Stories of first-generation students: ‘I felt dumb, poor and confused’

Dhiya Kuriakose:

Half of US college students are the first in their family to go to university. We asked them to tell us about their experiences.
Last week, Julia James wrote about the challenges of being a first-generation college student – and how being the first in her family to attend university shaped her academic experience. As a part of our growing series Opening Up,we asked other first generation college students to weigh in, and tell us about their struggles, and what support colleges need to provide students like them.
Here are their stories:
‘The idea of going to college was alien’
Name: Kyle Brown
Degree: Computer Science, California State University, Chico
Age: 47
Challenges: Getting started was the biggest single issue – the idea of going to college was alien. Problem number one was the idea of going to school for an extended time. It was just not in my family’s culture. My mom suggested it while I was on disability, wondering what next. Community college was an easy first step. From there, I transferred to Chico for a four-year degree. All very new and alien.
Financial assistance: Finances worked themselves out. It was never a serious issue, even though my family was quite poor. Financial aid covered maybe 50% of costs, disability payments maybe 30%, and family members (thanks grandma!) helped with the rest.
Benefits: I make comfortably more money than anyone else in my family. Secondarily, it has changed the culture in the family. Extended education is not alien anymore, and is an option that gets serious consideration by everyone.