Published in the February 22, 2017 issue of The Bells
With the number of college graduates increasing yearly, the number of first generation students increases as well. A first generation student is one who is the first of their immediate family to attend college.
Nationwide, these students make up about 38 percent of college freshmen. Here at UMHB, 35 percent of the freshmen welcomed into the 2016 fall semester were also first generation.
These students face a greater risk of dropping out of college, due to the increase in language barriers, an increased background in poverty, and loneliness.
Though these factors can be difficult to combat, the university has steps in place to lessen the chance of these students dropping out.
The Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) here on campus enrolls all first generation students in a program called Grades First, which notifies students of grade changes, upcoming assignments and due dates, and information about advising and financial aid. UMHB hopes to encourage and help students to graduate.
“Transitioning to college was somewhat difficult for my parents because they didn’t necessarily know what to do about certain admissions and financial aid forms and such.
They got help, though, and they are really pleased with my decision,” said freshman Mass Communication major, Halee Jorgensen. “As a first-generation student, UMHB has been helpful. I met with Dr. O’Rear, and he said he was happy I chose UMHB as a first-gen student, and he hopes I will call on them if I need help.”
Jorgensen said she had a really good first semester and is even on track to graduate early. With her degree, she hopes to work for a magazine as a spread designer and photographer.
Dr. O’Rear also hosts a dinner each year before the fall semester for all incoming first generation students, where they can meet the faculty and staff. This enables students to feel more secure about the environment they are coming into.
During this event, O’Rear personally meets with each of the students, and tries to connect with them. By doing so, students are able to create a relationship with those in their new home. This then makes it less likely for them to drop out of college.
“It was kind of tough at the beginning of my freshman year. I guess I really just didn’t know what to expect,” said sophomore history major, Joshua Gallegos. “I’m the first of all of my siblings not to go straight to working after high school, so it was strange for my family. They all supported me, but it was kind of nerve-wracking not knowing what to expect when starting up classes.”
Gallegos said being a part of the football program helped him transition into the swing of things.”
For many first-gen students, much of how classes and living arrangements are chosen is foreign to them. They sometimes feel like they are their own to figure out how to study, fill out financial forms, and other college happenings.
Incoming first generation students seem to have many factors at play against them, but UMHB is working to make the transition for these students easier and more effective. With each passing semester, more changes are being made and implemented to make the transition smoother.