WASHINGTON POST: Guilt is one of the biggest struggles first-generation college students face

Career College Central Summary:

  • First-generation college students, or students whose parents have not earned a four-year degree, face unique psychological challenges.
  • Although perhaps supportive of higher education, their parents and family members may view their entry into college as a break in the family system rather than a continuation of their schooling.
  • In families, role assignments about work, family, religion and community are passed down through the generations creating “intergenerational continuity.” When a family member disrupts this system by choosing to attend college, he or she experiences a shift in identity, leading to a sense of loss. Not prepared for this loss, many first-generation students may come to develop two different identities – one for home and another for college.
  • As a former first-generation college student who is now an associate professor of education, I have lived this double life. My desire to help other first-generation students resulted in research that provides insights into the lived experiences of first-generation students at Wheelock College, a small college in Boston, Massachusetts, that has a high percentage of first-generation students. In 2010, 52 percent of our incoming undergraduates were first-generation college students.

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