Video: Advice for First-Generation Graduate Students

In recognition of the 2018 First Generation College Celebration taking place nationally on Thursday, November 8th, we gathered together a few members of the Curry School community for a conversation about the realities of navigating the world of academia as a first-generation student. Christian Steinmetz is an assistant professor and coordinator of the Higher Education program, Alex Hall is an assistant dean of students and an Ed.D. candidate in the Higher Education program, and Shaka Sydnor is also an assistant dean of students and an Ed.D. candidate in the Higher Education program. Bernadette Poerio, online student support specialist, moderated the conversation.

Drawing from personal experience, all three guests talked about their successes, joked about their mistakes along the way and shared advice and resources for other first-gen students. They stressed the importance of making your own community of peers and mentors, asking for help and leaning on your relationships for support and guidance.

"One piece of advice that I would give in all of those — undergrad, my first graduate degree, my current graduate degree, my professional career — those were all about pushing myself to make connections with other people who had done it in some way," said Hall. "Being willing to approach people, even people I didn't know very well or people who I was pretty intimidated by, like instructors or people who became mentors, and ask them, 'How did you get here? What should I be considering?' was incredibly important."

"There were plenty of times when I didn't want to ask questions, or didn't know how to ask the questions, or didn't know there was a question to be asked," she added. "What I've always said is, I'll just make the most of wherever I end up. You don't know what you don't know, and that's true for everybody, not just first-generation students."

Watch the full conversation below:

The annual, nationwide First Generation College Celebration was launched in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-Generation Student Success.