First-generation students face unique challenges

By Hadassah Curry

College wasn’t often mentioned in Jeremy Linaburg’s home.

Linaburg is the first in his family to attend college, but an education wasn’t part of his family’s plans.

“No one in my family went to college because they went straight to the workforce” Linaburg said. “My family expects my sister and I to be just like them working right after high school.”

For many first-generation students like Linaburg, the decision to pursue a degree can be difficult. Julia Morris, Director of Information and Research at Alderson Broaddus has surveyed first-generation students at AB. She suggests that students who come from families with a college graduate have an advantage.

“It’s possible for them to be better students because they have older siblings or family members that have given them advice on how to succeed in college,” Morris said.

Parental pressure wasn’t behind Cala Curtis’s decision to attend college. Instead, the freshman came to AB just to be the first out of her family to attend a university.

“College was not brought up a lot in my home,” Curtis said. It wasn’t talked about, and definitely wasn’t forced. I decided to go to school because I like to be different. I wanted to make my parents proud,” Curtis said.

Linaburg, a junior and Business Administration and Marketing major, says his motivation is to earn a better living than his parents.

“I wanted to be better than my parents and because none of them have ever went,” Linaburg said, “They do not make a lot of money, so I knew I needed to get an education to make more money.”

Morris also pointed out that another challenge for first-generation students is that they are a minority within the student population. Only 31 of 144 AB graduates from the class of 2017 were first-generation students, Morris said.

Multicultural or minority first-generation students also experience the difficulties of attending school in a different culture. Immanuel Adan, a senior and sport management major from Barcelona, Spain found it challenging to go to school in a different language.

“In America the classes are really easy,” Adan said. “The struggles were translating the words from Spanish to English. In Spain, high school was part of the hardest point of your life, because mostly everyone is learning engineering and medicine than regular studies.”

For Adan it was even harder for him to leave his own country while being the first person to go to college. His parents did worry about communication and his safety.

“My parents would prefer [me] to stay home in Barcelona,” Adan said. “Since I received an opportunity to get an education in America they did not want me to turn it down. It was hard living here for four years, but we survived.”

Linaburg’s, Curtis’ and Adan’s experiences as first-generation students are common. According to research on the College Board website, first-generation students come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and have a variety of motivations for attending university. “Some have parents who support their plans for higher education; others are under family pressure to enter the workforce right after high school,” the website states.

Of course, first-generation students face some of the same struggles that all students do. Curtis and Linaburg both have graduated high school with 4.0 GPA and came to college expecting to excel in their classes.

“This year is rough,” Linaburg said. “I’ve been focused on more of my extra-curricular activities then my classes. My grades aren’t terrible, but they are not as high as I want them to be,” Linaburg said.

Curtis agrees that part of college life is the struggle to earn good grades.

“They are not as good as I want them to be, but I’m still striving for high A’s in my classes,” Curtis said. “Yes I want to succeed. Everyone wants to succeed in college, I feel if they don’t then why did they come to college?”

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