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The Rewards and Challenges of Being a First-Generation Student

Mar 09, 2021

What is a first-generation student? To say it simply, it means that neither of your parents obtained a post-secondary degree. I want to share my experience with you as a first-generation student myself.

Neither of my parents pursued post-secondary studies. On my mother’s side my great grandfather, a great aunt and a few second cousins have attended post-secondary and on my father’s side my grandpa, grandma, and uncle pursued college. My uncle even went to King’s for a couple years! Other than those family members, I am the first in my immediate family. Having the opportunity to study beyond the high school level has been rewarding and challenging at the same time.


1: Exploring Post-Secondary Life

Since I had no pre-conceptions about what university life was going to be like, I was able to explore campus life and classes with so much freedom. I got to enter courses and extracurriculars at a pace I was comfortable with and find new passions that I didn’t know I had. Having very little connection to King’s allowed me to come in fresh, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In my past four years I have been involved in many clubs, organizations, and student worker positions which have all let me flourish into a whole new person!

2: Self-Appreciation

Anyone who has attended or is planning to attend post-secondary should be extremely proud of themselves. It is a big step in your academic and personal life. Having the opportunity to go to university has given me the opportunity to be proud of myself, because I was able to see how capable I am if I put my mind and soul into something. I love being able to go to family functions and be asked how university is going and what I am currently learning because I get to share my knowledge with other members of my family.


While there is lots to celebrate, there are also some challenging aspects to being a first-generation student that I had to overcome:

1: Pressure

I feel like a have a lot of pressure to uphold excellent grades and school involvement. Since I am the first in my family, I sometimes think I have to show a good example to my younger siblings and cousins of a successful university student. The pressure affects my confidence at times and often will make me think I am not doing enough, or my grades are not good enough. That is not true though! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and like I said earlier, going to university is amazing all in its own, you should be proud of yourself and all that you are accomplishing.

2: Support (Though I do get lots!)

Do not get me wrong, I have an immense amount of support from my family and I am so grateful for that. However, because my parents do not have post-secondary backgrounds, occasionally I feel I don’t have anyone to talk to about my struggles or my successes. I still let my family know all those things, but I never know if they fully comprehend my achievements or my challenges I am having since they do not have the same experiences to relate to. I try my best to let them know how significant a GPA standing is, what “with distinction” means, and what new passions and interests I am learning about and engaging in. They support my choice 100% and love to hear updates, which I am grateful for. 

If you are a first-generation student, congratulations on choosing the path of post-secondary, it is an exciting time! If you are ever uncertain about anything along the way, King’s has many people who are eager to help you succeed. Enjoy this new part of your life!

Happy Studying,

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