Campus CultureCulture

The experience of first-generation students at Boise State

Photo courtesy of Ashley Stafford

Of the 20,000 plus student population at Boise State University, many are first-generation students, which are students whose parents did not go to college. They are often the first in their family to attend college. 

One first generation student, Ashley Stafford, a freshman pre-respiratory major, feels that she is no different from any other student on campus.  However, she cannot relate to the stories that students have of their own parents going to college.

“I feel like I’m the same as everyone else,” Stafford said. “The biggest challenge was figuring out how to apply.” 

Stafford feels there should be an easier way for first generation students to figure out how to apply to college, as she didn’t understand the process herself and had no help from her parents. 

[Photo of Ashley Stafford, a first generation student at Boise State]
Photo courtesy of Ashley Stafford | The Arbiter

For Stafford, discussing her college experiences with her family can sometimes feel as if her family is living through her. 

“It’s like we’re going to college,” Stafford said. “It’s a collective thing.”

Though Stafford knows her family is supportive of her attending college, she feels like they don’t understand the reality of it. Her family doesn’t understand the work and effort Stafford has to commit to. 

For another first generation student, Mariette Barcinas, a sophomore psychology major, the most significant struggle in coming to college was the culture shock, as Barcinas is originally from the Northern Mariana Islands. 

“To be honest, I feel like people look at first generation students differently because of the label,” Barcinas said. “However, it’s also empowering. When people share their stories, it shows strength and courage to pursue something in an unfamiliar ground.” 

Barcinas feels that discussions about first generation student experiences should be normalized. Individuals shouldn’t feel uncomfortable talking about it; in fact, Barcinas thinks it should be celebrated. 

Often, students from the Northern Mariana Islands don’t get to see their families until after they graduate. Barcinas hasn’t seen her family for a year. 

“The biggest thing you can do to help first generation students is to be there for them as a resource,” Barcinas said. “Many of us can’t rely on our parents. We don’t have that luxury.”

According to Barcinas, she grew up watching her family struggle and wants to change that for herself by going to college. She wants to pursue a more comfortable life and break the chain. 

“For the majority of first generation students, coming to college is their choice,” Barcinas said. “They want something more.” 

Stephanie Thacker, a freshman health science major, feels like she is going to college for her whole family, which puts more pressure on her to succeed. 

“I feel like I’m different because I have higher expectations than everyone else,” Thacker said. 

Though Thacker does not feel at a disadvantage academically or socially, she does feel as if she’s beating the statistics of going to college for her family. 

“I’m the first one on my side of the family to go to college,” Thacker said. “To me and my family, that’s a big deal.” 

Thacker feels as if her family understands her experiences as a college student because her parents were once young adults too. They can relate to each other because they’ve been through similar experiences, though her parents did not attend college.

According to Thacker, she came to college because she knew that higher education was necessary for the career she wanted. She was raised with the idea that there was no other choice but college.

“Don’t lose yourself in other people’s expectations,” Thacker said.

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