Josh Williams
April 14, 2017

Elevating First-Generation Students (Like Me)

As a first-generation student, I can truly say that “I lived it.”  While I had support from friends and family, I did not have anyone in my family to help normalize my college experience because they had not been through it themselves. College is tough by design, and when I would face adversity or struggles, my reaction was a flight or fight. Flight led to avoidance of issues and eventually doubt of my ability to succeed. The fighting aspect was more positive on the surface and looked like perseverance but often came with a toll on my physical, mental or emotional well-being. In some ways, I am the anomaly success story (as some studies report  90% of first-generation students do not graduate within six years) and am grateful for that as I performed well academically and look back on my college experience fondly. However, I want my story to be the norm and am thrilled to be a part of a company who is taking an active role in social equity through elevating today’s first-generation students.

Student support services have varying levels of impact; and, when we see success, they rarely can scale out due to resource and financial constraints. There is also an ongoing industry discussion about resource utilization issues — when there are resources available, but students are not aware of them or do not utilize them.  For first-generation students, fear of not belonging can become a major impediment to seeking support (commonly referred to as the imposter syndrome).

I am thrilled to be a part of a company that honors the unique challenges of first-generation students and is taking action to support these students. The commitment by ClearScholar to offer free licenses for first-generation students is designed to provide access to all students – but especially first-generation students – to become more aware of opportunities to be an engaged member of the community. Our unique approach to nudging students to get out of their comfort zone, utilize resources and embrace opportunities for growth is meant to do more than simply support first-generation students; rather, our goal is to support institutions in producing first-of-many-generations graduates.