Growing up as a first-generation student can be difficult. Most grow up in a low-income household and have to go through situations that can be hard and stressful. Some students have to work from an early age or just simply find someway to help our parents have enough money for necessities.
I interviewed two current Cal Poly students and one Cal Poly Alumni, now faculty member, and asked them how it was like for them to grow up.
Carla Quinonez moved to the U.S. about six years ago and is now a biomedical engineering major. Maria Arvizu-Rodriguez, worked in the agricultural fields with her parents and is now an academic advisor. Dainy Cruz Cortes grew up at her parents work, a sewing factory, and is now a business major.
Applying to a college is one thing and applying for financial aid is another. It is very important for first-generation students and other low-income students to apply for financial aid because it could be the only source of funding they have to pay for college. Just like the college application the Free Application for Student Aid is tedious. Which is why Alltuition is very helpful and can come in handy to go through that application process. Here are 7 reasons why:
College can be a scary and confusing place. Having a support system on campus is important. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and at every other California State University there is the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). EOP is under Cal Poly’s Student Academic Services which provides educational resources to students that can help them succeed.Students can apply for EOP after they finish applying to the CSU(s) (including Cal Poly SLO) of their choice . Part of the criteria to be eligible for EOP is to be an “educational disadvantaged student” or first-generation student and be low-income.
Once a student is accepted into the EOP program then they become connected with their EOP advisor. It helps them transition from high school to college and gives them support throughout their college years. There are six advisors, one for each college at Cal Poly. The slideshow below gives an insight look at a day in Cal Poly’s EOP offices.
Click on the first picture to start the slideshow.
Advisors can be found at the EOP offices in Hillcrest, Building 81. Hillcrest is also the home for the offices of the other Student Academic Services programs on campus. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
In the lobby, there are brochures for students to take. The brochures give information about the EOP academic advisors and programs within SAS. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Christy Pedraza, fifth-year student, in the lobby waiting to see EOP Academic Advisor Maria Arvizu-Rodriguez. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Jon Diaz, EOP Academic Advisor for Orfalea of College of Business, getting to know second-year student Adriana Jimenez. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Mayte Solis, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Math and Science getting some work done before she sees students during her office hours. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Jose Millan, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Engineering, listening to first-year student Sarah Thomas talk about how her quarter is going so far. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Maria Arvizu-Rodriguez, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Services, advises third-year Bernabe Rabadan how many course units to take.Photo by Melissa Nunez.
The advisor’s EOP offices extend to the Kennedy Library, Room 112 to SAS’ Academic Skills Center. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Sarah Clarke, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, takes a minute away from working and waiting for students during her office hours. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Finishing up her office hours, Katie Ellis, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Liberal Arts, ends her workday by checking her email. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
“We want to ensure that the student does not just get admitted but are successful so they are able to obtain their degree. As advisors we really care about our students we want to ensure that they are utilizing us not just for academic advising but sometimes if there’s personal issues it’s always good for them to know that there will always be someone that will be able to listen to you” – Jose Millan, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Engineering.
“As a first-generation student it is even harder because you don’t know what to expect so having someone you can come to with any question is the best part of EOP.” – Katie Ellis, EOP Academic Advisor for the College of Liberal Arts said.
Even though college is new to any first-time freshman, adjusting to it is more difficult for a first generation, low income student. This can be for a few reasons:
struggling with social integration
live at home or off-campus
Being a first generation student comes with challenges. Their help system is smaller than those who are of second or third generation. They face more financial challenges because they are of a low income.
Going to a public high school doesn’t put out in the open the challenges students have except academic based challenges But in college the challenges for first-generation students can be more noticeable. Students from low-income backgrounds are not as well off as their college peers who are second, third generation or of a higher income. Because of the difference it is harder to connect and be social with peers. That leads to trying to find a niche, people with similar backgrounds.
The expenses that come with college are harder to fulfill. Access to a college education is now not difficult to attain but the costs are a bigger barrier for a first-generation, low-income student. They need help to make their education more affordable.
The challenges can pose a threat to their possibility of graduating.
Organizations like One Goal focus on helping first-generation students get to graduation.
The opportunities and the support is there but the challenges are harder to overcome. Mentoring, college programs and organizations can help students overcome those challenges and make it more possible for them to graduate.
I am currently a first-generation college student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The stories featured here will have insight from other first-generation college students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The stories will also include a persepective from faculty who are familiar with the struggles of first-generation college students and support those on campus.
Keep checking in every week to see how the college experience is different for those who are first in the family.