable to help guide their children through the college experience.
Almost fifty percent of Latino students are the first in their family to attend college. Damon Evans, 24, is part of that fifty percent.
An Old Westbury alum, he never felt it was an option to not attend college. Being the first of his family to go to college was a big deal for him, not so much his parents. Being one of three, and the oldest, he spent his last year of high school struggling with the idea of going to college. All his friends were attending different schools the next year, but he spent months uncertain about his future. “If it wasn’t for the high school counselor, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Wearing a suit every day to work and paying my rent; even helping my parents pay theirs.” Mr. Evans said. “It’s fulfilling.”
There’s a greater chance of first generation students not finishing college than non-first-generation students. About twenty percent of a greater chance of dropping out. With the statistics stacked against these students, dropping out becomes a constant haunting.
But their parents work so hard for them to get there and have that opportunity. So, at the end of four years, that degree may only have one name on it, but it’s not just for these students, but for their parents as well.
A first-generation student’s success is their parent’s success as well, which tends to put a lot of pressure on them.
With the added pressure on top of their normal struggles as a student tends to be the breaking point, which can lead to the large gap between how likely a student who is the first person in their family to attend college, compared to those whose parents did attend college. But the pressure of those numbers can also be a driving point for students. “I felt like people wanted, or expected, me to fail. So, I used that. Yeah, it may have added weight on my shoulders, but it made me push harder.” Mr. Evans says about the thought of dropping out and working full time instead.
It’s important for colleges to help make the transition a little easier because it can make or break a student’s success.Otherwise it would be entirely difficult for these young adults to be successful in this era.