Being the first in your family to attend college is a notable accomplishment, but it can also be challenging. According to the Center for First-Generation Student Success, first-generation students make up a third of all college students. Only 27% of these students will graduate within four years.
A big resource on the TJC campus for first-generation students is the organization TRIO. TRIO was created to help and advise low-income first-generation students.
“TRIO is designed for those students to be successful because they did not have their parents attend college and complete their bachelor’s degree. A lot of times there are questions that they don’t know to ask or resources that are available to them,” Career Transfer Coach at TRIO Peggy Martinez said.
First-generation students face psychological, academic and financial challenges. These students usually have a hard time navigating college life as reported by the Center for First-Generation Student Success.
TRIO offers help with the financial aid process, tutoring, four-year university campus visits, free printing and scantrons.
“Our motto here is ‘TRIO works.’ We can honestly attest to that because I am a product of TRIO. I have completed my associate degree, bachelor’s, and I am working on my master’s degree,” Martinez said.
A study done by Howard B. London shows that students can experience “breakaway guilt” when it comes time to leave their families, especially for those who held responsibilities within their family.
“I felt very homesick. I was always with my family, so it was hard leaving them. I was crying all the time,” Freshman Marlen Cruz said.
Often first-generation students feel sorry that they have opportunities that other family members did not have. According to the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, confusion and anxiety are other common feelings first-generation students experience. For first-generation students, navigating their way through college can be confusing. They are less likely to know about resources and opportunities on campus. Not being able to navigate through college can cause students anxiety.
As stated by SAGE 2YC, some first-generation students come from underfunded communities and schools, so they are more likely to have lower scores on standardized tests as well as low GPAs. This can lead to having less confidence in academics than their second-generation peers. This can also be a reason as to why more first-generation students go to two-year colleges. SAGE 2YC reported that once first-generation students enroll into college, they take fewer courses and spend more time working than studying.
According to Great Schools about 50% of all first-generation students in the U.S. are from low-income families. This means that they may need larger loans and scholarships. While some rely on loans and scholarships others need to take on jobs. According to the Education Advisory Board, 33% of first-generation students leave college within the first three years. The biggest reason is because of financial burdens.
“At the end of last semester and at the beginning of this semester, there were a lot of financial struggles because we had a lot to pay at home. Somehow, we managed to get enough money for my college payments. I don’t know what I would have been doing right now,” Cruz said.
To be eligible for student support services, students must be seeking a four-year degree and be a first-generation college student, come from a low-income background, or have an ADA defined disabling condition.
TRIO is located on the third floor of the Rogers Student Center and is still accepting applications.