i The Struggles of First Gen Students | College Writing: Debate(s) In Higher Education
17. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog Post 4

Sam Jaeger

St. Norbert college holds many great values. The college values things from a good education to encouraging students to have fun and become involved in campus activities and groups. However, my main concern is what they do for first gen students. These students struggle to manage their time, they get off track very easily and want desire to succeed in school so desperately that they end up failing due to lack of concentration and anxiety. Officials ask us to fill out surveys that ask if we are a first year student or not, but I am curious what this really addresses. Real challenges that first gen student face are many, not knowing exactly what is expected of them, not realizing what resources are available and simply being away from home are a few. Orientation provides most of this information, however it goes very fast and students are provided with a lot of material all at one time, making it difficult to remember everything. These are issues that St. Norbert college should focus on and resolve to make it more beneficial for us first gen students.

After reading “Who gets to graduate” by Paul Tough, I found that there are people exactly like me around the country in different colleges. In this article, the author talks about how professor Laude at the University of Texas, with 500 kids in his class, examined his students test scores in search of those who are struggling. Laude then developed a program called the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan (TIP), which takes those students who are predicted to fail and places them into, essentially the same class as the normally successful students. These students are placed in a smaller group setting and are provided with extra instruction time, close advisors, and peer mentors. This program improved the students overall scores along with their confidence. Professor Laude was then asked to use his program to try and improve the universities overall success rate.

I feel that I would have qualified for the TIP program if SNC had one. I now realize that I’m not the only one who goes through the freshman struggle. The assertion by the author is that students with parents who have not gone to college right out of high school, usually do not perform as well, but students with both parents who immediately attended college are usually more successful. I feel that having mandatory meetings with those who are struggling and assigning them a personal advisor or peer mentor would be beneficial to those students in lieu of failure. Peer mentors could be a valuable tool to show struggling students the benefits of good study habits. Once students begin passing tests and are doing better in classes they would no longer have to go to the meetings.
By reading this it may be obvious that I am a first gen student. Yes, shocker I know but, I can vouch for any first gen student that it is not trouble-free for us. That may be just me but others that I have spoken to who are first gen students have agreed that we are struggling. A friend and I started to work together to get our homework done and because we are a bunch of video gamers we began using Skype to discuss and collaborate on various topics. This is one way that we have dealt with troublesome assignments. Another thing that first gen students have in common, I feel, is taking tests. We try so hard and study before tests, but we always seem to do poorly on them. I have read books, taken notes, studied the notes, and do fine on quizzes we get. But the exams are just not that easy. I feel like I know the material when I am answering questions, then I walk into class, head held high, just to be shot down and shown that I had absolutely no clue what I was talking about at all.

Something I have noticed is that first gen students seem to have the worst anxiety ever. Considering all the percentages of first gen students failing to graduate just makes my head hurt. In the article “What We Can Learn from First-Generation College Students” by Annie Murphy Paul, basically sums up what I, and a LOT of other students, are going through right now as this year progresses. They are not academically prepared, they lack study skills, they lack support from home, and they tend to not participate in college activities, in other words, they do not participate. Yes, we can seek help and whatnot but we have a hard time communicating with others, especially teachers.

When I rant to people about this topic, like my parents, they usually scorn me and say “It is all because of those damn video games. You know Samuel, you are going to want a house and a family one day and flunking out because of video games is a good way to not have that.” Yikes, I know. However, what they don’t actually know is that I, along with many others, have a very difficult time with school, and frankly it frightens me. I am scared I am not going to graduate; I am afraid that I am going to be a bum or failure in life. I am scared to death of failing or flunking school, it is such a scary thing and a risky step for first gen students to come to college. We risk flunking or dropping out and then getting stuck in a dead end job just to pay off college debt the rest of our lives. Not many people realize how lucky and gifted they are to have note taking skills and test taking skills, it is so hard not knowing how to, it is frustrating t stressful and sometimes brings us to tears. We try so hard to be successful, sometimes we do, but most of the times we don’t. I feel that maybe, there should be a mandatory class in high school for first gen students to prepare us better for college. Take it from a first gen student who is not doing well in any of his classes, this stuff is difficult and I feel that if I had been better prepared, it may be easier both academically and psychologically.

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