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Last updateWed, 11 Oct 2017 3pm

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First is Not the Worst: First Generation Students Take Higher Education by Storm

First Gen Not Worst 1The day your acceptance letter to college comes in the mail is a proud day for you and your family, but there is a completely new level of pride and achievement when you are the first child in your family to go to college. Although it is 2017, and college seems like a norm to everyone, we still have students who are the ‘first generation’ students.

Being a first generation student means being the first person in your entire family to earn a degree in college. Many parents of first generation students may have only gotten a high school diploma at the most. Some students graduating this May are the first in their families to be able to call themselves a college graduate.

Dr Robert McCaig, Vice President for Enrollment Management, said, “40.7% of the fall 2016 incoming freshman were first gen students.”

“One of the myths about Monmouth is that we are a rich white kid school. That is so untrue, 30% of the incoming class comes from varying ethnic backgrounds. These are facts, these are real. Our school is very rich in diversity,” according to McCaig.

Joey Affatato, a senior music industry student and first generation student said, “Going away to college and having this experience really means a lot to me especially because my parents didn’t get to have this same experience.”

“I feel the opportunity to go away to school, make lifelong friends, and learn from professionals is an amazing experience that some cane only dream of,” he continued.

The first university in America, founded in 1636, was Harvard (then called New College). That set off the establishment of thousands of colleges and universities nationwide over the years.

Although college has been around for hundreds of years, in the 21st century we have students whose families have never received higher education before. In my own family, I am the first person to go and the only one of my siblings to go to college. This whole experience of being a college student and graduating this May has been a huge deal for my family.

“First generation students are considered an at risk group because they don’t have parents who understand how to get through college,” McCaig explained.

“Now, almost everyone is going to college, it’s what we all have to do to get a job,” Dave DePaola, a senior business management student and first generation college student said. “When my grandpa (then also my dad) finished high school, they hadn’t planned to go to college because there was no need for it. They were both entrepreneurs in Real Estate,” he continued.

First Gen Not Worst 2“My parents really encouraged me to try hard in high school so I could go to a good college. Although they have both made it without their college degrees, they have had to work extremely hard their whole careers to be where they are,” DePaola commented.

Emma Caban, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission, said in a presentation to parents of first generation students “What your students may be feeling are what you may be feeling too.” Those feelings of relief, excitement, anxiety, confusion, pride, and responsibility that first year students often feel about starting the ‘college life’ are exactly what their parents are feeling. It is as if parents are living vicariously through their children, always ensuring their children have a better life and opportunity then they had.

DePaola understands the triumphs that his father and gradnfather had to go through as high school students and the ability to have a job right out of school.

Falling into the same cycle is something that DePaola’s family tried hard to push him away from--now, DePaola applies himself and encourages other first generation students to do the same.

PHOTO COURTESY of Miya Fragale

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