In their article, “From First Gen Student to First Gen Grad Student,”  Alicia Peaker and Katie Shives discuss their experience in going from first generation college students to first generation graduate students, (or “FGGS”).  While many of the challenges are similar, it definitely raises the issue – are first gen college students graduating undergrad with the confidence and self-assuredness needed to be successful as graduate students?

Peaker and Shives give a list of tips for first generation graduate students including, “Find out how you work, manage imposter syndrome, get comfortable with failure, and talk about shame.” Interestingly enough, the two authors mention that these are challenges that most grad students face, not just first gens. Dealing with shame and what the two call, “background embarrassment,” however, is the most specific to FGGS. Finding the balance between honoring one’s background while adhering to the norms of academia can be challenging, even after four years as an undergraduate navigating a similar set of new experiences and customs.

At I’m First, we help students to and through their undergraduate experience. By  providing first-gen students with an online community through which they can support each other, we help our students come out of college feeling confident, which can help them succeed in graduate school if they choose to pursue further study. Students can access dozens of videos of first-gen students like themselves, discussing their college related challenges and successes. Check out some of these inspiring videos here!

At the same time, students can also use our portal to search out our different college partners, particularly those which have programs aimed at helped first-gen students succeed and feel comfortable on campus. By utilizing I’m First’s tools during undergrad, we aim to prepare students for whatever the next step might be, including graduate study.

What can colleges and universities do to help support first gen students who plan on attending graduate school? What other challenges will these students face, and how can we best support them in facing these challenges?